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This is an excellent 'coming of age' adolescent film. Everytime I've caught it on cable over the years I've never been able to stop watching it. Yesterday on IFC it happened again for maybe the 8th time, I've lost count. It's great that a channel like IFC or BRAVO has recognized the worth of this film because in my video guide they gave it the worst score possible (a turkey), which is an abomination. This is one of the most truthful films about kids and in a wider sense Brooklyn or New York City attitudes in the '80s. The director has to be either very good or extremely lucky to get this much truth on film. 'Old Enough' is almost like an updated, early '80s adolescent version of Engel and Orkin's 'Little Fugitive,' or 'Lovers and Lollipops,' two pioneering cinema verite films of the '50s. It is cut directly from the fabric of life and needless to say, shot entirely on location. In fact, it is almost like walking into the lives of these quintessentially 'New York' people, you can almost smell the neighborhood. The two girls playing the leads are just fabulous; it's as if they're just living their real lives and you're eavesdropping on them; you hardly suspect you're watching a movie. In the end, friendship is shown to be stronger than class conflicts but not until the magical and forever vanished world of the 11 to 13 year old that once existed in every soul has been resurrected for re-evaluation and non-sentimental nostalgia.
Depardieu's most notorious film is this (1974)groundbreaker from Bertrand
Blier. It features many highly sexual scenes verging on an X-rating,
including one of Jeanne Moreau doing a hot 1970s version of her Jules and
Jim menage a trois with the two hairy French hippies (Depardieu and
There is no such thing as a sacred territory in this film; everything is
It's very odd that Americans tend to not like this film very much while many French people I've met consider it a classic. Something about it goes against what Americans have been programmed to 'like.'
Gerard and the late Patrick Deware are two bitch-slapping, hippy drifters with many sexual insecurities, going around molesting women and committing petty crimes. They're out for kicks and anti-capitalist, Euro-commie, slacker 'freedom.' Blier satirizes the hell out of these two guys while at the same time making bourgeois society itself look ultimately much more ridiculous. Best of all though, is the way the wonderful Stephane Grappelli score conveys the restless soul of the drifters, the deeper subconscious awareness or 'higher ideal' that motivates all the follies they engage in.
Pay attention to this one, it's got a lot to say. It's film noir and social criticism mixed in one. In fact, this film was probably the (unacknowledged) inspiration for the entire 'X-Files' series (which I hate), and there are a hell of a lot of similarities between them. The spooky, dark atmosphere of dread is very much the same though much more effective here. Duchovney's character--a liberal writer--does everything he can to accomodate and relate to the Pitt character (Early) and still ends up in deep trouble. The characters are all realistic and almost everything that happens is believable (as opposed to 'Blood Simple' where to achieve a few sick laughs you're asked to suspend disbelief). Pitt's performance is effective on its face as well as hilariously camp simply because of the huge star he has become since (his tongue-in-the-nudie-picture scene in the unrated version is funnier than hell). But all that's okay, for the film as a whole works on many levels and can withstand more than a few unintentional laughs to go with the intentional ones. The most touching scene is the final one, when the tape recording of Adele confessing her loneliness and deep need to be accepted humanizes her tragically and emphasizes the contrast between her (who never really had a chance) and these two yuppies (Duchovney and Forbes) who shared a portion of her tragic journey. Even after a first hand experience of true evil has tempered his liberalism and made him kill to save his life, he will have to hold on to a large portion of his original theory simply because of the overwhelming pathos generated by that final tape message.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Here are some thoughts about and inspired by a film that is not only
frightening, subversive on hidden as well as surface levels,
self-contemplating, knowingly hypocritical and proud of it, but also a
feminist manifesto of sorts and the best comedy (albeit 'black' as coal,
course) about male insecurities since Blake Edwards' '10:'
Fincher's film is a case of biting the hand that feeds with full consent
the bitten, who don't realize the ramifications or don't think they
much anymore in this day and age. But already, the word is out on this
He'll probably go back to making more ordinary fare like 'Seven' or 'The
Game.' Within the Hollywood system, he'll have to. I'll be very
surprised if he shows some hardcore integrity and makes an independent
instead. Fight Club was a one time hustle that didn't pay-off enough at
the box-office to be repeated. Though it may have spawned evil offspring
that will turn up in unexpected areas..
The narration is from the point of view of a Norton (Jack) who has finally discovered and become fully aware of his multiple personality. He is now recalling with a metaphorical gun in his mouth (the dream state shown as real to fool the audience and get their full sympathy before betraying them; absolutely essential in an undertaking of this kind). His Tyler personality wants to kill his Jack personality and things have come to an ultimate head. Tyler has run amok without his Jack side checking him or being aware of him, and a final decision has to be made. A new self has to emerge. The flashback of the events that led to this, however, the movie itself, is SHOWN from the point of view of the Lost Jack, the one who is unaware of the existence of his split personality and the increasing dominance of the Tyler portion even when Marla tells him that she's never seen anyone nearly as nuts as him. Marla is, in fact, attracted to this guy precisely because he is even more nuts than her (though he thinks of himself as sane).
`Except for their humping, Tyler and Marla were never in the same room,' why? Because the Jack (Jeckyl) personality can't stand Marla (he's too insecure to imagine himself with a girl as screwed up as her), while the Tyler (Hyde) personality uses her for sex. The narration is aware of this, in retrospect (with enlightened Jack now trying to undo his own doings as Tyler and struggling with this stronger but more evil self which threatens to kill his saner but weaker old self), while the flashback -Jack, as he is going through it, is confused and is SHOWN to be so. Jack lets the receiver hang, disgusted by Marla's suicide attempt and couldn't care less if she died, comes back as Tyler, decides to help her out, but then uses her for sex but refuses to take the relationship any further. So neither of these selves are entirely good or bad, it's just that the Tyler self is the one more susceptible to hoodlumism and psychotic behavior. In fact both selves represent different reactions to feminine power or different faces of male insecurity about its feminine side. Jack is passively hateful while Tyler expresses his hatred by actively using. Later on, Jack realizes that Marla is the one who really gave him back his masculinity (she was his 'power animal' not the penguin!) and that he hasn't been able to admit this (admitting that a woman as screwed-up as Marla can actually have a positive effect on his life, wouldn't sit well with either personality's ego defenses). At this point a metamorphosis has occurred because neither of the selves really cared for Marla. A third version of Jack has begun to emerge, sort of a combination of the best qualities of his former selves, with the addition of Marla (who can be seen as yet another part of his personality, or his feminine side). But in order to achieve this new plateau, Jack has to snuff out whatever evil remnants of the Tyler Durden self that still remain.
Every salesman knows this: attitude is everything, it's not a product you're selling it's yourself. People are always buying 'concepts of becoming' rather than products. In a very real sense, all products are dreams waiting to be sold. Jack as Jack could never have convinced all these roughnecks to follow him. Jack as Tyler absolutely could. He could sell them on that all-out joy of male bonding that comes only when men have respect for each other on the gut physical 'fighting' level; on a more complex level, this is in fact, the 'fascist' dream, so to speak. The 'strength-bonding' of a whole nation of fearless, ideologically determined killers. Hitler was very much an advocate of this type of bonding through physical strength and weeding out of the weak.
THE ONE MAIN DEFECT: there should've been a couple of more short scenes of Norton acting completely like Tyler, instead of the silly shots of him punching himself (since most of the self-punching is supposed to be metaphorical in nature anyway). Norton is one of the few actors who could've pulled this off, acted like Pitt down to the detail of his laugh. For example, a quick scene of him, as Tyler recruiting someone for Fight Club, telling someone to hit him, or taking it from Mr. Lou's Tavern would not have been too much; it would've been just what's needed to really send this flick over the top by emphasizing the validity of its multiple personality angle. As things are, Fincher did a great job but left things way too ambiguous even for someone willing to dig deep.
Why is it important not to be too much of a wimp? Why is it important not to be too much of a tough guy? Why do both states need to be tempered by each other? What concepts of 'geek' and 'stud' are operative in our culture by way of their adaptability to keeping consumers somnambulistic? Have you ever seen a tough guy buy diet Coke? No, they always buy soft drinks with the maximum sugar possible and Marlboro Reds so they can breathe at night. How much of a readiness to physically fight does it take to be a 'man' as opposed to a gorilla (an able protector of woman and child and worthy recipient of reproductive favors in natural selection, if society was a jungle)?
Fighting as intimidation; fighting as release of anger. Fighting as catharsis; Fighting as a reclaiming of the ego when all else has failed. Fighting as the reclaiming of overthrown male prerogatives in an emasculating modern world (it helps to balance the psyche or nervous system against an intemperate amount of rage by providing an outlet). The week before I first saw FC, I got in a ridiculous fight with and got punched in the face pretty good. For a whole week after this incident, I was walking on air. All the rage and tension were gone. I hadn't realized how much tension I had been carrying until it got released. FC was a whole movie about this very state that I had just gone through and its direct link to emasculation. I had never thought of myself as emasculated before. I thought it only applied to macho chauvinist types. I must've had more of both tendencies in me than I'd suspected. Fincher's film made me see this very clearly.
One reason FC flopped is because people like to identify intensely with hoodlums and criminals and fascists of all kinds on a metaphorical level (the Godfather trilogy which passes for Marxist criticism has made over 1 billion dollars precisely through fascist appeal to the masses) and they don't like it when these 'antiheroes' are made to look like utter idiots within situations that in other films would consolidate their 'heroic' criminality . The scene where Brad and the boys pull the commissioner in the bathroom and the camera looks up on them from the commissioner's angle. These guys look menacing but in a way that also makes them look absurd and ridiculous. You can't help but laugh at them. These clowns (looking like Mexican wrestlers with masks on their faces) are trying to take over the world from the powers that be? Are you kidding? Do they have any idea what they're fighting? No, we're kidding and not kidding at the same time! Ambiguity is at the core of all human behavior. Remember the precedents of the past? Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Idi Amin, Jim Jones? All clowns who did tremendous damage...So this stuff can be laughed at, but it cannot be dismissed, it must be recognized. Fincher gives us the opportunity to do both, if we're willing; the choice is ours.
With regard to Pitt's beating from Mafioso Lou. You can laugh in the face of someone who's beating you into a pulp until he either beats you to death or gives up. Either way you win psychologically, which is where all real battles are won. Even the most cold-hearted s.o.b will be haunted for the rest of his miserable life by the fact that he beat someone to death who laughed straight out loony in his face with every punch. In the macho contest of fearlessness he has lost. In the macho contest of craziness he has lost. In the not so 'respectable' area of straight out cold brutality he has won. He has been fully exposed as illegitimate and absurd by someone willing to take the absurdity to its limits.
The many selves we shed but whose remnants we nevertheless retain as we evolve towards our 'ideal' self, which is itself a combination of selves and transitory. The many selves present within any individual at any given time with different levels of influence on his overall personality depending on his values. The incompatibility of certain selves which are contradictory and require a complete reversal of values to coexist (hence the phenomenon of multiple personality which forgets entirely one self in order to make possible the existence of another). What is it that makes this schizoid state mandatory? What has produced it? It must be a defense against something? But what? Why does a person feel the need to create these selves within himself and hide them from each other. Most people don't even have the self-awareness or self-knowledge to know what the hell is going on, they just do it automatically
It's ignorance of fascism that creates fascism, not a thorough familiarity with its nature. A familiarity with its nature is much more likely to render it absurd than romantic. People do not like to have an absurd image of themselves in their heads. It makes them uncomfortable. But heroic, romantic, tough guys and killers with power? Oh Yeah! That image of themselves gives them wet dreams. One famous example even took Travis Bickle's 'heroism' to be romantic and went out and shot politicians. Fincher's film damn near slams the door shut on fascist fantasies for anyone willing to give his film a few looks and a few thoughts and dig deeper. He makes these guys truly laughable. He does not deny the necessity and appeal of physical bravery and the catharsis of fighting, but after you've seen bruised and beaten faces for an hour and a half, he shows you Jared Leto's deformed face as a final reminder of how 'tough guys' get to look like Martians. Any guy in the audience who wants to lose all his teeth or pull them out of his gums one by one or look as f'd up as Leto, is welcome to start a bare knuckle Fight Club. Most of the angry, frustrated, emasculated males in the audience will most likely prefer to keep their teeth and whatever looks they have, so at the most, they'll head for the nearest boxing gym or weight room. There they will seek to regain their increasingly useless 'macho' selves.
The use of subliminal pictures. Fincher's way of saying: Yes. This is Hollywood goddammit! We are trying to manipulate you; but you know this already, so grow beyond it. Become aware of it or be suckers forever.
Fincher's ultimate joke is played on the public itself which thinks it can demand artists to conform and pander to its atrocious tastes. Fincher says don't worry we're pandering, but just enough to get this baby made by Hollywood to the tune of 60 million dollars (here's Brad's naked abs and pubic hair for you, there's the latest in special effects with roofs blowing off airplanes to make you think you're getting your money's worth). On the other hand, don't expect us to pander in a way that makes you look smart. We are giving you what you want so that we can sneak in and smuggle what you don't want, something that may serve to enlighten you a little bit.
The ultimate irony is that general audiences actually understood this total disrespect for them (evident throughout every frame of FC and culminating in the 'twist' which isn't really one at all), that's why the movie flopped after a great opening weekend. I remember being in a packed house on a Friday night, behind a bunch of guys who loved everything up until the point where the multiple personality is revealed, and then instantly reversed their opinion and started saying how much BS the film was. 'Oh man, that's so stupid,' they kept saying over and over again. It was as if they had been given a big middle finger right in their faces. They laughed at the scene where pornographic shots were inserted in a kid's movie but now that a variation of that trick was being played on them in a not so obvious way, they sure as hell didn't like it. These types of guys are everywhere. They have a sense of humor (quite often sick) about everything but themselves; that's where it stops because it gets too painful. They wouldn't have minded much if Fincher had put in an idiotic action movie ending, with thousands of rounds of ammunition flying everywhere between Tyler's hoods and the corporation militias., maybe even a climactic Rocky type fight to the death with blood and teeth flying everywhere. Fincher's point is something he himself was most probably not aware of, but he makes it nevertheless through instinct. Any so called 'sense of humor,' no matter how extreme or 'black' it is, that does not include yourself as an object is a cop-out and a refuge for scoundrels and will be preyed upon by others aware of this. (Most comedians are very much aware of this and use it to their advantage. Howard Stern's entire on-air personality, for example, is a fortress built with walls made of self-deprecating humor which others will not resort to, because their inflated egos can't take it; hence his advantage over them and his ability to 'cut them down to size').
FC becomes at the end almost a feminist film in the way it ruthlessly ridicules male prerogatives and macho fantasies. The fighters are made to look dirty, stupid, homoerotic; like a pack of dogs clamoring for blood. Their physical bravery is useful for intimidation purposes but sadomasochistic and grotesquely pathological. Note Pitt's pimp outfit towards the film's end subtly implying yet another male dominance fantasy in emasculated yuppie land. Jack through his transformation into Tyler has gone from humbled yuppie to blackmailer and has finally arrived at what he assumes to be the pinnacle: a man with mystical power over women, who can keep them in their place. In fact, the entire film can be seen as going on in Jack's head, with Marla as his estranged feminine side, which he comes into contact with at the end to temper the out-of-control 'unbermensch' side represented by Tyler.
Some of the above comments have mentioned pedophilia in connection with
film. An important distinction has to be made here to prevent corruption
language. What the Miller character (Zachary Scott) does is 'take
of an innocent' from his position of strength as an older man, but that is
not the same thing as pedophilia at all. The girl in question is 13 years
old and sexually mature (an age at which it was FULLY LEGAL to get married
in some southern states, Jerry Lee Lewis anyone?). This would make sexual
relations between her and a younger man closer to her age fully legal and
between her and the older man STATUTORY RAPE only if the laws in that
said so. It is WRONG, in the sense that the girl is in a weak position
gets taken advantage of. But that could happen at any age and age
per se can never be the only measure of who took advantage of who (look at
all the women married to men 20 to 30 years their senior), although it is
pretty safe bet. In fact towards the end of the movie, one of the likely
resolutions suggested by Miller to the priest as a way to redeem himself
"what would happen if I married her?" And when Miller lets Bernie
leave the island he is doing this to redeem himself in his own eyes and
possibly marry the 13 year old girl later!
That said, the main character is not the black fugitive (Bernie Hamilton) but the young girl (Kay Meersman, a Liv Tyler lookalike in an amazing performance). She has lived on a remote island for most of her life and knows very little about the racist realities of the American South (or anything else.) She is confronted with it head on, when a black clarinet-player fugitive named Travers, unjustly accused of raping a white woman escapes to her island to hide from a lynch mob. She becomes friendly with him and likes him as a person and can't understand the irrational animosity Miller (her temporary 'protector' whom she hates and who sleeps with her against her will)has for this man.
All this creates a whole bunch of complex tensions that Bunuel deals with in the most masterful way possible. You really believe in all these characters, they are multi-dimensional and historically and psychologically valid. Bunuel has been called cynical and cruel. That may be true but nevertheless quite a few of his films remain consummate works of art because they live up to Pascal's idea of showing man's 'greatness within wretchedness.' This is one of them. 'The Young One' is a MUST SEE film, if there ever was one. It makes all other films about racism and the corruption of innocence look like amateur hour.
The first time I saw 'Muriel' (it was, for years, extremely hard to find
video and only one video store carried it even in movie mecca L.A.) I was
completely confounded by it. The radical presentation of the ordinary
characters in the context of their transcendent thoughts and memories
to be uninteresting and bland, precisely because I hadn't thought of its
connections to the universal. I didn't think it warranted any closer
attention. But I knew there was something there I was uncomfortable with,
knew I had to come back to this film sometime and reassess it.
Needless to say, I am glad I made that reassessment because this is such an amazingly satisfying film, once all the pieces of the puzzle come togeher in your head in their subtle details. It is nearly flawless in conception and execution and has to be one of the supreme works of art this century. It works on more levels than any other film I can think of, even 'Pierrot Le Fou' and '8-1/2.' The difference is, almost all of it is hidden at first sight. You definitely have to pay UNDIVIDED ATTENTION and CONCENTRATE to start with, especially if you're reading the subtitles in English. Every word is there for a purpose and every shot counts. I'd suggest that you watch it (thank god it is now available on video and at such a reasonable price)at the bare minimum 3 times before you even presume to make a judgment. Here are only a few of the things I like about 'Muriel:' It is a thriller with many comic elements that ultimately becomes a sublime tragedy of modern existence. It has superb 'realism' in acting to beautifully contrast with what it's really about: the transcendent aspects of life such as memory and the way it and they (the other aspects) affect the present. The beautiful faded-tone, color photography is psychologically calculated (a definite influence on 'Red Desert') for effect and just indescribably poetic. The virtuoso, quick cutting in the middle section is completely chronological in nature but elegantly provides multiple perspectives without distorting things with unnecessary length (since all these things are going on pretty much at the same time).
I cannot recommend this film highly enough for anyone interested in great cinema.
One of my all time favorite flicks is 'Little Fugitive' which was a major
inspiration on the French New Wave. 'Lovers and Lollipops' is from the
filmmakers. It is not as immediately novel as 'Little Fugitive' but just as
satisfying overall. It is about the burgeouning romance between a
widow (Ann) and an old friend (Larry) and the angle from which Anne's 8
old daughter Peggy sees this significant event. Peggy becomes a force to
reckoned with, sometimes charming and often annoying the hell out of Larry,
who knows he has to win over the daughter's heart as well as the mother's.
This might seem cliche, but the way it is handled by Engel and Orkin, is
anything but, even to this day.
The semi-documentary style is absolutely fabulous and very much influenced by Italian Neo-Realism. The outlook of Engel and Orkin, however, is very far from Rossellini's or DeSica's. It is non-cynical and quintessentially 'American.' Yet for all that it is not fake and romantic in a harmful way. It is simply the other side of the coin without any mawkish embellishments and nonsense. There is, in addition, an authentic feel for the characters and what it was like to live in New York at this time. In fact, there are shots and scenes in this movie that are some of the most poetic I've ever seen anywhere. The long shot at the museum, for example, where the maxim 'comedy is life in long shot' is brought home so effectively; or the scene where Peggy is mouthing all the words Larry is reading her and Larry realizing this, speeds up his reading, making her laugh uncontrollably. The romance between Ann and Larry, though on the surface a perfect match, is handled with maximum care and made authentic at every turn. The seeds of what might become its undoing are made apparent at every stage, especially with regards to Peggy, who almost succeeds in breaking it up.
Overall, a definite MUST SEE, especially for anyone interested in authenticity in 1950s American films, something you will not find in 99.9% of period Hollywood product.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Dumont's second film is even better than the first. This guy is definitely
a force to be reckoned with--a Rohmerian master of cinematic subtlety. He
only uses amateurs and gets amazing performances from them.
The same type of seemingly inexplicable crime (the beating to death of an Arab youth) that we see towards the end of 'Life of Jesus' is put at the beginning here. The rest of the film is a multifaceted, beautifully slow moving and often hilarious dissection of the utter emptiness that could possibly lead to such rash immorality as the rape and murder of a young girl. In fact, at the end, when the person we thought least likely of committing the crime (mainly because we have seen him sexing his girlfriend, in the actual, at least four times), Joseph--the Jean-Claude Van Damme looking bus driver--is arrested, the point is driven home. As long as this emptiness is allowed to infect humanity (hence the title), you can expect rash immoral acts (of differing degrees, from drug addiction to sexual perversion, from hate crimes to sex crimes) because how can their self-control contain their overwhemlming need to escape themselves?
This quite funny but nevertheless deep film, along with the great 'Melvin
and Howard' can be viewed as part of the ongoing saga of Paul Le Mat, the
guy who played the hotrodding eternal teenager, John Milner, in 'American
Graffiti.' Le Mat is perfect for these films because he embodies a uniquely
American mixture of down to earth hipness, non-cynicism and hard edged
goodwill. He is somewhere between Audie Murphy and Steve McQueen with some
touches of Elvis and Jerry Lewis thrown in. Demme uses him as the
springboard for his explorations of what's authentic and non-cynical in
ordinary American life.
All the events in 'Citizen's Band' are connected by the CB radios all the characters use. This allows for events that happen to characters far apart from each other (such as the bigamist trucker and Le Mat), to become connected into the snapshot or slice of life that becomes the film. The characters don't have to necessarily all run into each other, even though some of them do. Oliver Stone's supercynical and ridiculous 'Talk Radio' features a similar set-up. In fact, there, we never actually have to meet any of the on-air personalities.
Demme uses an Altman type setup to show how vast an area of 'craziness' the term 'normal people' covers and how all this can be non-cynical in nature at least as often as it is cynical.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Three flaws in this nearly flawless film:
1. Can a dude who's been shot through the right side of his chest and who sits there motionless not be dead? The smallest breath I take results in clearly visible movement in my chest and abdomen. You don't see Hedeya move for even a second because he was told to play dead by the Coens, since this is the only way Emmet Walsh wouldn't notice that he was still alive and finish him off. The whole thing is meant to set up the later episodes of Hedeya returning from the dead. Later on, when Ray finds him, Hedeya is again motionless. All this is, of course, extremely clever, but NOT VALID in terms of it being true to life.
2. Why would McDormant think the man she shot in the bathroom was her husband, when she's been told by Ray that he buried him while he was still alive? Why would Maurice's contradicting Ray make her think Hedeya is still alive? Does she think he escaped from the grave?
3. The fat hand of Emmet Walsh that McDormant stabs with the hunting knife: wouldn't she notice it wasn't her husband's? In fact, she is shown standing there, staring at it for a while with a crazy look on her face!
Aside from these three flaws in believability the Coen Brothers' hilariously detailed mixture of Texas cowpoke satire, and film noir by way of Antonioni style failure of communication is fabulous and deeper than you might think.
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