Reviews written by registered user
|5 reviews in total|
I finally saw this film a couple of days ago, having put it off due to
middling reviews and a general lack of buzz. I was shocked to discover
that not only did it work, it worked better than any Norwegian film I
can remember seeing in the last few years. Granted, Norwegian film is
in dire straits at the moment, rehashing dull formulas, making films
out of every best-selling book regardless of how well it suits cinema
or even works as a book. And yet the industry is in love with itself,
regarding these times as some sort of golden age for our business. So
let me just say that most movies chosen to prove that claim are nothing
but mild versions of Fatso, and that if the business wants a flagship,
here it is.
Like most Norwegian movies, the story concerns a sexually arrested man in an Oslo apartment whose main goal in life is to get laid. But unlike the cutesy characters usually presented, this guy is a monster. Only not. We get such uncensored glimpses of his sexual imagination that even as one laughs, one might also feel uncomfortable by the honesty with which his mind is presented. Especially since we all know that deep down we're not as far away from his thought processes as we imagine. The story is basically a repeat of the cinematic wave that made 1999 such a banner year for American cinema, exploring the male psyche and his place in modern society. Sure, not many women would want to sleep with, or get to know, this obese, inward-looking, one-track-mind person, but the filmmakers are fully committed to support his right to be fat, horny and in lust for companionship.
Everything he sees reminds him of sex, sometimes in very concrete ways, sometimes in more abstract ways and some times his mind wanders into combinations of childish superhero worship and universal needs. He is a lonely man who sits in his apartment eating, masturbating and subconsciously hating himself, until his father rents out a room in his large apartment to a sexy Swedish girl with issues of her own. Some see her character as underdeveloped, but we only see her from Rino's point of view, and there are enough moments of desperation in her story to suggest that the angst of the movie is universal, regardless of apparent status, looks and crowd. She doesn't need to be an angel or insanely smart because all Rino needs is someone, anyone, to see him, even if it is with disgust in their eyes.
The story takes us through Rino's journey out of his misery, but it only takes us so far, the filmmakers resisting the temptation to give us the American miracle-cure. The alterations he makes to his universe are things most of us could learn from, even if we're not in as deep a ditch as him. He goes from being an anti-hero to a hero in the traditional sense, trying anything to achieve his goals, while also displaying moral ambiguities that makes him tragically human. His relationship with his best friend is both hilarious and sad, the metaphors are direct and truthful, the way he sees the world has a twisted universality to it. Somehow a PERSON has found his way into a stylized comedy.
At it's core, this is not a movie about getting laid, losing weight, getting friends, status, cooler clothes or creative success, which are all goals the movie keeps open throughout. It's about seeing yourself in others. As he sees the tragedy beneath beautiful surfaces and beauty and humanity beneath ugly exteriors he keeps developing a sense of himself. And through discovering the human being in Rino, viewers who are honest with themselves may see their own lives in a slightly different light and walk out of the theaters as more of a person.
Daniel Plainview is not, as some have suggested, a monster, a vampire or some sort of representation of capitalism. He represents a side of many of us, a side that looks at the Stepford Wives of society, the people who will mindlessly worship prophets who are not only false, but represents barbarism, and wants to escape. As society gets dumbed down by discussions around the most mundane issues, like lynch-mobs wanting to ban homosexual marriage or to DRILL! NOW!, it is easy to look at this man and see why, in a time that was equally silly, as all times probably are when you're part of them, a smart man like Plainview would want to escape. His means to do so is to make a fortune and run his own life without the presence of "these... people". He views himself as better than others, which is not a commendable character trait, but understandable in the context presented, and reflected, in different ways, in almost all other characters in the film. As is expected, isolation is a greater tragedy, and as the rage keeps boiling, we see what a blind alley he has headed down. To live in any society requires the patience of a saint, and in a way we should view ourselves as heroes for keeping our cool amidst amidst the constant pressure to become slaves of ideals that almost never reflect reality as we see it. To me, There Will Be Blood is a cautionary tale, yes, but mainly a call to arms for togetherness. We don't need a kumbayah-moment for that to register. Presenting the alternative in such a compelling fashion, with such a committed performer, director, soundtrack artist and director of photography, should be enough to make us hug a stranger during the credit sequence and give our wallet to the first drug addict we meet, the latter having their own tragic Plainview obsession. We won't, of course. After all, we're all tragically human.
I always viewed Jet Li's The One as the single worst film in my lifetime, but I now have to reconsider. When the woman who introduced the film said it was in the vein of Tarkowsky I got interested. Not many films are made these days with that kind of poetic nature and visual invention. Then the film started. With a sunrise. The biggest cliché in cinema? Not when you stretch it for six minutes. It is then supposed to be poetic. Then we meet the dullest family in the history of cinema, accompanied by the steady rhythm of a clock. A cliché? Yes, but you see, this is different because it stretches the dullness and boredom to the extremely painful level, which made me relate to the man when he appeared to commit suicide. But in the end he just turned off the clock. This is symbolism, because like all modern festival art films, this movie is about regret, the need to turn time back, God and bladibla. The lead character is supposedly torn because he has found a woman who makes him feel the way he felt for his wife when he was younger, as if he was at one with nature. Cue eternal shots of fields, trees, the usual. When we meet him and his lover together, there is nothing to suggest even a remote sense of passion, as their dry tongues interlock for en eternity against poetic lens flare while the actors mechanically eat each other as if it was a meal their grandma had cooked and they just didn't have the heart to turn down. But only after he has explained the nature of their relationship in quasi-philosophical terms to his friend, who works as a mechanic, which means we have to watch them fix a car for about ten minutes in a traveling shot that reminds me of the first year of film school. For most of the rest of the movie the guy wanders around, looks at the sun, the snow and so on, and has the same discussion with a group of dispassionate confidantes. I won't spoil the blatantly obvious "story"-developments (they generally happen about an hour after they would in a Movie of the Week), but suffice to say it ends with a sunset that dares you not to scream at the screen. At least The One didn't think it was a Bergman movie. And I suddenly realized why cinema is seen as dying right now. For the most part we only have two alternatives. Mindless but well paced entertainment, and fortune-cookie philosophy 101 homework movies determined to show "exotic people" as if anyone who leads a different life than most of us are passionless, empty-eyed people "at one" with nature. As an alternative I'd recommend a long train ride, where you spend most of the time looking at the passing scenery and how the light hits it, while once in a while glancing at at the faces of people who wish it was over all ready. Don't bring a book. It will be too much like living.
This movie seems to be the one that, at the moment, best encapsulates the different sides of Soderberghs directorial personality. It has top-quality performances by the entire cast, it is a heist movie, it is sexually leaden without being explicit, it is audience-friendly while still experimenting with form and structure. It has humour, but is also serious. It is superficially entertaining, but also has a lot of depth. I've seen it several times, and I don't seem to tire of it. Well worth watching.
Wow! That was all I could say when I walked out of the theatre after my
first helping of A.I. I wasn't sure whether I loved the movie or was
disappointed by it, I just knew it had had a huge effect on me. Having seen
it a further three times at the cinema, I still find fault with it, but I
keep returning to it, thinking about it, discussing it, and it has left me
with a feeling that, five months later, I've still not shaked. In many
regards, this movie reminds me of Fight Club, not in terms of theme or
emotional content, but due to it's level of craft, the daring nature of it's
execution and the fact that I keep re-evaluating it. All the things that
are possible to comment objectively on (if anything ever is) are handled
expertly. The performances are top-notch, especially Haley Joel Osment as
David, the little robot child that longs to be human. The effects are not
only very impressive, but are integrated into the story rather than calling
attention to themselves. Januz Kaminski's photography is, as one has come
to expect, impressive, and the movie is unusually unpredictable for such a
In my opinion, John Williams' score is among his most impressive. I listened to it on CD for three weeks before seeing the movie, and thought it was fantastic, but once the movie started rolling I completely forgot about the music. That says a lot about both the score and the film itself. I also liked the three-act structure, in which the tone and feel of the movie changes drastically as the story progresses. Part one, as one reviewer noted, feels like a cross between E.T. and The Shining, an odd, but very effective combination. The second part of the movie is awash with Spielbergian imagery, but with the darkness and coldness of a Kubrick movie. And the last part is a head-scratcher that has the intellectual resonance of most Kubrick-films, and the emotional tone of something like Cinema Paradiso. I purposely refrain from saying that it is as emotional as Spielberg-films, because I think the director's complexities, the dark aspects of his style, and the occasional subtleties of his work are often overlooked by critics.
It's difficult to discuss the themes of the movie without spoiling it, but while many people criticised the movie from having several false endings, I felt that each continuation added layers of though and complexities that the movie would have lacked had it ended sooner. I have come to the conclusion, over the past months, that I do love the movie and that it is my favourite film of 2001, even ahead of The Fellowship of The Ring and Amelie. In other words, buy it on DVD, it's more than worth it.