Reviews written by registered user
|4 reviews in total|
A mature style in any art form is marked by restraint, clarity of vision, objective taste, trust in the storyline presented. All of these criteria are met handsomely in Phoenix, an aptly named film of emotional loss and renewal. With none of the firepower of a Hollywood blockbuster like Philadelphia, this film captures the very essence of the gay gestalt of two distinct generations: youth and early middle age. These come together in the unexpected relationship of the two protagonists, young Dylan and Demetrius, who is in his late-thirties. I have seldom seen more poised gay performances than those by the two leads: Chad Bartley (Dylan) and John Castle (Demetrius). The script is realistic with no bows to the bothersome bad habit of most gay productions these days: insistent multi-culturism. There are no bitchy, but good-hearted queens; there are no oracular African-Americans; there are no effeminate agony aunts. (There is an older, more experienced couple who appear briefly, but they are not obtrusive)...just the two men, working from an excellent script which panders to no value except fidelity to its subject. All of the production values are excellent, including the photography. If you're in the biz, watch this film and learn. If not,just sit back and admire one the best gay films ever made. Obviously, I loved it. BTW, I have no connection whatsoever to the makers of this film.
It is a psychological anomaly to see gay film-makers equate homo-eroticism with violence and death, yet three of the four short films on this disc do just that. The first of the four, Dare, is a the only non-reprehensible film here, offering gently adolescent titillating eroticism, with a warm tease of later fulfillment. The worst is Late Summer, which should have been called Photo-Finish, which is the cheap shot of the lot. A semi-autistic kid stays with his aunt and uncle and his lively, clever cousin shows him through the ropes of nascent sexuality and adulthood. His reward for this? Death. Ironically, though this is the worst of the films, it offers the best acting, particularly from the vital cousin and his mom. Fishbelly White is, seemingly, a gay homage to Dilverance. Despite some excellent mood photography, the plot rages with hate, violence and death. Time Out is seemingly filmed through a pock marked lens covered in dust, with a soundtrack of 1902 quality. The story and acting is stolid, the script amateurish in the extreme. Acting was on the level of a provincial high school production of Our Town. This is the first of the Boys Life series I have viewed. I was disappointed, obviously, but plan to see the rest of the series and hope for better productions on these discs.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The basic plot of this film, once it is conjured from the non-linear presentation, is quite sound, almost Hitchcockian. But...either the director or the editor (or both) decided to distribute key components of the story in a chaotic fashion, presumably to represent Leo's psychosis. It doesn't work well. The actors need a tune up,as does the photography. I am certain they meant well, but inexperience and lack of training seem to be the culprits here. The makers have good taste in material, but don't seem to trust it. I'd even suggest remaking the film, using a professional linear approach, as the story deserves it. The idea of Svengali gay guy using a psychotic bisexual to seduce, then murder a writer in order to steal saleable creative work is an interesting one, indeed.
A rare uniformity of talent and intelligence was brought to this
project. John Logan's script is based on primary source research and
reveals Hughes' character in a sequence of carefully deployed scenes
that embody this in the context of the national hysteria (mania), which
characterized the US from the end of of the 14-18 war through WW11. His
seeming debilitating neuroses find a perfect psychiatric logic in that
he sees the outer world as something which may come between him and his
dream..a very rational view. The timing of his psychic crises always
came as his dreams were most in peril and served the purpose of
isolating him, protecting him from negative forces. His bacteriaphobia
was symbolic and useful.
Leonardo Dicaprio (whose project this originally was) is astounding in his vision of Hughes and his realization of it. Again, Logan has provided the right words in the right place to carry this through. Cate Blanchett's Hepburn further confirms this actress's brilliance. She knows that an accent, a pattern of speech, are part and parcel of character and she portrayed this with an intelligent vibrancy seldom seen on the screen today. The supporting cast was uniformly excellent.
Scorsese had now made a great American film, his subject a very difficult one, but he shows the greatness of Howard Hughes, his flaws and debilities intertwined with his astounding abilities and imaginatively demonstrates them as inseparable and dynamically necessary.
The cinematography is the capstone of this achievement, just as it was in Welles' Citizen Kane. Combined with the editing, this is a visual as well as a textual masterpiece.