Reviews written by registered user
|4 reviews in total|
The new Malick film in production for several years, leaving Malick
fans desperate for information for just as long finally gets its
release, six years after The New World. Allegedly working from a script
that Malick first drew up a few decades ago it sounded very grand
altogether, the most ambitious and explicitly existential of anything
he's done so far. I think many waited in delight and confidence that
Malick could pull off another cinematic masterpiece, maybe even his
ultimate project. For a film maker who'd only made four features before
this he had garnered a huge amount of critical and cult acclaim, not
unwarranted. Days of Heaven is a cinematic masterstroke, a film so
exquisite the plot is largely irrelevant. On the strength of his
previous work I never feared that The Tree of Life could be a disaster.
When it was subject to a hugely polarized reception at Cannes it was an
indication that maybe not all was well; the films fans seemed to say
nothing of import (either Malick sycophants or the waffly, pretentious
bunch) and its detractors were fairly consistent in why they disliked
it. That was a bad sign. The Tree of Life is a ridiculous splatter of
simplistic and poorly executed drama. A painfully overreaching and
shockingly unsatisfactory debacle.
It's such a shame. The film manages to feature some majestic images some of the space imagery and much of the 1950s Americana environment but in trying to tie them together the films often visual beauty gets subsumed with a boring, self indulgent flop-around in sentimentality. What is most surprising about the failure of this film is that the editing is incredibly amateurish. Even for the films topic it is far too long and repetitive, but also it cuts-to-black on so many shots, which has a very jarring effect. I can only assume this was a conscious decision (a planned editing style) but it is totally wrong. Why Malick didn't realise this and take the whole film and spend more time editing it in a different way is beyond me. There is a bizarre amount of very brief scenes that seem to be just thrown in for the sake of it, as if the editor didn't want to spare them because they looked nice. The film's original score is unremarkable, but some of the other music featured is pleasant, like Henryk Gorecki's Symphony No. 3 II lento. The actors for the most part do a good job, except Pitt is fairly wooden and Penn probably shouldn't have bothered turning up, an unflattering gig for him. Chastain is lovely but has very little to do except look graceful and stay mute. The voice overs are stupid. McCracken is a good young actor and someone who probably has a decent future ahead of him.
Now this is saying a lot: The best part of the film is a brief line near the start. The mother is being consoled by an undoubtedly Irish neighbour over the loss of one of her three sons; the neighbour is confirming to the mother that life goes on and says "Sure ya still have the other two". I had a great laugh, unlike the other cinema attendees. That's all I got from The Tree of Life in the end. Malick aimed very high, obviously even too high for him. A monumental let down. But I don't fear for Malick's future; if he takes on more subtle projects he can recapture his magic. He may do that with his next film, he may not. Regardless The Tree of Life is a waste of time.
I've been assaulted by 'INLAND EMPIRE'. It is easily the most arduous film I've ever sat through. My body was literally attacked; Eyes: the repeated flashing, sudden switches and all these grainy close ups. Ears: the sound at times is so unnerving the sheer ferociousness of the screams, electricity and banging. Heart and stomach: the sudden scenes and often uncomfortable situations left my stomach ailing and my heart was pounding at the end. Added to all this is that the film is 3 hours long it makes watching it such a grueling task. One of the first impressions I get from INLAND EMPIRE is that Lynch is setting out to attack Hollywood! This I find slightly perplexing as he constantly reiterates his love for Hollywood in interviews. The film documents the descent of a woman into depravity and danger while trying to document this story as a film within the film itself. This may be confusing and at one point towards the latter end of the film it becomes a story within a story within a story within a story. Sound confusing?... well upon seeing it it becomes clearer (though not the lenses!). Lynch repeatedly attacks vestiges of Hollywood; fickle self-interested "friendships", disloyalty, the abuse of women, falling on hard times, the loss of spirit and good will and most poignantly the inability to really know how people are feeling and if they are genuine. These motifs are constant in the film and are expressed either directly or symbolically through violent shattering scenes. The first hour or so is digestible and often funny thanks to Grace Zabriskie and Harry Dean Stanton. But then when Laura Dern's 1st character enters a door leading her to view herself at the audition we have seen earlier it descends into a visceral onslaught with only sparse and brief moments of reprieve. The colour of the film is dominated by a terracotta hue during the first hour and it simmers during the rest of the film. This I found useful as it achieves a degree to compel which is needed to balance out the tough scenes that make up the final 2/3's. The camera-work is mostly adequate, usually to initiate fear or uncertainty in particular scenes, but at times it becomes exaggeratedly blurred and difficult. This however is obviously Lynch's intention; he wants to completely unnerve his audience, whether this emanates from a desire to keep up his publicly perceived eccentric-ism or motivated by the need to film this way to justifiably showcase his story. I hope and think it is the latter. This is related to the credit sequence, read on! Typical of Lynch there are memorable scenes; the prostitute ensemble, Julia Ormond with a screwdriver in her gut, dream sequences, a bizarre barbecue scene, the eccentric Grace Zabriskie and one of the most frightening scenes I've ever witnessed at the end which all il say is that it involves superimposition! Then there is the credit sequence! It hints at something that im still not very sure of but it is certainly one the most fascinating endings to a film... ever! There is so much going on in it I don't know where to begin. It could act as some sort of resolution for the film, but it also creates a substantial link with 'Mulholland Drive' and even 'Blue Velvet' which then leads to another idea that is backed up by other ingredients of the credit sequence; Lynch has made some sort of evaluation of his own work and the scene it seems is a vitriol against public perception, perhaps dissatisfaction with/of him. This left me thinking whether Lynch is planning to engage a markedly different way in future films or even to pack it in altogether? What also needs mentioning is Nastassja Kinski's role. This has fascinated me equally as Lynch's self appraisal, probably due to the fact that Kinski herself is fascinating. Is Lynch hinting at a link between what he told in INLAND EMPIRE and Ms. Kinski??? I don't know, I have to see this film again
Minghella's 'Breaking and Entering' is an excellent modern tale set in London that revolves around the relationships of (1) a "green" company director, (2) his longtime Swedish girlfriend and (3) a Bosnian immigrant. Admittedly I am not a big fan of Jude Law (what self respecting individual is!?) but he plays his part so efficiently it was a masterstroke casting him in the lead role. His character is trite seemingly disinterested and frequently irritating but wholly believable and realistic. He may come across as a London male stereotype but as said Law is so convincing it does not matter it just adds to the realism. Wright Penn is fantastic as his troubled Swedish girlfriend. She has to look after her 10 year old daughter suffering from ADD while struggling to feel appreciated and loved by the vacuous Law. Wright Penn fits the bill ably. Her character may be not perfect, her role at the end of the film is somewhat lacking in self respect and is slightly humiliating and desperate following a very selfless action she takes in helping out someone else, but again the films strength is its realism not its heroics. But the star of the film is the magnificent Binoche. Her performance is easily the best female performance I've seen in a film... ever! She plays the suffering mother of a troubled youth and lost her husband years before. She becomes entangled in a relationship that she should avoid but, as she states herself, it has been years since anyone showed her affection so she is vulnerable to an advance. There are two scenes which exemplify Binoche as the best actress in the business; when she decides to take pictures of her sleeping lover against his knowledge, she tries to make it look like she enjoys it but immediately reviles with disgust and disgrace, and when she descends to desperate begging from her lover for his help. Both scenes are so powerful you will be moved very much. The film has a number of subplots and social commentaries (and a few funny moments: look out for the scene in which one character states "Latte's have been drunk" you'l understand when you see it) but I will not dwell on them as they are secondary to the excellent performances of its cast. An engrossing and enjoyable film, make it a priority to see it.
Michael Mann's Heat is without doubt in my mind the best film of 1990's and due to its atmospheric prowess and clinical precision one of the best films ever made. Despite the obvious might of the worlds two greatest actors De Niro and Pacino pitched along side each other, it is the vision and impeccability of Mann's professionalism that propels it into a league of its own. Never mind frivolous remarks that it is too long, the film has a perfect length as it requires to make it such an epic tale. The supporting cast cannot be knocked as they all play out their roles with dedication. A major element of the film which is often overlooked is its magnificent score. With many people performing for the films music most notably Terje Rydal, Eliot Goldenthal and Moby the 20+ tracks are a music delight expertly capturing the mood of Mann's vision. A well made, enjoyable crime film at worst and the greatest cinematic excursion at best, Heat cannot be knocked and cannot be praised enough. Perfect!