Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Technical torment

Blogger's being boring and not letting me post photos right now, so you're going to have to wait for the top two at least till tomorrow, folks. Can you bear it? In the meantime, I've just finished reading an amazingly clever and bold stage adaptation of The Talented Mr Ripley by Phyllis Nagy, which has inspired me to read a whole load more plays in the coming weeks. Handy thing, having a theatre critic as a flatmate: you get tons of them on tap! Thanks Maxie! Next up is Caryl Churchill's A Number, then Nagy's Never Land, then Martin McDonagh's The Beauty Queen of Leenane.

Also, I have an idea for the next ongoing feature after the top 100 is put to bed. I'm going to pick random film people from all walks of the profession and discuss their work. If that sounds unenticingly vague, it'll get more specific soon, and, anyway, I quite like the idea of not being constrained under any particular heading or topic. I'm just going to sound off about people. People I rate. We'll call it Key Personnel.

I may also have to do a "Reevaluating" jobbie on The Double Life of Veronique, which I had an unexpected allergic reaction to this morning. I'm pretty convinced it's an overrated nightmare, for reasons I'll explain in more detail when I get a moment. But it has a lot to do with the cinematography. Back soon!

16 comments:

Nick Davis said...

Likely story!

I've got Never Land on my to-read list, too, so I'll try to order it up from the library and keep up with you.

And I'm all ears on Véronique: in fact (you probably know this), I think Kieslowski is a good but pretty overrated director in general.

David Shultz said...

I still haven't seen anything of Kieslowski's beyond Blue, which I loved. I'll be curious to see what you say about Veronique, though.

tim r said...

Blue is my favourite of his films, by far. But overrated is the word.

Nick Davis said...

I'm a White man, myself. No, really.

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

I do agree that Double Life of Veronique is overrated, but I don't agree that Kieslowski is otherwise.

While I came to appreciate "Blue" upon a second viewing recently, I still consider it the weakest of the Three Colours. I adore "White", I believe it to be criminally underappreciated (oh and Nick, I just read you're one of the 3 other people apart from me in the world who loved Palindromes). "Red" is a masterpiece in my eyes (and I've seen that one several more times than the other two).


Coincidentally I'm meant to write a 4000-word essay Double Life of Veronique and Mulholland Drive soon, which means I have to watch it again soon, which means I might change my mind.

tim r said...

I'll talk about what makes Blue work so well in my forthcoming post, I'm planning to see White again later this month, and I'll also cover why I think Red is, in a very literal way, the weakest link.

Kind of fun that we're so topsy-turvy on these!

Ginger said...

I’m with you on Veronique, Tim. The last of Kieslowski’s films on my to watch list, I literally struggled to resist ejecting the DVD. The only thing to stop me was Irene Jacob, a compulsively watchable albeit bizarrely dim “presence.”

Not sure I’d call Kieslowski “overrated” but I’ve always felt that The Decalogue is mostly not what it’s cracked up to be for precisely the reasons it’s been praised: its over-zealous and relentless parabalizing (is that even a word? Never mind…).

I part company with you on the trilogy, though. Red, Blue and White for me (in that order). White I can’t be getting on with at all, largely due to its attempts at a sense of humor, which, while admittedly specific, is too mawkish and broad for this hardbitten palette. I’d rather be strapped to a dentist’s chair and forced to watch Frank Capra films on a perpetual loop than watch White one more time.

Blue seems to me yet another in a long line of ho-hum “French” films which trawl the same ground repeatedly, searching for clues with magnifying glass writ over-large in their (largely) neurotic female leads’ vague dissatisfaction. Blue also suffers the disadvantage of having Juliette Binoche as its lead and she, for me, is the most overrated French leading lady of the last 50 years.

Red …. I’m with y Kant Goran on this one. Flat out masterpiece.

It’s fascinating to read your posts on Persona, The Shining and the Two Lynches high up on your list, Tim, in part because they obliquely hint at why you don’t rate Red highly. More on this from me at another time.

I can’t wait to see your top pick, though I suspect it’s going to have something to with Malick and it won’t be Badlands….

tim r said...

Let's see. So I don't like my loose ends tied up? I like movies that self-consciously break apart rather than glueing everything harmoniously together? If this is what you're getting at, you may have something here, Ginger, and you do seem to have clocked my taste pretty well. I suppose that's what these lists are for, in the end. Still, I hope my dislike for Veronique and its ilk gives you some hope that my pet enigmas actually have to mean something, or nearly mean it. They can't just flaunt themselves at you and thumb their noses. A lot of these choices are maybe best seen as kind of like poems which reveal different facets of themselves each time you go back in — a newly-spotted internal rhyme here, an unexpected allusion there — and enrich their own meaning cumulatively without ever quite closing the book shut. Not that I'm dismissing Red, if that's your example, as a closed-book movie necessarily — my difficulties with it aren't quite so fundamental, and I still think it's pretty good, I have to say. Perhaps something in me rebels at the whole idea of the "flat-out masterpiece", though, as too... flat, in a way. Too perfect. I like my films messy enough to leave a little leeway for me to get them wrong, if I want, or wrong in my own fashion. You are on to something, though, for sure, if I haven't misread your thoughts. I feel these are notes towards a Robey aesthetic!

Ginger said...

I love loose ends. The stuff of life and art. We don't disagree on that point. Where we differ is in our thoughts on which films keep us dangling and which films tie 'em up and keep us, in the process, out of their hermetically sealed worlds. I think we also slightly disagree when ranking our elements of "good" filmmaking, but that's comparatively minor.

Mulholland Drive is blowing off too much stylistic hot air in service of a (to my mind) ideas which are far too simplistic to interest me beyond the directorial pyrotechnics. Character, plot, even thematic concerns are not the issue for me. I couldn't care less if a conventional story is told, as long as what's going on isn't, at root, just another in a long line of amazingly conventional ideas about the nature of paranoia, insanity, small-town America and the mystery the female psyche holds for men. I do not see Lynch as a purveyor of great ideas by any means, but that doesn't preclude me from sporadically enjoying taking a cinematic road trip with him. The In Dreams scene between Dean Stockwell and Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet is among my favorite individual moments in film history.

Kubrick's a different matter for me. I just don't like The Shining. Probably for many of the reasons I don't like Lynch's work on the whole, this is the one Kubrick entry in which I feel his lack of interest in humanity. And curiously, I believe his departure from the source material hurts the film. Not that I believe the book is any great shakes, but what drives that piece of pulp is an interest in character- something Kubrick throws out the window in the film. This is where Brian DePalma scored so highly with Carrie- that King novel is only slightly better than The Shining, yet DePalma's peculiar fear of all thing womanly clicked with the material rather than clashed with it. There's also a shorthand of image making at work in The Shining that I find cliched and not as rigorous as the startling stuff going on in, say, Barry Lyndon.

As always, it's a pleasure to disagree with you and I look forward to many more such sublime disagreements!

tim r said...

Gosh, me too! You're not the first person I've met who's argued that Lynch is a conventional or even insidiously reactionary director beneath all the weird shit. But it's a line of argument that I find extremely difficult to follow I'm afraid. I may need to be talked through it again, because to sum up his themes in checklist form jars in a pretty fundamental way for me with my experience of every Lynch movie I know and love. (All of them, except Wild at Heart.) I don't find his films are "about" the "nature" of any abstract concept that can be boiled down to a word, still less about "small-town America" or "the Hollywood image factory" or whatever, so much as they deal with collisions of concepts, of psychologies, and of ways at looking at the world. Lynch really isn't into the "natures" of things, would be my contention, but into denaturing them to look at what happens. He's a demolitionist, not an analyst. And I think the same's often true of Kubrick, whose approach to character in his most interesting films strikes me as initially alienating, for sure, but stylised and experimental in ways that bear fruit on the fifth or the twelfth or the twentieth viewing. He's more like a Beckett or maybe a Kafka in this sense than, well, a Stephen King. And I do find the give-and-take between (more than two) different modes of characterisation remarkably interesting in The Shining, just as the Kubrick/Spielberg tension is interesting in A.I.

I think we can run and run with this, and though it doesn't look to me like we'll end up agreeing any time soon, I really appreciate the opportunity to thrash out some thoughts on what are pretty tricky movies to get a handle on. Nothing clarifies my thinking like someone saying, "Hang on!"

On the other hand, I do like Carrie. Lots. It's at #75.

Nick Davis said...

"Heaven.... I'm in heaven..."

Keep talking, you two!

NATHANIEL R said...

Blue is the best of the three.

oh and on blogger. They can be a bore. What sometimes works tim is switching servers. If you're using like explorer, switch to firefox or something.
it will sometimes fix the photo posting problem. but yes. really throws a kink at those of us who love the pretty pictures to illustrate.

Nick Davis said...

I did mean to say, Ginger, that I love what you said about The Decalogue, and I subscribe to every syllable, at least based on the first four installments. I found no good reason to keep going.

FilmFan said...

Just make sure you work in my One Colour: Yellow joke for Veronique somehow...

JavierAG said...

I find the whole argument regarding Lynch's so-called "stylistic flourishes" to be a bit off in my opinion. It seems to me that a movie like "Mulholland Drive" that touches upon subjects such as life's tragic inability to live up to our dreams, hopes and desires, it would be only appropriate, nay, necessary, for the film to *be* a dream (even if it is later destroyed and demolished) rather than play like one. This isn't a stylistic choice; this is, to my view, something utterly organic, and I don't see Lynch saying "Hey, let's look at new ways to make this scene weirder, etc". It IS what it IS. And no one else does what he does the way he does it. Just saying.

On a side note, I also prefer deliberately "open" films. Maybe because with movies like "Mulholland" or "Blue Velvet", film criticism is allowed to become an art of its own, because you're not just playing "critic" but also "creator", in the way you make your own film in the process. Not to take anything away from more "finalized" motion pictures like "Citizen Kane" or "A Clockwork Orange", but this is just the way I feel as a movie enthusiast and reviewer.

tim r said...

@filmfan: That frigging yellow. I hear you, loud and clear...