Sunday, October 31, 2010
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Friday, October 29, 2010
Expectations are tricky to avoid when you watch a movie from the last year that has already generated enough international buzz to warrant a fast tracked American remake before it even hits American screens. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, from Swedish director, Niels Arden Oplev, is that movie and fortunately, it is worth all the hype that is surrounding it. From the moment it begins with the reception of an odd gift to an old man who weeps when he sees it, its focus is clear and deliberate – this will be a journey shrouded in mystery and deciphering that mystery for ourselves will require visiting some very dark places. Consider yourselves warned.
Two stories unfold to begin with. The first follows reputed, middle-aged journalist, Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist). He has just been found guilty of fabricating evidence to for a story that dragged a prominent businessman through some very dirty mud. He claims that he was set up but he still loses his job and his character. Unbeknownst to Mikael, he is also being investigated by a third party for entirely different reasons. A computer hacker hired out as a security company is following his movement closely. Her name is Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace). She is a young adult with a troubled past that she wears on her face in the form of piercings, studs and jet-black hair. Because of her gothic look, she is talked to, looked at and treated las though she is nothing. When Mikael starts investigating a 40-year-old murder, Lisbeth starts following his new case too. The real story starts when the two start working together instead of side by side in secret.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is on some levels, a straightforward whodunit. A powerful family with obvious secrets makes up the list of suspects in the investigation and evidence points in different directions, moving names up and down that list accordingly. Only each discovery uncovers a fresh and unexpected level of evil behind this deep-rooted murderous conspiracy and each of these levels reveals poignant connections between religion and misogyny. Like the intricate tattoo in the title, this one will leave you scarred for life.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Saturday, October 23, 2010
It’s no secret that Clint Eastwood is getting up there in years. He has been churning out films on an almost yearly basis in the last decade as if he is trying to cram as much work as possible into his legacy before he can no longer do so. It seems then a natural choice for Eastwood to take on the afterlife in his adaptation of Peter Morgan’s screenplay, HEREAFTER. In many ways, it is one of his most organic works but aside from acknowledging that an afterlife exists, Eastwood is nowhere closer to any insight on the subject.
It is also no secret that I am not a big fan of Eastwood’s work as a director. I find he often oversimplifies the problem and renders complicated scenarios into clichéd lessons about what it means to him to be a good human being. The idea of him tackling something as complicated as the passage between life and death was frightening at first, even if the writing was in Morgan's hands, THE QUEEN and FROST/NIXON scribe (click the titles for full reviews). In HEREAFTER, Morgan tells three separate stories about three different people around the world who are dealing with death in different ways. A French reporter (Cecile de France) is recovering from her brush with death; a young twin boy in England (George McLaren) has just lost his brother; and Matt Damon plays a genuine psychic in San Francisco who has retired in hopes of finding a normal life. While all reasonably compelling separately, their plights never come together, which leaves the film feeling cold and detached.
There are moments in HEREAFTER that are genuinely engrossing and memorable, including an opening so intense, I felt I might soon know my own afterlife. Eastwood lets go of his ordinarily tight grasp on the picture to allow its characters to speak for themselves and its often-haunting imagery to be just that. At first, I was pleasantly surprised but then I realized that without Eastwood playing God that there was really no direction in HEREAFTER at all. Subsequently, I wasn’t able to connect with a film about an experience that connects us all.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Saturday, October 16, 2010
“Who else could I think of?” Cortes says of his star. “He never acts; he always sees. And when you’re doing a movie that has just three elements, you have to be very aware of pace, of rhythm and of music.”
Before long Reynolds was in Barcelona for a 17-day shoot that would prove to be much more difficult than he ever expected. “I lost a lot of weight,” Reynolds jokes. “It’s a great diet, coffins.” He had trouble sleeping; he had trouble eating. He even developed a bit of a bald spot on the back his head by the time it was all done. “Wood and sand are tremendous exfoliants.” Fortunately, the box didn’t kill his sense of humour.
Still, there is a big difference between preparing yourself mentally to get into that box and actually getting in the damn box. “I’m not a huge fan of actors overly romanticizing their process. It is usually self-aggrandizement masquerading as story telling,” Reynolds says, as if excusing himself for answering the question asked. “But I had a tough time on this movie. I will definitely say that.” Tough is perhaps too easy a word to describe a set where paramedics were present for the last days of shooting. They didn’t have to do anything but the fact that they were there nonetheless says plenty about what was at risk. “I was a little out of control when I was in there and it was nice to be done.”
Reynolds swears he will never complain about his job again after BURIED. And while it may have been rough, he could not be happier with the way it turned out.
“I love that the beginning of this film is in total darkness, that we don’t know who this person is but, by the end of the movie, there is a whole universe in that coffin. That is what Rodrigo saw from the very beginning and that is what I fell in love with.” His pride in both the director and the picture is clear. “Rodrigo made it a big movie not in spite of its limitations but because of them.”
One other thing is clear too. When Reynolds emerges from BURIED’s coffin, he too will be bigger because of it.
Friday, October 15, 2010
I’ve had the privilege of seeing some of Sam Taylor-Wood’s art firsthand in exhibition. It was stark, cold but yet still emotional and affecting. It was both sad and sexual, making for a challenging experience, to say the least. Still, it was an experience I’m glad I had and one that I am also glad to say, has effectively translated to film in Taylor-Wood’s first feature, NOWHERE BOY. The images here may be moving in comparison but are just as rich with depth and pain.