Monday, August 31, 2009

Funny how? Some more quick thoughts.

I wish that I could pinpoint what it is about Scorcese's films that keep me at a distance. I can't figure it out. Goodfellas is what it is, an elephant in the room, but I've never been a big fan. Joe Pesci (and the character written for him) is the best part of the movie. Otherwise, I guess that I can value the film for showcasing "wiseguy" glamour, the sole driving force behind America's gangster fetishism. The gangster life is about self-interest. Henry is a gangster because it's a life with benefits, but he's quick to dump the lifestyle when it doesn't benefit him any longer. Henry rats on his "friends" to save himself, but he's clear-headed enough to readily admit to missing the lifestyle he's leaving behind. There is no moral conversion, only self-interest to the end.

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is pretty clearly a revenge-themed exploitation picture, so, by all accounts, Tarantino has succeeded admirably in making exactly what he set out to make, trimming away all excess and giving us nothing but pure revenge exacted. I'm sorry that I don't care. It's too bad that Tarantino sets the bar so low for himself, but he seems to be having a grand old time wallowing in the muck. Tarantino knows more about bad 1970s films than I know about anything. I respect that. I just can't share his enthusiasm.

I watched Adventureland for a 4th time now that it's out on DVD. It still holds up, but I know that I'm now done with the movie, having mostly exhausted what it has to offer. I love the perfect evocation of time and place and friendship and community that Mottola conjures throughout, but I think that there are problems with the story; each element falling too neatly into place to further a plot, creating a deterministic atmosphere at times instead of a spontaneous lived one. Then again, I don't know if Mottola expected anyone to be watching the film four times in four months and thinking about it so much. There's nothing in Adventureland that has any exact correlation to anything from my youth, but the tone is so right that watching the movie felt like hanging out with old friends.

Last night, I had the incredible joy of taking my daughter to work with me. The work being my volunteer usher job at Cornell! We watched Up for a second time and I can say that I was completely enthralled, enjoying it much more this second viewing. It's definitely one of the best films of the year so far.

Clean was further proof to me that Olivier Assayas is someone to watch, though I suppose that now I need to watch Demonlover or Boarding Gate to discover Assayas' exploitative streak. Clean features a good script and great performances that seem to come alive effortlessly through Assayas's direction. I especially loved the Nick Nolte character and his grizzled grace. Maggie Cheung could be one of the greatest female actors of recent memory. At least, her work with Wong and Assayas hint at the possibility. The musicians featured in the movie also seem to be here organically, in a much more realistic feeling way than Rachel Getting Married's wedding jam from last year. Anyhow, good stuff worth checking out.


Summer People said...
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Summer People said...

“Henry rats on his “friends” to save himself, but he’s clear headed enough to readily admit to missing the lifestyle he left behind. There is no moral conversion, only self interest to the end.” I think this is exactly the point Scorsese is trying to make here. The first half of the film “showcases” what we would all agree is “wise guy glamour” and “gangster fetishism” only to flip the tables and eventually become what I would describe as revisionist. The main character is not granted the honorable death we are used to seeing in great gangster films of the past. Henry doesn’t die tragically on the steps of a church, or bust through the door with a giant machine gun. Instead he is a sweaty paranoid junkie and his mere company has corrupted all of his loved ones to the point of no redemption… for anyone. Scorsese is interested in comeuppance, he’s putting the quintessential 1930s Warner Bros gangster on trial for the actions that they were once celebrated for and it makes for one uncomfortable finale. I wrestled with my reaction to the film’s unpleasant features (Spider’s death, the entire eighties sequence) and was genuinely saddened that Scorsese didn’t indulge my “gangster fetish” for slick and fast action and dialogue. But I respect his decision to dish out some much needed atonement. Plus, someone has to play devil's advocate and refute that “code” that everyone seems to think exists amongst thieves.

I’ve come to the conclusion that you are right about RACHEL GETTING MARRIED. I’ll recant to a certain point, while pointing out that Demme is still a great director despite the fact. I agree that Assayas is really someone worth keeping track of. I hear that IRMA VEP is his best feature, a remake of Les Vampires starring you’re gal Maggie Cheung (whom I agree with you wholeheartedly about).

KILL BILL Vol 1 came right after the commercial and, at the time, critical failure of JACKIE BROWN. I don’t think this film is bad, but its essentially one showcase after another for either his enthusiasm for kung fu cinema or his, up until that point, unknown talent for directing action sequences. Volume 2 is actually quite good, specifically once we get to meet Bill.

I can’t wait to see ADVENTURELAND. I love movies that remind me of the old days.

The only way I could think more highly of UP is if I had a daughter to watch it with. Your daughter is going to be one knowledgeable little cinephile.

Have you guys moved yet?