Wednesday, December 12, 2007

2007 catch-up, Part 4

Probably the last few I'll be able to see before my list and awards deadlines, unfortunately. Why must there be so many movies?

2 Days in Paris (Julie Delpy, Adam Goldberg, dir. Julie Delpy)
Although on the surface one would guess that Delpy's film has a lot in common with her two collaborations with Richard Linklater and Ethan Hawke, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, this low-key, talky dramedy is actually nearly the inverse of those films, with Delpy and Goldberg's characters wandering the streets of a picturesque European city not in the heady, intellectual throes of new love, but in the neurotic, paranoid throes of settled love falling apart. Delpy's style is more Woody Allen than Linklater, with some hilariously awkward get-togethers (a family lunch, a cocktail party) and introspective narration and random asides from Delpy's character. The ending feels a little forced, but otherwise this is an entertaining and fitfully insightful little relationship movie.

The Boss of It All (Jens Albinus, Peter Gantzler, Iben Hjelje, dir. Lars von Trier)
Von Trier offers up a voiceover at the beginning of this film asserting that it is nothing more than a comedic trifle, which naturally means it is anything but a comedic trifle. The problem is that the concept and overall plot are exactly the stuff of a middling American comedy, with a passive-aggressive CEO hiring an actor to play "the boss of it all" so he doesn't get blamed by his employees for his cold-hearted business practices. Of course, the actor encounters all sorts of awkward situations and eventually uses his position of pseudo-power to fight on behalf of the beleaguered employees. It's not hard to imagine this as a movie starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, and at times it is sort of amusing. But von Trier seems dead set on working against its breeziness, with his condescending voiceover asides at the beginning, middle and end, his weird ending that amounts to some meta-comment on the nature of acting, and most of all his irritating filmmaking tactics. He uses a technique that moves the camera around automatically, rather than employing a cinematographer, and the result is constant, random jump cuts, shots with the characters' heads out of the frame, incredibly stupid blocking and lots of inconsistent continuity. This, no doubt, is also some meta-comment on the nature of filmmaking, but really it just dresses up this semi-funny story in a whole lot of pretentious nonsense.

I'm Not There (Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, Marcus Carl Franklin, Ben Whishaw, dir. Todd Haynes)
I thought I had an extensive enough familiarity with the life and career of Bob Dylan to make sense of this movie, but apparently I was wrong. I think the only thing I recognized was when he went electric and someone in the audience screamed, "Judas!" Otherwise, I was pretty lost as to how much of the events in this movie related to Dylan's life, beyond some very broad strokes. I also only knew a handful of the songs. Maybe I would have liked the movie more if I were more of a Dylan fan - as it is, I appreciate Haynes' artistry and exhaustive knowledge of pop-culture and film history, and his evocation of different cinematic styles in each of the six intertwining parts that make up this film is undeniably accomplished and impressive. In the past, I've really liked Haynes' films for the way they engage with the pop-culture of the past (Velvet Goldmine and Citizen Kane; Far From Heaven and Douglas Sirk), but here I think I'm not familiar enough with the styles he's evoking to engage with it as successfully. My other problem is that this seemed often more like a montage or a music video than a narrative film to me - which is not necessarily bad, but it's hard to ever engage with the characters when they sort of just float across the screen, and Haynes is constantly switching perspectives. As much attention as Blanchett has gotten for her performance, it didn't particularly stand out to me, although she did a perfectly good job; I thought Ledger managed the best balance of Dylan mimicry and real acting, while Bale went overboard with his bad Dylan impression. I tried hard to like this movie, and I admired a lot of what it did, but overall it just didn't work for me.

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