And who could blame him? Sample: “I’ve often quarreled with the LA Times’ coverage of documentaries, but Horn’s piece is truly something for the archives. For one, he posits the curious conclusion that YOUNG@HEART – a film that is well on its way to grossing 3.5 million – is yet another black eye on nonfiction box office performance. It’s a stretch, it is, but one that Horn continues to ride into a column yesterday, in which he exclaims that YOUNG@HEART was “dead on arrival.” [More at the link.]
AWARD-WINNING PLAYWRIGHT MARTIN MCDONAGH, an Oscar-winner for his short, Six Shooter, makes an amusing feature writing-directing début with In Bruges, which finds Irish hitmen Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell) dispatched to historical Belgium—”Where the fook is Broozh?”—to cool their heels after a contract killing gone wrong. It’s the sort of cracked genre enterprise that’s always welcome, and with his characteristic verbal baroque, Sundance 2008’s opening night film is stylish after a modest fashion, with attractive lighting by cinematographer Eigil Bryld (The King,Wisconsin Death Trip,Becoming Jane). (The transfer to DVD has its own brassy charm.) McDonagh shines with actors, letting Gleeson and Farrell hold onto their own accents, and bringing out a sweetly damaged comic performance from Farrell, something like the hood he played in Intermission with just the right touch of Jerry Lewis’ inner pain. But his knack is words, dirty ones at that. He’s got a playwright’s love of the rhythmic potential of repetition and reiteration, particularly with a patois way past profane. Happening upon a film shoot, Ray exults, “They’re filming something, they’re filming midgets! My arse, let’s go, they’re filming midgets!” Later, meeting an actress from the film, Chloë (Clémence Poésy, of Harry Potter and The Goblet Of Fire, playing girl-of-dreams as a serene tangle of genial twinkles), he’s given to gush, “I hope your midget doesn’t off himself, your dream sequence would be fucked.” (Farrell has a fine line in melting when late in the game she asks him, “Am I the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen in your stupid life?”) The film’s secret is that it’s a profane comedy about despair, which comes clear long before the third act appearance of Ralph Fiennes as their boss Harry, playing a role reminiscent of Ben Kingsley’s Don Logan in Sexy Beast with a pinch of Michael Caine. Oh, the look in his cold eyes when he demands across a table at an outdoor café, “You retract that about my cunt fucking kids!” (A deleted scene tops that with Harry’s rebuff to a pestery fellow passenger on a train, “If I wanted a conversation with a cunt, I’d have gone to the Have a Conversation with a Cunt Shop.”) Such a confabulation ought to climax in a literal side-street Boschian revel, which In Bruges does. Next time, perhaps McDonagh can toss aside the schematic screenwriting manuals and fuckin’ bloom. Carter Burwell’s emphatic score, on first listen, suggested unease about the film’s marketability, but it grows on you. Below: The UK trailer; US trailer; and a scene with Gleeson’s first encounter with the wee lad. [Ray Pride.]
CONTROL, ANTON CORBIJN’S EXQUISITE FEATURE DEBUT is restrained, melancholy and gorgeous, a matter-of-fact collection of the facts of the short life of 23-year-old Ian Curtis, frontman for the band Joy Division, who hanged himself in 1979. Sam Riley is the actor who plays Curtis, and it was one of the great, great performances of 2007. The fearful, vulnerable expressions that inhabit Riley’s face: the weight of two worlds, bourgeois and bohemian, resting upon his skinny shoulders, and atop that, the advancing symptoms of epilepsy (or the cocktail of drugs poured to stem them). It’s a performance of immense physicality: you can read these things into his expressions. But the musical performances, the numbers played live by the actors, are shocking in their simple, volatile shape. Riley’s Ian Curtis is a man who moves to shake the life, his essence, from himself. Not only does it convince as an embodiment of Curtis, but as the loss of control that performing artists sometimes seek. What is as transforming, as transcendent, as rising into a different physicality? (Some say now the saints and sages starved themselves to explore inner space.) Corbijn (best-known as a photographer) and cinematographer Martin Ruhe shoot in black and white widescreen, often in the very spaces and places where Curtis lived and worked and sang, and the pared-down decors suggest not only the poverty of the Manchester area in the 1970s, but offer objects the weight of icons: a Bowie poster, three binders on a desk—lyrics/stories/novels—a curtain in a window. Love tore him apart. Control brings him together again. The score, appropriately, is by New Order, who were members of Joy Division. Toby Kebell, as their manager, is a profane scene-stealer, alongside Samantha Morton as the salt-of-the-earth mother of Curtis’ daughter. The DVD (Miriam Collection, $29) includes commntary by Corbijn; Joy Division videos for “Transmission” and “Atmosphere,” as well as a making-of and interview with Corbijn. Below: a Dutch report on the filmmaker; a French trailer; and Joy Division playing “She’s Lost Control.” [Ray Pride.]
You can neither make beautiful, great movies without risk as you can make babies without sex. Risk is part of the artistic process. That’s why I like performance, because performance is walking a high wire.
~ Francis Coppola
“Probably the most heralded movie I’ve ever been in was Forrest Gump. While I was sitting on the park bench, I asked Bob, ‘Is anyone going to care about this guy?’ He said, ‘I don’t know Tom. It’s a mine field. It’s a fucking mine field.’ So when it works, you just say, ‘We dodged all the mines.'”
~ Tom Hanks