Edward Cullen will always haunt Robert Pattinson’s screen persona. For David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis the same vampiric animism showing in his face when his character looks at the women around him. I couldn’t easily recognize Juliette Binoche here scares me that she’s put in a more compromising position compared to their other female co-stars, Samantha Morton and Sarah Gadon. Anyway, back to Pattinson, there’s this seductive naïvety from him, especially when he says the word ‘more.’ He stands out more than the crazy that Cronenberg and Don DeLillo can come up with. I can see this much within thirty-five seconds and that I’m already rooting for him as a Best Actor contender (although no, the Academy’s not that cool) also makes me want more. That I, a life long Team Jacob member, have changed colours. And that if this movie comes out in North America later than the May 15 date promised in this teaser, I will hate francophiles more than I already do.
I read Emily Bronte‘s Wuthering Heights, about the titular estate where the multi-generational drama of the Earnshaw family unfolds, when I was in Grade 12 (?) and as with public (Catholic) school education, we watch clips from a movie adaptation after reading the book, or at least when our teacher expects most of us to have read the book. She chose the 1993 version, with Anne Devlin’s script and directed by Peter Kosminsky. The other class, however, saw the Olivier version, which I’ve run into on TCM and changed it because there was a ball scene where every character wears the latest fashions. I changed the channel. It’s as if the studio system only knew one way of dressing and setting up period movies. And they keep putting ball scenes in these fucking movies.
As much as it got carried away with the thunder, lightning and beating branches on a window thing and although it also feels like more an adapted Harlequin novel, the Gothic tone is still present, the smell of old wood and the texture of the walls. Kosminsky pushes the camera back, his colours lighter and subdued. Ryuchi Sakamoto‘s score is great, although it would have been more memorable in a better movie. It has the grand scale that maverick director Andrea Arnold’s newer and cramped version doesn’t.
This version also has a lot in common Arnold’s movie. Both adaptations lack in evoking Emily Bronte’s storytelling and multiple perspectives. Although this one has Sinead O’Connor narrating, using words like ‘fire,’ ‘ice’ and ‘wolfish’ taking me back to Bronte’s image-heavy prose. But they see a portrait to a stunted childhood that I never did, Heathcliff (Ralph Fiennes) and his adopted sister/love interest Catherine (Juliette Binoche) playing in the dangerous moors, their characters hardened by the violent prehistoric creation of this unique rocky English landscape.
When they decide to sneak into the Linton family-owned Grange, some guard dogs attack Catherine, she stays in the manor to heal while throwing out Heathcliff the gypsy. This separation becomes more symbolic, Catherine becoming a mature English woman while Heathcliff stays the same. She even chooses to marry Edgar Linton over Heathcliff. What does this mean then if they’re placed against each other in a binary of adulthood and arrested development? Never has the place Wuthering Heights seem like a child-friendly Arcadia nor Heathcliff seem innocent to me either in the book or the three adaptations. He’s narcissistic but he’s also more destructive than tantrum-y, and this is one of the most restrained Fiennes characters I’ve ever seen. And I always thought that their relationship ended because factors have wedged them as opposed to growing apart.
If there’s a binary between them it’s the superficial ones like class and gender, Heathcliff being the more masculine outcast surprisingly has a stronger chance of survival. That’s mostly because of the upper class’ decadence that lead to their decline. Heathcliff, clinging to opportunities like his adopted brother Hindley’s (Jeremy Northam) gambling debts, becomes cunning. He preys on Edgar’s sister and ruining the innocent young woman’s life, becoming the villain that Hindley and to a certain extent, Catherine have painted him.
Arnold’s draws out the childhood scenes and skips the years between Heathcliffe’s disappearance while Kosminsky keeps the playtime down to 10 minutes or less, then shows Catherine’s marriage to the Lintons. But it’s not so much better here as the movie has a ‘this happened and this happened and this happened,’ trying to give every part of the novel justice while losing any of the chapters’ immediacy.
Despite Binoche’s competent handle of the English accent – giving her an advantage from any French actress within twenty years of her – and her elegance in dresses designed by James Acheson, watching her giggle and hum her way out makes Catherine look insipid. I prefer to know what characters are laughing at. It’s like watching a 40-year-old Norma Shearer play Juliet and Marie Antoinette, although comparing Shearer’s worst to Binoche’s worst is an insult to the former. She, like we do, gets a raw deal with a passive character but she doesn’t pull out the tragic side of Catherine in later scenes. Even then can she only process one level of emotion at a time, like a scene when she discourages her sister-in-law against Heathcliff, hating him as if she never loved him, if that makes sense. I’ve praised Binoche’s chops many times here but she got this role too late in her career and keep in min that this is her starting out.
It’s a dealbreaker for this movie and nor does Fiennes, relying on his dark make-up and hair pieces – like most of the cast – more than his own talent, falls short in a role that others have loved. Both have been in great movies during the same year this was released and it’s fortunate that they’re known for those instead of this hot mess. Although I don’t think I’ve ever heard Kosminsky’s name attached to any major project after this. Also starring in the film is the younger version of Janet McTeer as the maid and Catherine’s clear-headed best female friend Nelly.
- The Brontë sisters are always our contemporaries (telegraph.co.uk)
Back-ish! Last year, when I’m stumped with some of the movies I watched, I just left it alone, which means that at times I’ll forget that I saw Uncle Boonmee Who Recalls His Past Lives, a brain fart some of you might not relate to because apparently Boonmee‘s still rolling out in theatres. Not this year, just in case. But I’m still stumped so I’m combining the two French-y movies that I saw before going on vacation.
Certified Copy is the most fun I’ve had in a theatre for the past month or two, because it was the second emptiest theatre I’ve been to. I thought I was going to be alone, just like I was while watching Ballast when, these two women in their late 20’s came in, walked out when they found out the movie was in Italian, then I yelled, ‘It’s in English now!’ and they walked back in. We still couldn’t figure out whether Juliette Binoche and William Shimmell were together, frustrating one woman who was a Binoche fan – she’s only seen Chocolat. But it frustrated me more that the trailer gave the secret away. Think of this film as In the Mood for Love but the couple, on their day off, can’t dress and they’re more committed to make-believe, whether in love or having philosophical arguments. Like the book written by Shimmell’s character, it puts the facsimile of cinema into question. What makes their relationship less legitimate than ‘real couples’ in other movies? Why can’t people be comfortable and emotionally connect with friendly strangers? Directed by Iranian Abbas Kiarostami, this film is less almanac-y and more emotionally voluminous than his earlier work.
Of Gods and Men is its own brand of meditative. The first twenty-five minutes show the routine of French Trappist monks until terrorists kill a few Bosnian workers in the area. The movie then becomes a time bomb, disturbing its audience by showing the monks continue with their little duties, pretending that these attacks might soon pass. They can leave but worry that without them, the terrorists might graze the town that they’re based. When the abbey’s doctor keeps to the Hippocratic oath and heal one of the nice enough terrorists, it angers the Algerian government. Cue the personal tests, the infighting between the docile head Brother Christian (Lambert Wilson) and passionate Brother Christophe (Olivier Rabourdin), who eventually help each other in their spiritual troubles. There’s something beautifully sterile about the film’s compositions, making me think that it would have been just good if it was in black and white, one of the last scenes, showing the abbey covered in snow, reminiscent of White Ribbon. But colour it is, as we have to experience its immediacy, the film depicting North Africa in 1996.
- Movie Review: Certified Copy (blogcritics.org)
This film was part of the Cinematheque Ontario’s Best of the Decade, a series that started last year, a list that I believe no longer appears on the actual Cinematheque website and I can’t remember exactly when the eff I saw it, but for narrative’s sake, we’ll pretend I rewatched it exactly a year after seeing it for the first time. And since I already saw it, I’m not gonna give it a real review, not that I’ve ever done that ever.
Parts of Cache include surveillance tapes capturing George Laurent’s (Daniel Auteuil) Parisian house or long takes showing car rides to his mother’s (Annie Girardot) estate or his adopted brother Majid’s (Maurice Bénichou) apartment building, and then I remembered this is the probably the first movie I liked that partially uses digital cameras, a technical filmmaking method that’s widespread now with at least four Best Picture nominees partially or fully using digital. Despite being printed in 35, the rest of the film feels like it has a digital finish when watched on television, especially with its white and gray colour palette. Cache doesn’t feel like a manicured film, through its form scarier as it captures lives of ordinary people just like those watching it.
Speaking of ordinary people, I understand the de-glam that comes with the ‘art of cinema,’ but this is the dumpiest Juliette Binoche ever looked. Of the two Haneke Paris film’s I’ve seen, he de-glams and modernizes the city. The most ‘Parisian’ thing about it is the salad with red wine, and I’m pretty sure white wine is better for salad. Anyway, I already talked about the colour palette. There’s also the contemporary architecture and interior design.
Thank God for close-ups though, when Binoche’s character Anne gets angry or teary eyed at Georges for hiding Majid from her. In revealing his dark childhood secrets, they share a secret, and she surprisingly doesn’t condemn him.
But Haneke is, and if you’re his kind of audience, you are too. At first I couldn’t buy it because of its in-your-face metaphors. Why are Majid and his son (Walid Afkir) so passive? Why doesn’t Majid think of his son in his last act in disturbing Georges’ conscience? However, Georges becomes such an unsympathetic figure because of his meanness towards Majid and his indifference towards the latter’s son’s declarations. His carelessness in telling lies about Majid is the first and most effective way to ruin the latter’s life.
Think about a scene in the middle of the film during his visit to his mother. He has a terrible dream, his childhood accusations against Majid becoming true, he wakes up and is haunted. Would some of us in the audience be satisfied to see that in the end instead of a jaded Georges sleeping as if nothing has happened? Majid’s son wants to see a man haunted by the latter’s decisions, and we still see that. Rest assured, Georges will be haunted from time to time. And as his mother warns, those dreams will be more frequent as he ages.
The Robin Wood retrospective offered a film by my second favourite director, Michael Haneke. He directs like a painter. In “Code inconnu,” Anne’s (Juliette Binoche) boyfriend’s teenage brother Jean throws food wrapping at a beggar named Maria (Luminata Gheorgiu), angering Amadou, a young bystander.
Wood said of the first eight minutes of the film as “among the most astonishing instances of virtuosity in the entire history of mise-en-scène.” It’s not showy, and subtlety must be part of the criteria for a great long take. Haneke makes the conversations as the star instead of his own camerawork, and the events in the background are unmistakably authentic. The scene shows the experience of new Paris like any other city, with unrelated events and shops strung together in a street. When something happens like a confrontation between two teenagers, it feels more like a steady fire than an explosion.
This film uses Binoche in her best capabilities, and it’s a sadness as a latent actress lover that I haven’t had a chance to watch all of her films, especially the ones in French. That said, I’m ambivalent about Anne. She’s an inconsistent actress – she delivers one of the intentionally worst readings of Shakespeare on film – she’s passionate about the people in her life, and she’s probably racist. I do have a few problems with her character. Why does she have the worst wardrobe in Paris? Why would she be grumpy to a boyfriend that hot? Why wouldn’t she complain about her neighbours?
The same questions arise with the other characters. Why is Jean unhappy about both the city and the country? Why does Maria go back to Paris after being deported, as the film shows how happy she is in Romania? Why is Amadou so nice all of a sudden? And does Anne’s boyfriend Georges realize how creepy it is to take people’s pictures on the subway?
The man who introduced the film also said that the film encapsulates the capitalist lifestyle that continuously exploits. Another way of looking at the film is that terrible things happen to four people and more terrible things happen to them while they go on their separate ways. It doesn’t stop. It’s an onslaught on anomie and cruelty coming from strangers, yet they’re not more angry as they should.
This film’s one of the greatest movie about cities, perfectly capturing the meanness and cadence of urban streets. It shows multiculturalism as tense yet not in an aggressive way. It lets people meet and meet again in different places and circumstances, and one seeing another like a different person than before. And it shows people being alone in a densely populated area. This is also surprisingly one of Haneke’s most accessible films, neither sprawl-y nor thesis-y like his other, more acclaimed films. Also, if you’re a fan on colour blind casting or acting, this movie might be for you. The names Luminata Gheorgiu and Maurice Benichou – the latter merely has a bit part, but I care not – are now in my mind. I hope so will be yours when you watch this.
And I will never forget that ending.