I had an interesting conversation about Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina,” both of us complaining that while reading it, we’ve complained that we learned so much about agriculture and geography and horses but not about the anti-heroine herself. Like why title the book about a character who isn’t really your book’s subject? Joe Wright and Tom Stoppard’s adaptation of the doorstop ‘tightens’ the material he has by turning quasi-fictional 19th century into a stage. Because symbolically, the characters have deeply involved themselves into affectation so much that they might as well be acting. Mind you, I liked the movie, but choosing more claustrophobic mises en scene also gives a disservice to the expansive landscapes that Tolstoy articulates. The aristocratic Russian culture of vacations, country life and hunting are all gone! I had the same problems with the film adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the Southern fields of my imagination squashed within a cramped studio.
But this also means, and this would be the case with other as well as most big-screen adaptations I assume, are as focused, inadvertently making the material they have to be a character study/actress vehicle. Again, the movie is the opposite of the book. In the novel, we read about the work of Dolly (Kelly MacDonald) her husband Stiva (Matthew McFayden), his brother-in-law Levin (Domhall Gleeson) and his wife Kitty (Alicia Vikander), Anna becoming this ghostly figure of gossip. In the film, these supporting characters are yes, sadly, gender stereotypes, but while they are forced to retreat the ghost comes full centre, as well as the underrated actress who plays her.
Read my fresher thoughts on Anna Karenina here on Entertainment Maven.
This year’s Toronto International Film Festival ended like what, three months ago exactly, and I’ve written reviews for Entertainment Maven, and I still haven’t linked it in my spaces yet? Well I Facebooked and Tweeted them. And yes, I’m still trying to recover from it while adding more local festivals and more movies to include in my backlog. Jesus. I should make my job easier and link my profile within the Entertainment Maven space, which I’m doing right now, but I’ll write two more paragraphs although I haven’t slept, my mind can’t articulate shit anymore and my laptop is whizzing like a motherfucker. Put the fan close to the…no, laptop close to the fan.
There’s one movie that encapsulates the festival’s line-up and that is Dial M For Murder, still playing at the Lightbox. It’s an envelope-pushing movie about a dysfunctional romance. But I didn’t end up seeing that because I saw it twice already, once in 3D. So I had to ‘settle’ with two movies from the Cinematheque line-up that encompasses as least one of two of what Dial M’s stands for in this fest. Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil is the envelope pusher, Roman Polanski’s Tess is the visually crystalline dysfunctional romance. Sometimes I’m cynical about the movies I’ve seen, my schedule only allowing me to watch slim pickings but sometimes those are the ones with the most surprising merit.
You know what, sometimes both intersect for me. Rust and Bone‘s realist-styled frayed frames is reminiscent of Brakhage while depicting a romance between a boxer (Matthias Schoenaerts) and a whale trainer (Marion Cotillard). That one was my favourite of the fest. Joe Wright goes Baz to show the choreographed nature of the contemptible white Russian society in Anna Karenina, where Keira Knightley plays the titular role and actors like Domhall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander idealize each other. The approachable Like Someone in Love is a triangle between a Tokyo-area prostitute (Rin Takanashi), her client and her boyfriend and just like Abbas Kiarostami’s movies, it mostly takes place in a car. Michael Winterbottom, however, has a more expansive canvas in depicting five years of a life of a prisoner (John Simm) and his family (including Shirley Henderson) in…Everyday…by actually taking five years to film the movie.
Sometimes, I only see one theme or the other. Like Sans Soleil, differently Molussia warps the world that we have and exposes its emptiness, but instead Nicolas Rey (not to be confused with the Rebel director) chooses 16mm reels that should be shown in random order. Ernest and Celestine, a story about a mouse and a bear, is a bit scary but nothing a child couldn’t handle, an animated movie that balances itself out by bringing the pastel-y synesthede in all of us. And then we’re back in the adult world Berberian Sound Studio, its neons intentionally reminiscent of the Giallo era. It’s visuals are as sharp as the knives slashing up produce for foley effects. Sound is equally important in Kazik Radwanski’s Tower, a locally made movie that is 90% a close-up of the protagonist Derek’s face, this relying on sound to convey the myopic claustrophobia within his experiences. Speaking of experiences, Apitchatpong Weerasethakul’s Mekong Hotel presents a relaxed and impressionistic perspective of humanity but that’s until he fragments them, casting doubt on Western ideas of personhood by reminding us of Buddhist reincarnations.
There are movies that show Polanski’s verdant visuals in Tess as they tell stories of love, nature and self preservation. The digitally shot Bwakaw has an elder person (Eddie Garcia), only having a dog with the same name as the title to comfort him. The bleached or washed colours around him change as he (re)discovers (new) friends. Fly with the Crane, again, has an elderly person in the bucolic Chinese countryside, the childlike vibrancy around him countering the tensions between his traditionalism and the next generation’s government bureaucracy. Billy Bob Thornton’s Jayne Mansfield’s Car has two families (with Robert Duvall in its head) ironing out decades of disagreements in arid, mustard-like Alabama. But there are movies that focus less on its visuals and concentrate on telling a story like A Few Hours of Spring, which is about an ex-con, his girlfriend (Emmanuelle Seigner aka. Mrs. Roman Polanski) and his ailing mother (Helene Vincent). Edward Burns’ The Fitzgerald Family Christmas takes the same ethos, finding the balance of telling the story between one torubled sibling from another during the holidays.
And TIFF doesn’t end. Like, half of the movies I saw after the festival wrapped are selections from it, and so will it be until…August even. I started out with Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, which does its best to sustain its tone as a glistening 1950’s love song, it subject Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) drifting in and out of sanity. Also, watch out for my reviews for Argo, Therese Desqueyroux, Post Tenebras Lux, and Hannah Arendt, which I’ll write when I feel like it. Leave me alone.
- TIFF 2012: Sans Soleil and Tess Reviews (Paolo Kagaoan) (entertainmentmaven.com)
- TIFF 2012: differently, Molussia Review (Paolo Kagaoan) (entertainmentmaven.com)
- TIFF 2012 – Jayne Mansfield’s Car Review (Paolo Kagaoan) (entertainmentmaven.com)
- TIFF 2012: Anna Karenina and The Brass Teapot Reviews (Paolo Kagaoan) (entertainmentmaven.com)
The title and trailer of David Cronenberg‘s A Dangerous Method made me assume that Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) endures histrionic mental states and transforms into a seductress going after her psychiatrist-turned-lover Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender), making him unfaithful against his wife Emma (Sarah Gadon) and destroying his friendship with his colleague Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen). Fortunately it’s a more intelligent movie than that.
Knightley’s performance was always going to be imperfect, burdened in early scenes with a younger Sabina’s schizophrenia. Name me an actress who can go from laughing to crying to yelling within seconds while making us get used to a Russian accent, I’m sure you can. There’s bravery in her physical portraying Sabina, protruding her chin and bending her body, as if taunting her detractors who make fun of her face, posture and weight even when she’s looked her best. She’s an animal in the movie’s first scenes. But what’s fascinating is her great work after her spells, transforming herself as the dependent lover and intelligent student. And even if she shows Sabina’s insecurities and paranoia about relapses, when she’s in a room with intimidating men like Fassbender and Mortensen and forming and verbalizing theory, she commands these men’s respect as an intellectual equal and has enough stature in her frail body to get it.
Mortensen has great supporting work as Sigmund, showing the character as confident about his theories and flippant about the anti-Semitism that both he and, he assumes, Sabina faces. Vincent Cassel appears as himself under the name of psychoanalyst Otto Gross. But keeping Sabina in mind, and knowing that this sounds reductive, all she has to do is climb down towards relative convalescence. Carl, thus, is the most difficult character to play, Fassbender embodying the struggle between repression and sublimation that Jung struggles with within the decade-long time period. He also gives us the theoretical and emotional heart of the movie even if he makes us work for it a little.
I also sense the characters’ ambivalence towards sensing a bigger – that is the war – conflict that will arise out of smaller ones like the ones Jung serve in and his growing rift with Freud. The movie’s goodbye doesn’t have the same feeling of dread, but separating these three different persons – they haven’t been happy together anyway – signals how they are never going to be complete without each other. And that Sabina has made peace with that but Carl, who has perceived her, among many things, as his theoretical muse, hasn’t.
- ‘Dangerous Method’ probes men of psychoanalysis (mysanantonio.com)
Kazuo Ishiguro‘s novel Never Let Me Go, about young adult clones slightly obsessed about their Cytherean childhoods, is now a feature film. Director Mark Romanek uses a linear approach to the story instead of the impressionistic one in the novel, and like any adaptation, it could go either way.
And sure Romanek mixes up a few things from the source material, a small grievance. And there’s many holes in the script that makes all interactions feel set-up and less organic, a bigger grievance. There’s also a lot of details, beautifully shot, that enhances the object-obsessed part of the story Romanek wants to tell.
But who can resist watching Keira Knightley as Ruth transforming from a histrionic, control freak of a girl into a worn down defeatist, needing a walker, giving a performance that’s the best in her career so far? Or Andrew Garfield as Tommy D., the awkward, gentle, brave boy we can’t help but reach out to?
Charlotte Rampling plays an icy Miss Emily. The script could have also given better justice to Miss Lucy (Sally Hawkins) and to Kathy (Carey Mulligan). The film unfortunately turns Kathy from the sane one into the less than pretty virgin. Though Mulligan could have been better, I like her better here than in An Education. I also like the girl who plays the younger Ruth, being able to change emotions so subtly. Despite of its flaws, the film does pull on your heartstrings, and in Cythera, that should suffice. My rating – 3/5.
This is my second time doing this. And this was the second thing distracting me during that little movie Al was in. I keep drawing from the well, aren’t I?
I hope I get this posted before actual negotiations between real people happen, and no matter what happens in the real level, and I hope they do a better job than I do, my fantasy Lear will always exist in my head and on the internet.
Lear – Al Pacino. Nothing we can do about that yet.
France – Guillaume Canet. I saw L’Affaire Farewell and he can stand his ground with someone like Al.
Burgundy -Ben Whishaw. I want someone younger for Burgundy but has good chops. And he’s played the not so smart young’n in Layer Cake, which is not the same thing but it’s a type.
Cornwall – Mark Ruffalo. He’s gonna be as explosive in this as he was in that one scene in You Can Count on Me.
Albany – Ewan McGregor. Like Ruffalo, he can interpret his character as either villainous or a goof. As long as the direction doesn’t make the characters too extreme.
Kent – Ray Winstone. He’s played the bad best friend, and Kent is a bit like that, getting into fights to prove his loyalty.
Gloucester – Jeremy Irons. He’s just a little younger than Pacino and they’ve worked together for The Merchant of Venice.
Edgar – Paul Bettany. He’s played benevolent characters before. And Edgar’s gonna be misunderstood, and Bettany can make Edgar duplicitous if he wanted to.
Edmund – Cillian Murphy. He’s known to make a lot of out secondary roles and he’ll be good as a juicy little villain and seducer. And there’s something in his eyes that makes him look like Bettany’s brother.
Fool – Diane Keaton. Emma Thompson’s played Fool against Michael Gambon’s Lear. And this will be a reunion and this will be fun.
Goneril – Kristin Scott Thomas. If there’s anyone who knows how to confront men, it’s her.
Regan – Olivia Williams. She was the perfect ice queen in The Ghost Writer, and I can’t wait to see her do another femme fatale.
Cordelia – Keira Knightley. She’s learned the silent defiance in Atonement and can bring Cordelia’s pain to screen without making her look like a weeper.