Friday, September 07, 2012

New Week's Offerings

A Burning Hot Summer

Philippe Garrel’s “A Burning Hot Summer” could be interpreted as yet another tangentially self biographical tale of tortured young love, but its more hopeful and engaging than many of his previous examinations. Yes there are bouts of suicide and depression, affairs and charged fights, but “A Burning Hot Summer” at least allows the escape of one young couple into much happier times. Frederic (Louis Garrel) is a painter married to successful actress Angele (the beautiful Monica Bellucci) when he meets Paul (Jerome Rabart). Paul eventually falls in love with Elisabeth (Celine Sallette). Frederic invites Paul and Elisabeth to live with them in Rome while Angele works on a movie. Their initial idyllic setting gives way to jealousy and boredom. The more disastrous of the pair is Garrel and Bellucci, constantly unhappy and seeking other partners. While director Garrel focuses most of the pain and anguish on these two, he allows a natural, almost sweet relationship to form between Paul and Elisabeth. If one couple is the ‘amour fou’ Garrel loves to examine, the other is the exact opposite. Filtered through this tale are many of Garrel’s tropes, including a meta-movie overlay as Angele works on a movie (with her new lover no doubt) and one long, unbroken scene as Bellucci dances at a house party. I’m a sucker for such an innocuous moment and it works to dizzying perfection here. “A Burning Hot Summer” deals in mood and surface emotions. At times, it’s difficult to take the film’s pensive and overdone scenario to heart (including a foreshadowing opening scene that drains some of the tension), but when the final scene does occur, I was surprisingly moved.


Based on an acclaimed novel by Don DeLillo (which has its vitriolic fans apparently), David Cronenberg’s “Cosmopolis” is a hermetic, ice cold blooded experiment. In the past, this probably would’ve been a good thing based on the director‘s need to sublimate precision over emotion, but “Cosmopolis” comes off as a crushing bore. Full of long winded, absurd speeches about global capitalism, dwindling fortunes and warped asides about human nature (and an asymmetrical prostate), “Cosmopolis” is essentially a dark parable that appeals to all the people searching for an assault on the ‘one percenters’. Starring Robert Pattinson as some sort of capital mogul, “Cosmopolis” is mostly confined to the back of his stretched limo as he descends across downtown Manhattan while his fortune crumbles on a risky market bet. Cameos by Samantha Morton, Mathieu Almaric, Jay Burachel and Paul Giamatti serve to liven up the deadening tone as best their monotonous conversations can, but the imprisoned backseat and clinical discussions of currency and non sequitors made me nauseous. And when Pattinson steps out into the real world, things get even weirder. A conversation with an old barber…. An explicable murder by a basketball court…. And Pattinson’s uneasy relationship with newlywed wife (Sarah Gadan) all emphasize the cyborgian nature of every character. I’m sure there’s some scathing points in DeLillo’s novel (adapted directly by Cronenberg) but as a film, “Cosmopolis” failed to stimulate me intellectually…. And for Cronenberg that’s a major disappointment.


John Hillcoat makes some violent movies. They feel violent… full of droning soundtrack noises that heighten the tension and an unflinching camera that patiently observes killings and neck snappings and blood and dirt. “Lawless” (his most Hollywood film to date) doesn’t shirk from the violence, creating a highly stylized universe where tommy guns are loud, a hotel room covered in blood is truly traumatic and the big final showdown between two men is draped in shadows. Technically, “Lawless” is peerless. It’s when the characters within his story try to express emotion, vengeance or lust that the story comes to a screeching halt. Following the moonshine exploits of a backwoods Virginia family of Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke and Shia LeBouf, their peaceful criminal dealings come against Chicago special attorney Guy Pearce when he tries to make his mark on the profitable trade. Pearce (a mainstay of Hillcoat) as always, chews the scene with relish, creating a character we all wish was dead. But it’s the clumsy performance of LeBouf and forced love entanglements with female stars Jessica Chastain and Mia Wiskowski that dampen the film’s energy.

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