Friday, January 04, 2013

The Current Cinema 15

Rust and Bone

Jacques Audiard’s “Rust and Bone” is a complex and formally ravishing portrait of two damaged people coming together to make one. Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts, as the couple, each deal with staggering personal blows in their life and form an unlikely (and even unsentimental) bond. As with his previous film “A Prophet”, Audiard has crafted another masterpiece…. his fluttering camera capturing so many fleeting emotions at the edges of the frame and involving us wholly into a story whose corners and turns elicit gasps of exhilaration and surprise. Nothing is more moving than the final phone call between Cotillard and Schoenaerts or the way Cotillard summons a whale against the glass and forgives it.


I suppose the legend for the New New German Cinema wave was Florian von Donnersmarck’s “The Lives of Others” in 2006.… a film that turned the Cold war thriller on its ear through paranoia and devout understanding of its devious times. I nominate director Christian Petzold as the new carrier of the flag. His noir tinged “Jerichow” from a few years back is an understated gem and his latest effort, “Barbara” is not far behind. Call it an interior Stasi-thriller. Giving a fiercely quiet performance, Nina Hoss is terrific as the titular character, a nurse exiled to the country provinces for unnamed reasons. She’s constantly monitored by cars parked across the street and shuns the warm advances of her doctor co-worker (Ronald Zehrfeld). Petzold’s drama is one to be heard and seen. The omniscient wind as Barbara rides her bike…. the clack of her heels as she walks the corridors of the hospital…. and the sound of approaching cars outside her window spell both disaster and anticipation. Little is said in “Barbara”, but much is inferred and Hoss gives a full bodied performance through her steely eyes and stiffened posture. Plans of escape of made, sympathy is shown for patients, but overall, “Barbara” is a damning examination of a very particular place and time.

Django Unchained

I complain about this every time, but I continue to give Tarantino a chance to redeem himself with me. Sadly, “Django Unchianed” doesn’t satisfy. Yet another empty pastiche of genre (this time the spaghetti western, that, oddly, doesn’t even feel like a spaghetti western despite its mimicked Ennio Morricone soundtrack and presence of Franco Nero himself), Tarantino’s films are so far inside his own head, he doesn’t even know when too long is too much. Carrying on for close to three hours, featuring protracted conversations that drain the energy out of any established momentum, and charmless performances, “Django Unchained” revels in exaggerated bloodshed and farcical humor to a much less degree even for Tarantino’s usual self reflexive cinema.

Jack Reacher

Before even seeing “Jack Reacher”, I had two different people tell me that Tom Cruise just didn’t fit their idealized vision of the novel’s lean and mean protagonist. Being a neophyte to the Jack Reacher universe, this didn’t bother me at all. What I found was a lean and mean film itself. Scripted and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who hit all the right notes over a decade ago with “Way of the Gun”, again crafts an exacting, intelligent film. McQuarrie’s affinity for the more muscular tropes of the genre (specifically the western standoff) carry over into “Jack Reacher” as well. For once there’s a final shootout that understands the logistics of its inhabitants and a very 1970’s car chase that succeeds in sound editing over crash-bang musical cues. All in all, “Jack Reacher” feels like a very different action film, one that respects its audience instead of pandering to the lowest common denominator. McQuarrie is a very exciting talent and “Jack Reacher” is an immense surprise.

No comments: