Jimmy P. Psycotherapy of a Plains Indian
Some of the most fascinating works in cinema, for my money, are the ones that crackle with intelligence through simple one-two conversations. Arnaud Desplechin’s “Jimmy P; Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian” is just such an effort. Benecio Del Toro stars as the title character, a shell shocked World War 2 veteran suffering from head trauma, debilitating headaches and the cumulative effect of his (non) place in post war America as a Native American. The local army hospital calls in anthropologist Mathieu Amalric, himself ostracized by most of his colleagues due to his far fetched studies and general nervous persona, and “Jimmy P.” becomes a series of patient/doctor conversations that strike at the heart of lots of things: Jimmy’s failure in previous relationships, his vivid dreams and his embedded racial frustrations. Even though his accent borders on the strange at times, del Toro is terrific as the conflicted title character… his emotions are always just behind his eyes and body language says more about his inner turmoil than anything else. Likewise, Amalric embodies his doctor figure as an odd amalgamation of ticks, nervous fidgeting and variety of head colds and sickness. But when the two are in the room together, “Jimmy P.” clicks on all cylinders and the wildly different personalities feed off each other. The only distracting thing about “Jimmy P.” is its, at times, clumsy movement from scene to scene. As Desplechin’s first film outside of his native France, it feels disjointed in its editing. Scenes end abruptly and certain relationships revolving around Amalric’s past and his involvement with a married British woman (Gina McKee) feel under developed. Yet the central relationship is strong and it features a truly sublime finale that ends on a mysteriously uplifting note.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderdson’s latest jaunt into his storybook world of old European set design and anachronistic characters crossed between real and half imagined is a sheer delight. Brimming with humor (led by a wildly unpredictable Ralph Fiennes) and 40’s style Hardy Boys adventure, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” tells the tale-within-a-tale about how Zero (F. Murray Abraham as adult and Tony Revolori as his younger self ) came from nothing to eventually own the cavernous place. Along the way, lecherous family members, Cistern monks, war mongrels and cold blooded killers dot the fetishized landscape that has become the coup de grace for Anderson. Any fans of his work will be immediately drawn to the way “The Grand Budapest Hotel” maintains its air of theatricality while still mining real, genuine emotions among its characters. Just a terrific movie.
Darren Aronofsky’s long gestating “Noah” is a divisive film… and I mean that in the most literate way. The first half, which is certainly the best, plays like a fevered “Game of Thrones” as Noah (Russell Crowe) receives his harrowing message from God, then proceeds to build and defend his ark against the aggressively proprietary descendants of Cain led by Ray Winstone. Aronofsky’s visual style is immersive- including his trademark quick cut of shrill sounds and images like those famous in “Requiem For A Dream”. He also employs a variety of breathtaking tracking shots, especially the one that hovers just over the heads of a group of rampaging warriors as they careen towards an attack on the ark. It‘s this modernized feel of post apocalyptic madness that fuels the energy of “Noah“. Yet, the film turns stale in the second half, once Noah and his family are on the ark and things turn extra Old Testament as Noah struggles with his decisions and his absolute faith in God’s wishes. The emphasis shifts to the family dynamics, and even though there are strong performances including Jennifer Connelly as Noah’s wife and young adopted daughter Emma Watson, “Noah” turns preachy and spiritually banal. I’m not sure exactly what I wanted, but since Aronofsky has been so daring with most of his career, I suppose I hoped the unhinged creativity in the beginning of the film carried throughout.