Monday, November 17, 2008

4 From the Cine

Rachel Getting Married

After wandering around in the documentary wilderness with diverse exposes such as "The Agronomist" and "Jimmy Carter- Man From the Plains" (both very good by the way), Jonathan Demme is back in the feature fiction realm with a vengeance. Armed with a witty, biting and absorbing script by Jenny Lumet, Demme has crafted the single best Cassavetes update I can imagine in the form of "Rachel Getting Married". And I don't mean that as a slight. In the way that Cassavetes used dinner and its impending conversations as a microcosm for the vitality and dysfunction of the American family, Demme has transposed those ideas into a 3 day weekend spent preparing for a wedding. As Kym, Anne Hathaway is a revelation. Released from rehab for the weekend to attend her sister's (Rosemarie DeWitt) event, she portrays her character as a full-bodied hurricane of stuttering emotions, repressed guilt and uneasy interaction with her upper middle class Connecticut family. Without saying anything in certain scenes... the way she hovers at the edge of the frame like the damaged runt of the family... and the way she destructively attempts to insert herself in her sister's happy times... it's uncomfortable to watch yet she makes Kym a sympathetic figure as the film wears on and her past becomes clear. Again, just an amazing performance by Hathaway. Demme immerses the viewer in a sea of characters over the course of the weekend, dwelling on the rehearsal dinner and the post wedding bash. "Rachel Getting Married" feels like one long unedited take from a cousin's home video camera, capturing overlapping dialogue, a dance party that shifts from belly dancers to hip hop with ebullience, and long speeches by the family members that radiate warmth and knowledge. If this sounds boring, trust me.. its not. "Rachel Getting Married" earns every second of its running time, brimming with life and affection. One of the very best films I've seen this year.

Zac and Miri Make A Porno

About halfway through Kevin Smith's "Zac and Miri Make a Porno", I was beginning to despise the whole thing. In the way that "Pineapple Express" sank beneath laborious scenes that felt improvised without a purpose, I was again quickly becoming bored by Seth Rogen's incessant attempts to throw in everything including the kitchen sink. But, believe it or not, some plot kicked in and I found myself going with the movie. Though not completely successful as a transformative romantic comedy (which Smith has done before with "Chasing Amy"), it works as a raunchy comedy. It doesn't win me over as a Kevin Smith fan yet, but he's trying and it certainly looks better than most of his previous films.

Heima: Sigur Ros

Either it's blind luck or both IFC and Sundance have decided to give more rep to idiosyncratic, alt-rock bands this month. I've already managed to catch Grant Gee's highly sought-after Radiohead documentary "Meeting People Is Easy" from the early 90's and now Sundance premieres "Heima". Following the atmospherically-sounding Icelandic band Sigur Ros (trust me, you know the band ... ever seen the "Children of Men" trailer? well they're featured prominently in it) as they return home from a world tour, "Heima" mixes the band's sound with spellbinding images of Iceland's unique landscapes and towns. But, instead of settling down with jet lag, Sigur Ros decides to tour Iceland and put on unannounced free shows around the country. This is not a behind-the-scenes look at the band- although it does feature bits and pieces of the band talking about themselves- but a celebration of their music as they attempt to give something back to their country. Some of the best moments include an impromptu acoustic session amongst a small group of protesters as they demonstrate against the building of a dam and the faces of the people (young and old) as they walk up and experience the stirring sound of the band for the first time. Highly recommended.

Quantum Of Solace

I've been trying to sum up my thoughts on the latest Bond film for a couple days, and I keep coming back to the quote by Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere when he wrote:"I knew 20 minutes or so into last night's Quantum Of Solace screening that I'd never see it a second time." I could not have said it any better. This thing lost me from the opening scene- it's edited in such an aggressive manner that I couldn't care less who died or what happened. Going back and watching the exhilarating opening scene from "Casino Royale" (which was one of my favs from last year) it's edited in the same style, but one that holds its shots for a couple seconds longer and gives the viewer a strong sense of logistics. Director Marc Forster possesses none of that sensibility with "Quantum of Solace". And it's not only the overwhelming sense of tension that's exempt from the latest Bond foray. Gone, also, is the emotional reverberance of Daniel Craig. In "Quantum of Solace", he has two emotions- pouting and angry. This is a complete failure in every regard.

And man do I love this time of year for movies. Planning on seeing "Synechdoce, New York" this week, "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Let the Right One In" next week.

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