Friday, November 11, 2011

The New Stuff Addition

Really kicking into the fall movie mode, with so much to see finally.... "Take Shelter", "The Skin I Live In", "J Edgar" and "Melancholia". I love this time of year.

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Sean Durkin’s “Martha Marcy May Marlene” stands as a strong contributor for best directorial debut of the year. Placing youngest Olsen sibling Elizabeth (now all growed up) front and center in such a psychologically penetrating effort could be distracting at first, but within the first five minutes, those fears dissipate and she turns in one of the most affecting performances of the year. Opening with her escape from a backwoods family commune into the home of estranged sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson), “Martha Marcy May Marlene” shifts back and forth in time as we understand the levels of psychological damage done to her by Patrick (John Hawkes) and her struggles to adapt to normal life. With little bearing for time or place, Durkin’s slow zoom, trance-like camera never gives the viewer a full understanding of where we are in Martha’s life until each scene progresses, likewise thrusting the viewer into the same splintered state of consciousness. It’s a bold film both compositionally and emotionally and one that’s unafraid to comb the depths of identity and family bonds. In the most angry scene, Martha’s inability to overcome her brainwashed state explodes during a prim and proper lake house party and “Martha Marcy May Marlene” becomes almost unbearable in its tension as the camera sits at a motionless distance while she’s calmed down by sister and brother-in-law. At times, it’s echoes of Ingmar Bergman-like psychological inspection are stirring, especially since the dynamic between sisters remains elusive and complex… and if that sounds like high praise then I urge one to seek out this film. And the final scene is simply terrifying in so many ways.

In Time

More and more, I’ve come to realize that the magnificent promise of director Andrew Niccol’s debut film “Gattaca” (1997) is lightning in a bottle. Since then, Niccol has authored several low-key efforts that grapple with grand ideas , ultimately lost in a dumb-headed series of narrative conceits and vague emotional connectivity. Sadly, “In Time” isn’t a return to form but another example of Niccol’s inability to spin a heady concept within a thrilling narrative. Everything about “In Time” feels like a leftover direct to video cheapie from the year 2000, even down to the minimal police cars that look more like Robocop knock offs than sleek examples of modern inventiveness. The story- which takes place in a futuristic society where humans are genetically engineered to stop aging at 25 and the only true currency is minutes and hours bartered or stolen- also thuds along with zero energy. This is the type of film where everyone stands too close to the hero (Justin Timberlake) with guns, allowing him to overtake them and escape or the variation of using the word “time” in puns stands in for dialogue. And to further prove that Niccol hasn’t quite gotten over the creative spark in “Gattaca”, he apes the lush score of Michael Nyman and uses the oppositional brother overtones of that film to propel “In Time”. A real disappointment.

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