Friday, October 14, 2022

The Current Cinema 22.3

 Moonage Daydream


Brett Morgen's portrait of the iconclastic David Bowie refuses to play by the standard documentary rules. Using pieces of Bowie's actual voice from archival recordings as if the singer had been preparing for this type of life reverie since inception, "Moonage Daydream" is all the more potent because of its idiosyncratic nature. I doubt it would've been quite as satisfying if it simply dotted back and forth on a perfect through line of Bowie's ascension to the top of the rock and roll mountain. And even though it doesn't immediately serve as a linear experience, Morgen does some incredibly dexterous editing to subtly evoke a timeline in Bowie's life from his glam rock explosion to heart rendering late life ballads. Like an abstract painting, "Moonage Daydream" bowled me over in sound, image, and juxtaposition, cycling through his hits (and even some lesser known efforts) to create a film that's more attuned to Bowie's outlook on the vibrancy of life than any straightforward exposition crafted about him ever could. 



Neither deserving of the unmitigated marketing disaster of its opening weekend grosses, nor an esoteric auteurist diamond in the rough, David O. Russell's very busy and overlong thriller-comedy ensemble is simply..... okay. And while I've adored some of the more problematic Russell films of the past few years (namely "Joy"), "Amsterdam" tries way too hard to fit into his formula of quirk and more intelligent comedy. Built around a trio of performances that range from the interesting (Robbie and especially Bale) to the mundane (Washington and pretty much every other star who pops up), "Amsterdam's" rat-a-tat narrative about embedded fascism and corporate skulduggery in early 30's America features an energy that oscillates between high energy and low exposition. It's fits and starts probably equate something to the nervous, unfocused determination of its Nancy Drew like trio, but as the film runs through its tangled web of subterfuge, it slowly runs of out steam. Ideally, this 30's set noir-lite would be right up my alley, and "Amsterdam" does have its enthralling moments.....I kind of wish we could have just luxuriated with the trio in Amsterdam and their Hemingway-esque lifestyle of artistic liberation and pajama wearing bohemie. After that, a real plot kicks in and I cared less and less about what was going on rather than the vibes of its hazy first half. The power of Amsterdam, indeed.

Don't Worry Darling


Another film pretty well sunk due to pre-release mishandling (this time firmly within the ranks of its own film staff rather than the studio), Olivia Wilde's "Don't Worry Darling" also strikes me as a very muted effort. Well made but ultimately derivative of a host of other science fiction rug pullers whose central conceit lays fault at the paranoia of a matrix dominated existence, it's neither terrible nor exceptional. As the young, flawless couple at the center of a 1950's suburbia that isnt-exactly-what-it-seems, Florence Pugh and Harry Styles conduct themselves well and filmmaker Wilde equips herself with a stable of craftsman who make everything pop. The ultimate downside to "Don't Worry Darling" is the constant expectation to figure out what's going on. This type of film can be exciting if it sneaks up on the viewer, but in the case of this film, it's all figure-out and no let-it-wash-over-you vibes, which feels frustrating at times.

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