Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Week in Review

  • Running With Scissors (Ryan Murphy, 2006)
  • Trzy kolory: Bialy (Three Colours: White, Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1994)
  • Amator (Camera Buff, Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1979)
  • Bobby (Emilio Estevez, 2006)
  • A Spanish Labyrinth: The Films of Pedro Almodovóvar (Mark Allinson, 2001) - finished at last

Running With Scissors
I found Running With Scissors very disappointing, not that I went in with high expectations (mostly because I knew little about it). Like A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, it documents the dysfunctional life of a writer who depicts his own life on screen. While Montiel's film used gritty realism and is reasonably successful at conveying his personal struggles, Murphy's gets caught in a quagmire of (1) attempting (unsuccessfully) to be quirky like Little Miss Sunshine (which itself is mediocre), (2) emulating the wit of American Beauty (but not even getting close, even though Annette Bening is used in a similar role) and (3) in spite of reasonably good performances, suffering poor writing and direction. The film is over-long and fails to engage. But hey, I thought that about Little Miss Sunshine and it was immensely popular, so go figure.

Three Colours: White
It's been 13 years since I first saw Three Colours: White. I always remembered Blue as my favourite of the trilogy, so didn't have expectations as high as I did after seeing Blue last week. I still prefer Blue, but White is still a very impressive and totally absorbing film. The humour is more evident in this film, but contains all the moral complexity, subtlety and depth of any other Kieslowski film.

I noted links to Blue that I hadn't noticed on first viewing: Juliette Binoche enters the courtroom momentarily at the start as she did in Blue, the bent old person attempting to place a bottle in a recycling bin and the finger tracing the map similar to the the finger tracing the music score in the earlier film. Both films start with the death of a relationship and maybe that's incidental (but maybe not).

One thing I'm unclear about is the significance of the pigeon shitting on the protagonist at the start. That's a big blob of white, and perhaps it signals this guy's lot in life. We see pigeons at different times, such as the flashback to the wedding, but most times we just hear the pigeon wings flapping in the background. It seems to be a code for something, but I'm not sure what.

Janusz Gajos' performance as Mikolaj was outstanding and his slowly unfolding relationship with Karol was most intriguing and the most appealling aspect of the film.

While Karol's revenge against Dominique maybe considered the most obvious manifestation of the film's theme of equality, what struck me both at the start and the end was the lack of equality that migrants often experience. In court, Karol was disadvantaged in France and Dominique similarly so in Poland. It calls into question the ironic proclamation etched into the French courthouse at the start - Fraternité Égalité Liberté.

Camera Buff
There was a fresh honesty in this small yet complex film. Most fascinating to me was the parallels I could see in my own life. As a teenager, I also happened to end up with a camera (35mm SLR) that changed the avenues open to me. And more recently, I've found myself drawn more and more into cinema. I always carry a camera with me and try to capture things that may interest me. Others have suggested, and I've contemplated experimenting with a video camera. The film recalls Smoke (Wayne Wang, 1995) with Auggie falling into photography by chance, and it changing his life.

While the intent of the film is honourable (like Old Joy and Full Nelson, to highlight the loss of idealism Kennedy offered at the height of the Vietnam war), it lacks subtlety. It tries too hard to be profound, when understatement would have been more effective. It relies on lots of high profile names, which might appeal to some but holds little interest for me. I can't let the opportunity pass without saying that Demi Moore was well-cast as the egotistical stage performer.


LenKa said...

I've just recently seen "Amator/Camera Buff". Predictably, I loved the film very much! Jerzy Stuhr is incredible. I'm going to write a post about my emotions as for the film (in Russian, as usual):) Interesting to know it's a kind of biographical for you?!:)

Paul Martin said...

Lenka, Kieslowski seems to like exploring destiny. Blind Chance explicitly traces the possibilities of destiny while Camera Buff does it more subtly. But even the Colours films seem to explore destiny. Interwoven with the moral conundrums his characters face, it makes fascinating viewing.