Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Week in Review

FILMS:
  • September (Peter Carstairs, Australia, 2007)
  • Point Blank (John Boorman, USA, 1967)
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford, USA, 1962)
  • I'm Not There (Todd Haynes, USA, 2007)

September
I had heard good things about September, so in spite of doubts, I gave it a go. Unfortunately, it was what I had perceived from the shorts. It just doesn't ring true. The relationship between the two boys just didn't seem plausible, and the aboriginal boy sounded well-educated. The film was OK, but doesn't stand out in any way. In fact, with the crop of local films this year, it kind of blends in to the point of invisibility. I had trouble staying awake for the duration of the film.

Point Blank
Sure, this film has dated, and yes, it's full of cliches. But it's done with such irresistible style and reminds me of the films of Jean-Pierre Melville.

The absence at times of explanations is a strength, and the flashes of memory with minimal device is effective. There's a large number of recognisable faces. If only Hollywood could still make 'em like this.


The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
I'm not a big fan of the Western genre, and the print at Cinémathèque wasn't the best (16mm, I believe), though acceptable. Yet, I found this film really compelling. There's a great line-up of actors: Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, Lee Marvin and others who make up a good ensemble without anyone overly dominating. It would have been easy for any of the above-mentioned actors to fall into cliches, but with good writing and direction, this was avoided. This had me on the edge of my seat - very entertaining stuff!

I'm Not There
I like Todd Haynes as a film-maker. His off-the-beaten-track stories have been good partnerships with Christine Vachon's Killer Films, which produces largely offbeat films with potential for mainstream appeal (like Savage Grace, The Notorious Bettie Page, Far From Heaven and Boys Don't Cry).

I'm Not There is quite a different film to anything else I've seen by Haynes. It is not a coherent story, per se, like say Poison, Safe or Far From Heaven. Rather it is a collage, or a pastiche. Six actors portrays different aspects of Dylan, though none of them uses his name (or his original name, Robert Zimmerman). Indeed, one version is an eleven year old black American and another is an aging Billy the Kid (played by Richard Gere).

The different aspects are brought together in a fairly sporadic manner, with the effect of conveying a sense of the diversity of the man's character, rather than simply aiming to be a biopic. This enables Haynes vast artistic license to explore ideas rather be limited by an interpretation of fact. Additionally, each of the different aspects/actors is filmed in a different style. The cinematography (some colour, some black and white) is gorgeous. The performances are not uniform (but not unsurprisingly), though generally good. I was particularly impressed by Cate Blanchett's rendition. She really seemed to inhabit the role with authenticity.

The music fuses with the narrative very well. Some of the tracks are well-known, others not. But they all blended nicely without being 'in your face'. I am a fan of Dylan's work; his Desire album (1976) had a big influence on me at the time of its release.

I think Haynes was quite ambitious in attempting this project. His film is original and the result is impressive. I thought the film was better than what my enjoyment of it was, because I had a slight problem with the sporadic nature of the narrative. I found it hard to emotionally connect. I also thought the film went a bit longer than needed. If you like the films of Todd Haynes, or the music of Bob Dylan, or films with originality, this one is worth seeing.

1 comment:

capitalwest said...

I thought 'September' was a little dissappointing as well. I did want to see it though, because I enjoyed Peter Carstairs' 'The Paddock'. Melbourne Mortgage Brokers