Sunday, January 23, 2011

226 Movies, 351 Days

I watched 232 movies in the 365 Days of 2010. Here are the 226th, 225th, and 224th movies I watched:

I Love You Phillip Morris
2010. 102 min. USA. Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. Watchdate: 12/17/2010.
Glenn Ficarra and John Requa seem to specialize in fucked up criminal fairy tales like Bad Santa and this movie, which was really a whole lot of fun. Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor are both at the top of their game, and the movie plays like a dark comedy version of Catch Me If You Can with more complex political and psychosexual undertones. I'm a big fan of the con artist subgenre perhaps best defined by classic 70s movies like The Sting and Paper Moon, and this is really quite an inventive entry into that tradition because it subverts the form nearly as much as it follows its well worn patterns. It's treatment of AIDS in particular really has to be seen to believed. But I think my favorite bit involves a scene in prison where McGregor pays off a large black inmate, Cleavon, to play a romantic song so that McGregor and Carrey can dance together. After Cleavon is insulted when McGregor tries to make him promise to actually play the song all the way through, as Cleavon's "word is [his] muhfuckin' bond," Carrey and McGregor dance sweetly to the song. While the camera continues to linger on Carrey and McGregor's romance, the prison guards call lights out and ask Cleavon to turn off the music. Because Cleavon's "word is [his] muhfuckin' bond," he refuses and as Carrey and McGregor continue to dance and gaze into one another's eyes, the background sound becomes a cacophony of Cleavon shouting and battling the guards with hilarious gusto. The scene is pitch perfect, as is much of the movie.

White Material
2009. 109 min. France. Directed by Claire Denis. Watchdate: 12/16/2010. 
I had heard a fair number of superlative things about White Material, and so I felt it was my duty to go and see it when it came to my local cinema. I caught it on the very last day it played, and I'm glad I did. First, I need to say that I'm not sure that I'm mature enough to fully appreciate what the movie had to offer. I got a similar feeling after watching my first Tarkovsky, although since then on reflection Stalker has already lodged itself pretty firmly on my favorites list. ANYWAY, I was compelled by Isabelle Huppert's fanatical dedication to conserving her home and traditional life. This goes beyond the normal if slightly irrational human tendency towards loss aversion. It was more like loss perversion. It was riveting to see her son reciprocate this aberrance even more rawly, and then her ricochet his madness back onto her own father-in-law. Did she do it out of derangement, vengeance, pity? This is the question that echoed in my mind as I left the theater. To have this rich domestic drama play out against the backdrop of post-colonialist strife was almost too much to take in at times, especially at the subtly discordant rhythms that Denis used in pacing the story. It was horrifying, yet almost beside the point, to see the quiet slitting of the throats of the child soldiers while they slept off their drug and snack food induced stupor in what was for me the most memorable sequence of the movie. I don't know, I'll have to see it again to know at all.

Bye Bye Brazil
1979. 100 min. Brazil. Directed by Carlos Diegues. Watchdate: 12/16/2010.
"One more thing: I give the orders. In love we can improvise, but not in the whore business. The whore business must be very well administrated." - Jose Wilker as Lorde Cigano in Bye Bye Brazil
I had a few problems with Quilombo, the previous Diegues picture I saw. After seeing this movie, I have realized that he simply did not quite pull off the hugely ambitious project he undertook in Quilombo. A historical epic with that kind of scope, one that includes centuries of ethnic and political conflict, has rarely if ever been achieved. In Bye Bye Brazil, Diegues attempts something less ambitious but pulls it off beautifully. The story isn't as huge, but the execution is nearly perfect. The movie is about a ragtag carnival troop that travels around Brazil in an open air caravan. But the travels are an artful metaphor for the profound changes that swept the world in the 20th century. Jose Wilker was absolutely hilarious and brilliant  and movie features a multitude of wondrous moments. In these sorts of ways it reminded me of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. But the movie really gets good when it begins to portray the tragic farce of the age old institution of whoring. I'm feeling somewhat inarticulate about it at the moment so I might have more to say once I watch it again, but I really can't recommend it highly enough. It's a real gem.

PS - If you have Netflix, Bye Bye Brazil is on Instant Watch. I'm just sayin'

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