I’ve been trying to see Moonlighting for ten or eleven years… first forgetting about it, then putting it off for a widescreen DVD (remember the excitement, back in 1999, when all of a sudden… films were going to come out OAR? No longer a question of if, just of when?), and finally further putting it off, worried the content was going to require near infinite attention. The film does not require infinite attention, in fact it’s very straightforward and self-explanatory (that self-explanatory tag might have something to do with Jeremy Irons narrating the whole thing). It’s definite letdown after so long, but it’s also a letdown after the film’s first fifteen or twenty minutes. Moonlighting is more about tone than anything else–it creates a sense of dread and propels the viewer through it; the film cuts off during the most important scene and ends, in hindsight, it’s a predictable close, but still unexpected. Besides some third act red herrings, Skolimowski spends minutes twenty through ninety-five telling the viewer he’s not going to have some predictable ending. But he’s in a corner–either a resolution to the ominous dread or the predictable finish.
The big problem is the film opens with Irons and four other men–he’s the only one who speaks English (film’s about Polish workers illegally renovating a London flat) and he doesn’t just become the film’s focus, he’s the whole show. And Irons is up to it. His performance is outstanding, but his character isn’t believable. Skolimowski holds back valuable information–for example, say he introduces a totally illogical response or thought from the character at minute thirty, then explains it at minute seventy. I suppose if Irons’s character was really a British guy doing his best with a reserved accent or he was fleeing Poland, the wait might be all right… certainly if the film were building toward the reveal. But it isn’t. That little thing at minute thirty is a line in the narration or an expression. It means absolutely nothing, but it just doesn’t work for a half hour. And the last shot–I forgot about the last shot… the last shot is fine. Maybe the third to last shot. Skolimowski sets it up in neon to be one of the last shots when it gets set up fifteen minutes earlier.
Moonlighting would work as a novel, as a short story, maybe even as a comic book… but as a film… no. I kept wondering if there were no narration, would I be able to follow it? The film would definitely be more interesting–the content living up to the visuals (Skolimowski does a great job with composition and editing). A movie is a short-term investment. This one is ninety-five minutes. The majority of the middle section is spent judging Irons or is supposed to be spent judging Irons, with Skolimowski tossing information up every five minutes to try to change whatever opinion has already formed.
I’m glad I saw the film–Skolimowski’s a fantastic director and Irons is great–but I probably could have waited another ten years no problem.
Written and directed by Jerzy Skolimowski; director of photography, Tony Pierce-Roberts; edited by Barrie Vince; music by Stanley Myers; production designer, Tony Woollard; produced by Skolimowski, Mark Shivas and Michael White; released by Miracle Films.
Starring Jeremy Irons (Nowak), Eugene Lipinski (Banaszak), Jirí Stanislav (Wolski), Eugeniusz Haczkiewicz (Kudaj), Dorothy Zienciowska (Lot Airline Girl), Edward Arthur (Immigration Officer), Denis Holmes (Neighbor), Renu Setna (Junk Shop Owner), David Calder (Supermarket Manager), Judy Gridley (Supermarket Supervisor), Claire Toeman (Supermarket Cashier) and Catherine Harding (Lady Shoplifter).