All posts by Andrew Wickliffe

Match Point (2005, Woody Allen)

Woody gave an interview in “Entertainment Weekly” of all places and talked about how he’s gone through so many critical ups and downs, he’s not phased by Match Point‘s good press. It’s certainly his most commercial film in recent memory… probably since Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex … But Were Afraid to Ask. Really–it’s incredibly commercial. Thrillers are always commercial, even when they’re impeccably cast, written, directed, and scored. Match Point is really good, sure, but it’s not some amazing “return” for Allen.

I realized that–that Match Point and its praise, from people considered with box office potential–really early into the film, actually. Something about the pacing of the first act, maybe that it was set in London. It’s beautiful to see Allen do films in London, since he got to use some great actors–Ewen Bremner and Colin Salmon showed up for Alien vs. Predator reunion, for example. For all the great press Scarlett Johansson is getting, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is better. But I read once, I think in a review of Curse of the Jade Scorpion, that Woody makes the most profound observations about the human condition when it wouldn’t seem like he was trying… when he was most comfortable. Obviously, there are some flaws in this theory (yes, Broadway Danny Rose is profound, but so are September and Interiors), but Match Point isn’t a comfortable Woody Allen. The narrator isn’t Woody or even a facet of him.

As good as Match Point turns out–it owes a lot to Ealing comedies, I won’t spoil anymore–it’s not a better made film than Melinda and Melinda, which had story problems, but was the best filmmaking Allen’s done since… well, not that long. Sweet and Lowdown was a beautifully made film.

Match Point‘s only a revelation to people who think Woody’s gone somewhere. He hasn’t… so it’s just another good Woody Allen movie.

There are twenty-five other good ones too.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Woody Allen; director of photography, Remi Adefarasin; edited by Alisa Lepselter; production designer, Jim Clay; produced by Letty Aronson, Gareth Wiley and Lucy Darwin; released by DreamWorks Pictures.

Starring Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (Chris Wilton), Scarlett Johansson (Nola Rice), Emily Mortimer (Chloe Wilton), Matthew Goode (Tom Hewett), Brian Cox (Alec Hewett), Rupert Penry-Jones (Henry), Colin Salmon (Ian), Ewen Bremner (Inspector Dowd) and Penelope Wilton (Eleanor Hewett).


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Go (2001, Yukisada Isao)

Go opens with an unbelievable shot. Pimples. It opens with the bad skin of the protagonist’s forehead. Once my initial reaction–ick–was over, I started watching Go wrap itself into a drug-free, fighting-heavy Trainspotting homage. Then it started reminding me of True Romance, if only because the theme sort of sounds like it (the one from Badlands). Then, nicely, Go did something different. It got really good.

Go‘s the first film I’ve seen that discusses Japanese racism. The main character is a Korean living in Japan and, apparently, Japanese people don’t like Koreans very much. This external conflict slowly becomes important in the film, as it becomes important to the protagonist, which is a nice way of doing things.

There’s so much good stuff in Go–the romance is all right, but easily the least, except some of the comedic scenes–particularly the family relationship and the friendships. Go features a father and son beating the shit out of each other to show each other how much they love each other. It’s a stunningly great scene, but there are a few others. So, if you do get ahold of it (Nicheflix has it), don’t give up during the derivative first act… stick with it. Even with denouement problems, it pulls itself into something damn good.

Oh. I never went anywhere with the Badlands thing. Later, the romance reminds me of Badlands. Not in the killing folks sort of way, but the loving people sort of way.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Yukisada Isao; screenplay by Kudô Kankurô, based on the novel by Kaneshiro Kazuki; director of photography, Yanagishima Katsumi; edited by Imai Takeshi; music by Kumagai Yôko and Urayama Hidehiko; production designer, Wada Hiroshi; produced by Kurosawa Mitsuru; released by Toei Inc.

Starring Kubozuka Yôsuke (Sugihara), Shibasaki Kou (Sakurai), Ootake Shinobu (Michiko), Yamamoto Taro (Tawake) and Yamazaki Tsutomu (Hideyoshi).


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The Golden Coach (1952, Jean Renoir)

I hate the wad-shooting reviews, because they usually mean someone great is falling or has fallen into mediocrity or worse. Here’s another one.

I’ve never seen late period (1950s-) Renoir film before, or even one of his Hollywood films, but I’ve heard bad things. The Golden Coach is certainly a bad thing. It’s got a bad setting–colonial Central America, under Spanish rule–and an international cast. It’s cruel to expect the audience to take someone misspeaking in heavily accented English and Renoir does it. His leading lady, played by Anna Magnani, chokes through her English dialogue. It’s so bad I had to turn on the subtitles. Occasionally she speaks Italian, but Criterion didn’t think to give it a subtitle track–I didn’t bother to see if the subs for the Italian were included in the English subtitles. I doubt they were.

The character is almost a Renoir character, but the film fails her. The screenplay wanders and meanders, mostly because there isn’t a story and it’s impossible to milk it. I suppose Fellini could have milked it, but Renoir isn’t Fellini. Renoir isn’t even Renoir here. The Golden Coach lacks the dual beauty of Renoir’s earlier films, the beautiful direction and the beautiful human condition.

Sitting through it, I started appreciating Kubrick, Clint and Woody more, just because they never tripped, never fell. There are some missteps (I’m not sure there’s a more glaring misstep in any filmography than The Shining), but they never fell.

If you’ve got insomnia, I really recommend this film.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Jean Renoir; written by Renoir, Jack Kirkland, Renzo Avanzo and Giulio Macchi; director of photography, Claude Renoir; edited by David Hawkins; production designer, Mario Chiari; produced by Francesco Alliata; released by Les Films Corona.

Starring Anna Magnani (Camilla), Odoardo Spadaro (Don Antonio), Nada Fiorelli (Isabella), Dante (Arlequin), Duncan Lamont (Ferdinand, Le Viceroy), George Higgins (Martinez), Ralph Truman (Duc de Castro), Gisella Mathews (Marquise Irene Altamirano), Raf De La Torre (Le Procureur), Elena Altieri (Duchesse de Castro), Paul Campbell (Felipe), Riccardo Rioli (Ramon, le Toreador), William Tubbs (Aubergiste) and Jean Debucourt (Eveque de Carmol).


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The Rainmaker (1997, Francis Ford Coppola)

The Rainmaker‘s got some beautiful stuff in it. My history with it is somewhat sorted… I discovered it on DVD, then abandoned it–and have now rediscovered it. I can’t remember what my last problem with it was–probably the same as my current one–but I was selling DVDs and needed cash.

It’s not perfect and has some noticeable flaws–the ever-present narration, for example. Just because Michael Herr and Coppola’s last collaboration was Apocalypse Now… well, the narration is Apocalypse Now was not its driving force. Coppola lets the narration run The Rainmaker, not trusting his material. The material is strong too. The only weak point is the love story, which is rather tame–I don’t think there’s even a real kiss–and Claire Danes does not ruin it. Coppola doesn’t let her do anything, hardly lets her talk, so she’s just scenery. So, instead of being some dark driving force–the son finally saving the abused mother–it’s just something to pass the time.

Otherwise, the film is perfectly cast (except Andrew Shue). Of particular note are Johnny Whitworth, Mickey Rourke, and Dannys Glover and DeVito. Matt Damon’s great. I forgot he was great (pre-Bourne), back when he was going to be a superstar. The film’s main failing is probably that it doesn’t have a solid foundation. It’d be indescribably beautiful if the film juxtaposed the young attorney with the various results of the legal profession. It doesn’t. It doesn’t even focus too much on the case. There’s that silly love story, instead of the solid story about the friendship between Damon and Whitworth, that only gets a montage.

Unfortunately, The Rainmaker is going to lead to me watching a bunch of other abandoned films. But it’s certainly a good indication I might have foolishly left some other good ones behind.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola; screenplay by Coppola and Michael Herr, based on the novel by John Grisham; director of photography, John Toll; edited by Barry Malkin; music by Elmer Bernstein; production designer, Howard Cummings; produced by Michael Douglas, Steven Reuther and Fred Fuchs; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Matt Damon (Rudy Baylor), Danny DeVito (Deck Schifflet), Claire Danes (Kelly Riker), Jon Voight (Leo F. Drummond), Mary Kay Place (Dot Black), Teresa Wright (Miss Birdie), Virginia Madsen (Jackie Lemancyzk), Mickey Rourke (Bruiser Stone), Roy Scheider (Wilfred Keeley), Randy Travis (Billy Porter), Johnny Whitworth (Donny Ray Black), Danny Glover (Judge Tyrone Kipler) and Andrew Shue (Cliff Riker).


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