Category Archives: ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

Tess (1979, Roman Polanski)

I don’t mind sitting three hours for an unhappy ending. Actually, I think most long films have unhappy endings, don’t they? However, I did not sit through the three poorly acted and written hours of Tess expecting to have to tolerate a scene with the sun rising at Stonehenge and some bullshit insight into the finiteness of nobility. Oh, good grief, the Stonehenge finale was in the book… (I’m cruising Wikipedia as I type).

Argh.

I was going to start out this post with a discussion on the long, mediocre film. Whether or not the film truly improves over time, or if through the long viewing time, the brain’s quality receptors somehow get burned out. Whether or not the taste buds go dry. Unfortunately, Tess‘s absurd third act–when the unlikable, emotionally abusive husband the audience has just spent forty-five minutes despising, becomes the hero; the somewhat amusing and somehow honorable scoundrel becomes the villain, of course, at the same time–ruins my previous analysis. The analysis only works if the film is consistently mediocre. Tess putrefies at the end. (A reasonable comparison would be Wim Wender’s Until the End of the World, which is two hours longer than Tess–five hours–and never swings high or low, just stays steadily unremarkable).

However, Tess is not a wholly unpleasant experience. The cinematography is beautiful (though one can’t help but notice it’s lifted from Barry Lyndon, which did it better too) and the scenery, for much of the film, is glorious. Polanksi couldn’t shoot in England, so he used the French countryside. While the English countryside is beautiful in its own way, there’s an inherent dreariness to it. The French countryside is simply glorious and when the story becomes dreary, the muddy skies look fake.

Nastassja Kinski is nice enough to turn in an unspeakably bad performance, so bad it’s comical, especially since the subtitle writers of the DVD I watched couldn’t understand her awful English accent and frequently got lines quite wrong. Also terrible is Peter Firth as the husband, but Leigh Lawson is good as the scoundrel. The switch in characters’ personalities is actually not as annoying–oh, it’s still bad–as when we’re expected to remember people who were in the film for four minutes and never in a close-up. There’s period where Kinski visits a friend who I thought was the mother until five or six minutes into the second scene. The film’s writing is terrible, but if the Stonehenge finale isn’t Polanki’s fault I’m not going to go blaming him for all the other tripe in the script.

What a lousy way to spend three hours… though, as Tess was nominated for Best Picture, it’s nice to know the Academy was almost as full of shit in the late 1970s as it is today.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Roman Polanski; written by Polanski, Gérard Brach, and John Brownjohn, based on a novel by Thomas Hardy; cinematographers, Geoffrey Unsworth and Ghislain Cloquet; edited by Alastair McIntyre and Tom Priestley; music by Philippe Sarde; production designer, Pierre Guffroy; produced by Claude Berri; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring John Collin (John Durbeyfield), Leigh Lawson (Alec Durbeyfield), Tony Church (Parson Tringham), Nastassja Kinski (Tess) and Peter Firth (Angel Clare).


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Transporter 2 (2005, Louis Leterrier)

This film is actually dedicated to someone’s memory. Sort of offensive, isn’t it? Dedicating a crappy movie to someone’s memory? Peter Jackson dedicated King Kong to Fay Wray’s memory and there’s certainly some evidence she wouldn’t have wanted the honor (Wray didn’t like the idea of Kong being remade and turned Jackson down during his first attempt, in 1997 or whatever). It’s something to think about, I suppose.

There isn’t anything to think about in Transporter 2. I watched the first one, which I think is probably better–if only because François Berléand’s detective has more to do–and didn’t even bother writing it up. For some reason, the second one offends me. The first one wasn’t any good, but it didn’t offend. This one is somehow offensively worse. Maybe because all the acting so bad. Besides Jason Statham and Berléand, the best performance is from former supermodel Amber Valletta (who looks the right age to play Matthew Modine’s wife in the film, even if he’s fifteen years older than her). She’s not good, either. She’s just surprisingly not awful. The supermodel in the film–Kate Nauta–is possibly the worst actress I have ever seen… she’s actually that bad.

She’s so bad I used ‘that’ like I just did.

Maybe I was in a more giving mood last time, but Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen are awful writers. Besson’s written some crap, but not of this magnitude before–instead of directing films, he just writes them now and I’ve seen a couple others and they aren’t this bad. I can just blame in all on Kamen, who is–historically–unbearably bad. Just awful.

Statham’s still appealing and I’m perplexed he can’t catch on. Maybe he’s just been in so many bad movies he can’t get a real job. More likely he makes enough money from these turds he doesn’t want to get a real job. It’s too bad, because I don’t think I can sit through another one of these….

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Louis Leterrier; written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen; director of photography, Mitchell Amundsen; edited by Christine Lucas-Navarro and Vincent Tabaillon; music by Alexandre Azaria; production designer, John Mark Harrington; produced by Besson and Steven Chasman; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Jason Statham (Frank Martin), Alessandro Gassman (Gianni), Amber Valletta (Audrey Billings), Kate Nauta (Lola), Matthew Modine (Mr. Billings), Jason Flemyng (Dimitri), François Berléand (Tarconi), Keith David (Stappleton), Hunter Clary (Jack Billings) and Shannon Briggs (Max).


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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).


The Game (1997, David Fincher)

I don’t know what possessed me to watch The Game again, probably my access to the DVD, but even so, I don’t know what possessed me to finish watching it. It’s fairly atrocious early on, once it becomes obvious that no reasonable human being could identify with Michael Douglas’s character. He’s playing a lonely, depressed multimillionaire who lives in a big house and is good for absolutely nothing. He doesn’t even have fun. I was opined–and still do–that the rich cannot produce good art because there’s no real conflict in their lives. Similarly, the rich make difficult subjects for fiction. Something like Sabrina notwithstanding….

But, really, I was trying to figure out–as The Game went from mediocre to bad to mediocre again to worse than ever (the only good moment comes in the last few scenes, not surprisingly, it’s all Sean Penn)–I was trying to figure out why I used to love David Fincher. I saw The Game in the theater and I can’t believe it didn’t cure me. Fincher is shockingly incapable of recognizing good material and not just the script. I mean, Douglas turns in what must be his worst performance, since all it does is rehash his previous stuff (Wall Street and maybe Disclosure specifically). When Douglas does show some humanity, it comes across like someone else wrote the scene and Fincher stuck it in.

The Game also–and I hate to gripe about this one, because I usually advise against it–has logic holes the size of the Grand Canyon. I advise against surveying such holes because they aren’t the piece’s point and when you interact with a work, you have to give it some leeway. There’s nothing to interact with in The Game, so all that’s left is to point out how incredibly stupid it is. Still, Fincher’s composition isn’t bad–though it’s poorly edited and the cinematography begs for someone better–and a lot of the supporting cast is fun… James Rebhorn in particular, love the Rebhorn.

For some reason, I thought I had something else to say about this film, some other way to close it–besides that it’s a piece of horrendous shit. Oh, I remember: Howard Shore’s score is good.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by David Fincher; written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris; director of photography, Harris Savides; edited by James Haygood; music by Howard Shore; production designer, Jeffrey Beecroft; produced by Steve Golin and Cean Chaffin; released by Polygram Filmed Entertainment.

Starring Michael Douglas (Nicholas Van Orton), Sean Penn (Conrad), James Rebhorn (Jim Feingold), Deborah Kara Unger (Christine), Peter Donat (Samuel Sutherland), Carroll Baker (Ilsa) and Armin Mueller-Stahl (Anson Baer).