Friday, October 21, 2005

I Found It at the Movies

Been hitting a spate of current and not/so current films here whilst recharging for my next trip abroad (rehearsals with Future Sound of London next week in London for several giant rave festivals we're playing Down Under at the end of November), so herewith some random observations on the current crop 'o celluloid on display in Manhattan (and otherwise):

"Domino"--I've had a, ummm, soft spot for Keira Knightley, okay, ever since she sashayed her way through the magnificent "Pirates of the Caribbean" (by the way, I nudged Caroline within 10 seconds of Johnny Depp's entrance in that one with "He's doing Keith Richards!!" in a loud whisper that got some folks sitting in front of us turning heads, annoyed...o deah!)...and she's pretty f'ing hot in this one, as proto-punk suicide gurll Domino Harvey (be still my heart) although if truth be told Tony Scott ever so predictably pulls every CGI and Avid trick out of the music video playbook for a de rigeur trippy retinal assault (ho hum) that more or less renders the material, undoubtedly an interesting story, fairly incomprehensible...would that they had used Laurence Harvey's classic turn from "Butterfield 8" in the interstitial film-within-a-film filler instead of "The Manchurian Candidate"...but Keira Knightley brings so much heat and light to the film that she eclipses the frou frou myriad visual fripperies, you (well I do) just want to stay glued to her every move, facial expression, tic (okay, down boy)...great cast, too, Mickey Rourke really did a transformer kind of number on himself over the years with his various surgeries plastique and now really looks in the flesh like the cartoon character Robert Rodriquez rotoscoped into "Sin City", he's transmogrified his voice too into a gruff whiskey-and-cigarettes kind of guttural growl, he's pumped and way way cool and it makes you want to forgive and forget early juvenalia like his attempt at doing Bukowski in "Barfly" ( a tad better than Ben Gazzara's in "Tales of Ordinary Madness")...he really is possessed now of a De Niroesque, "Ronin"-like gravitas and is certainly the most compelling action figure out there today for my money (sorry Vin). Fantastic title sequence too.

"Where the Truth Lies"--I generally dig the work of director Atom Egoyan (named in homage to nuclear physics, no lie), particularly "Exotica", but this one really left me cold, a very unstable mix of noir tropes, a hackneyed sex and murder plot by Rupert ("The PIna Colada Song", oy vey) Holmes, and the very unfunny stylings of a supposed classic comedy duo loosely based on Martin and Lewis (Kevin Bacon is no Jerry Lewis by a long stretch--he does however here get to sing an obscure Richard Berry tune--was it "Rockin' Man"?--in the telethon sequence. Who came up with that one?? Kudos for their excellent good taste). Speaking of telethons, there is an oh-so-curious Dylan DVD bootleg making the rounds consisting of a yarmulke'd Bob performing in the 80's and early 90's at several tv marathon fundraisers for the Lubavitcher charity Chabad--one time in the company of his nephew Peter Himmelman and Harry Dean Stanton (under the group aegis "Chopped Liver", Dylan a' bobbing and a' weaving and a' tootling on recorder, fer pete's sake, not that far afield from Robin Williamson come to think of it--or "Ruby Tuesday" period Brian Jones)-- and another time backing up the putative next governor of Texas, Kinky Friedman, on electric geetar in a rendition of the Kinkster's classic "Sold American". Surreal beyond the pale...

"A History of Violence"--David Cronenberg is probably right to get all exercised about the current appropriation of the title of his great filmed version of JG Ballard's seminal book "Crash" by another director for a completely different film, but as we all know (some learn the hard way), you can't copyright a any case, DC is always worth watching, and this one makes it by a whisker into the positivo side of the plus-minus spectrum, good cast (particularly Ed Harris and Maria Bello), good over-the-top yet tasteful violence (whaaa? a contradiction in terms, I know), and a spectacular appearance by uber-WASP William Hurt near the end of the flick doing Dustin Hoffmann's current ultra-Jewish schtick to a T (circa "Meet the Fockers"...I'm not kidding, the accent, the mannerisms, check it out). The screen really comes alive at that point. Makes the whole film (derived from a comic book?? sorry, "graphic novel"), which was going nowhere fast, absolutely worth watching.

"Manderlay"--I saw this (well, partially) in Amsterdam a couple weeks ago in a great old deco cinema near Prinseneiland. But I have to confess I walked out after the first 20 minutes. I love early Lars Von Trier (particularly "Medea" with superstar Udo Keir, also "Epidemic" and "The Element of Crime"), but have found his oeuvre increasingly hard to sit through since "Dancer in the Dark". The neo-Brechtian theatrical strategems are just so tedious and second-hand, the facile anti-Americanism (like racism isn't rampant in the rest of the world? Puh-leeeeeeeze) particularly offensive from a guy who's never set foot in this country...and despite the presence of my pal Willem Dafoe in this, I couldn't wait to go out and get some fresh air.

"Capote"--Best film I've seen all year (well, the new Wallace and Gromit is also pretty damn good.. .what a drag about the fire in their Bristol warehouse). Philip Seymour Hoffman is surely one of the finest actors working today (I loved his bit in "The Talented Mr. Ripley"), and here he nails TC to the cross with just a hint, a soupcon, of John Candy's Dr. Tongue character from SCTV (which was partially an admixture of Capote and Vincent Price to begin with).

Speaking of my fellow Yalie Vincent Price, by all means check out the new DVD double bill reissue of "Panic in the Year Zero" (showed this at Yale in '73, a Ray Milland 50's "Day After"-type survivalist flick), backed with "The Last Man on Earth", the superb early 60's Italian version of Richard Matheson's apocalypso vampire novel "I Am Legend", later to be butchered beyond recognition as "The Omega Man" w/Charlton Heston..."Last Man on Earth" is one of Vincent Price's finest hours, the futuristic apartment tower from Antonioni's "L'Eclisse" turns up in it as well (shout-out to Glenn Kenny!), and the new DVD edition is a far better print entirely than the one used for an earlier cheapo disc that paired it with William Castle's great "House on Haunted Hill" (still one of my favorites)--"Last Man On Earth" is just a classic horror film, and clearly the ur-inspiration for George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead". It impressed the hell out of me as a boy, particularly the scene where Price, holed up behind the barricades of his suburban tract house, lights a cigarette, pours himself a stiff one, and (the apotheosis of existential cool) throws some hard-bop on the stereo to drown out the incessant baying of the vampire ghouls outside calling for his blood: "Morgan, come out! Come ouuut!! MORGAN!" I sampled this for the end of my song "Vampire Circus" on "Bad Boys of the Arctic". One of Don Van Vliet's favorite films incidentally (he was also partial to "The Honeymoon Killers", and the Mexican "El Baron del Terror", a/k/a "The Brainiac").

okay, bye!




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