run naomi run: denver premieres 2/13/09
"Just as you suspected, Clive - it was Liam Neeson all along."
The International - Even though director Tom Tykwer made a big splash with his massive art house hit Run, Lola, Run, he has since failed to recapture the wider public's attention with any of his subsequent films. Following Lola, Tykwer went on to do The Princess and the Warrior, Heaven and Perfume, The Story of a Murder but in the best light these films can only be described as workman-like entertainments. Sure they have a great visual sense about them but in one way or another they come across as being a little under-cooked. Tykwer could be grouped in with other modern filmmakers such as Phillip Noyce (Dead Calm, Rabbit-Proof Fence, The Quiet American) and Phillip Kaufman (The Right Stuff, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Henry and June, Quills) who make solid but ultimately weightless films inside a studio system, but I feel that the mold for the type of filmmaker he is was cast some fifty years earlier by Fred Zinnemann, director of High Noon. With films like the afore mentioned High Noon along with From Here to Eternity, Oklahoma!, The Nun's Story, The Sundowners, Behold a Pale Horse, A Man For All Seasons, The Day of the Jackal and Julia, Zinnemann forged a solid but ultimately middling career by not reaching for greater thematic depth or artistic expressiveness in his films. In an essay over at Senses of Cinema, Robert Keser asks a fundamental question about Zinnemann:
"Is Zinnemann a great director? His claim to innovation was his application of Robert Flaherty's principles and neo-realist practices to studio-bound film production. In contrast, his contemporaries – Nicholas Ray, Jacques Tourneur, Anthony Mann, Vincente Minnelli – all deployed style to make art within Hollywood's artifice, counterpointing the surface structures with underlying layers of meaning. Auteurist critics who mined these strata have rejected Zinnemann because his is a literal-minded cinema of the spectator, where the images and narrative are displayed with craft and artistry, but which do not ask the viewer to participate in completing the equation of form and content."
I emphasized that last line not only because I think it sums up Zinnemann's career but because I also feel it describes Tykwer's approach to film, giving me a pretty compelling reason as to why I feel underwhelmed by his output so far. As for his new film The International, it looks to be a conspiracy-minded political thriller coming out thirty-five years past its prime. With a shootout taking place inside the Guggenheim and the main characters named after literary figures (Clive Owen plays Interpol agent Louis Salinger and Naomi Watts plays a DA named Eleanor Whitman), the film also seems to be aiming itself at an audience that has since disappeared- namely one that is familiar with and respectful of the high arts. If this would have come out when films like The Parallax View, Executive Action or Zinnemann's own The Day of the Jackal were in theaters it would not have seemed so out of place, but as it is now, with most of the major banks crippled by their own stupidity, it is hard to imagine a world where those same banks are masterminding all of the world's evils. Who knows though, maybe the current revival of conspiracy theory-minded idiocy, the kind that has turned crap like Loose Change and Zeitgeist, The Movie into Internet phenomena, is numbered with enough mouth breathing true believers to turn this ho-hum sounding film into a hit. (Pike)
Confessions of a Shopaholic - If you loved "Sex in the City," you'll something something this movie, which stars Borat's girlfriend and Hugh Dancy. (Dex)
Friday the 13th - Of all the criminal, bone-headed, lame-brained, ass-faced, make-you-so-mad-and-confused-you-wanna-punch-a-baby-in-the-face genre remakes that The International - sorry, The Industry - has coughed up since 2003, this flashy new model for what is essentially horror's Big Mac is not only the least offensive of the movement but also it's most promising: this is, however, only because the first seventy movies they squeezed out of this idea were so mind-bogglingly stupid, and thus the proverbial bar is thusly pretty fucking proverbially low. One can only hope that, like uberhack Renny Harlin's Nightmare on Elm Street 4 (1988), this piece of uberhackwork will possess some flash of originality, sense of flair, or a hot lesbian scene that'll make it worth the price of an eventual DVD rental. (Dex)
Cherry Blossoms- When it comes to the recent spate of films being made in 'homage' to the late Japanese director Ozu Yasujiro, I seem to prefer the ones that realize that Ozu's study of the profundity in the mundane focused not so much on the development of a plot but rather on the passing of small moments. The recent films Cafe Lumiere by Hou Hsiao-Hsein and Five by Abbas Kiarostami have captured this sense the best. As for Cherry Blossoms, a film about a German woman and her husband that visit their self-interested children a la Tokyo Story, I get the feeling after watching the trailer and reading some of the early reviews that it is more interested in replicating Ozu's plot developments, and hoping that some of his profundity comes in tow. There also seems to be some of that Lost in Translation-style, outsider-looking-in cultural reductionist crap that, although not as derogatory as the stereotyping Mickey Rooney stooped to in his role as Mr. Yunioshi for Breakfast at Tiffany's, it still comes across as lazy western short-hand that paints the Japanese people and their culture with a projected patina of odious exoticism. (Pike)
The Secrets- I can’t really tell what this is going to be like- “Heavenly Creatures” without the killing? I have no idea so I will give you the blurb from IMDB:
“In The Secrets, two brilliant young women discover their own voices in a repressive orthodox culture where females are forbidden to sing, let alone speak out. Naomi, the studious, devoutly religious daughter of a prominent rabbi, convinces her father to postpone her marriage for a year so that she might study at a Jewish seminary for women in the ancient Kabalistic seat of Safed. Naomi's quest for individuality takes a defiant turn when she befriends Michelle, a free-spirited and equally headstrong fellow student. When the pair encounters a mysterious, ailing foreigner with a disturbing past named Anouk (the iconic French actress Fanny Ardant) they begin a risky journey into forbidden realms. In the hopes of easing her suffering, Naomi and Michelle secretly lead Anouk through a series of Kabalistic cleansing rituals. The process opens up overwhelming new horizons for the girls who find themselves caught between the rigid male establishment they grew up in, and the desire to be true to themselves, no matter the cost.” (Pike)