Sunday, December 28, 2014

To Be Or Not To Be

(Ernst Lubitsch, USA, 1942)

Criminally late to the party on this masterpiece of cinema; what more can I say?  Stylish, sexy, deliriously funny, suspenseful, and yet it somehow never loses sight of the darkness that shrouds its subject matter.  How Lubitsch managed to balance all of these elements, to be both irreverently funny and politically (not to mention psychologically) acute is a wonder that I'm perfectly content just to marvel at.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Inherent Vice

(Paul Thomas Anderson, USA, 2014)

It's true:  Anderson doing Pynchon doing oddball late-sixties stoner gumshoe picaresque has a sort of groovy ring to it.  But after all of the smoked numbers and frolics and gags, one can't help but wake up, hungover and funky-smelling, and ask of their inner square:  Does it work?  In parts, yes, absolutely.  Inherent Vice has stretches of bravura cinema, captured in grainy glory on bonafide celluloid.  The extemporaneous, the whimsical, the gorgeously far-out are all there to be dug.  And yet there were moments when it lags; it has that same creeping sense of latency, of unused space, that has afflicted his work since TWBB.  But it casts a spell, it has a presence, indeed a very strange one; it is almost-just-about-there.  At the theater (a lucky last-minute coup of free tickets to a press screening) I was forced to sit in front row, enveloped in the screen, my neck craned back the whole time.  The frequent close-ups of faces took on an Easter Island aspect.  Not an inappropriate way to view this movie, all in all, but the distortion eventually became wearisome, and prevented a better appreciation.  I'm eager to see it again.