26 April 2008

Going to Turtle Bay to See If Receptionists Really Wear that Outfit

To be sure, at the start of Forgetting Sarah Marshall we do become fairly well-acquainted with Jason Segel’s perfectly likable penis. The director, an Apatow disciple whose name seems inconsequential, shows us the cock (that Jonah Hill eloquently and passionately requested in a deleted scene from Knocked Up) so that men in the audience feel a little bit uncomfortable. We need, apparently, to taste this bit of medicine so we are more comfortable in our unabashed ogling of provocatively (un)dressed women for the ensuing hour and a half.

Does filming in Hawaii automatically make all actresses 20% hotter?

That might seem an exaggeration but looking at this film and Blue Crush I find that Mila Kunis and Kate Bosworth aren’t just hot, they are pulse-raising hot. I’d like to carry this parallel further but I’m pretty sure Blame It on Rio actually took place in Brasil. I mean, if Kunis actually wore that reception outfit to work at Turtle Bay she’d never have a free moment. There would always be a queue through the door. The blouse was simple and totally insane, a crisp white plunge into earth tones down to her bellybutton. I would have passed out on the fucken tile (after I ran through my entire retinue of questions: what time is checkout? Are the minibar peanut M&Ms complimentary? Where is the luau? What time is checkout?).

So, this is another schlubby guy makes good film. And these are not real situations. The entire premise probably perpetuates the idiotic hopes of men everywhere. It is a romantic comedy in 2008. God bless Woody Allen for starting us down this road and God bless Apatow for giving this niche to me. At least Jason had to write and produce a play to get Mila to go for him in Forgetting. Seth Rogen only had to get a job and put up ugly wallpaper in Knocked Up.

I greatly enjoyed the Blue Crush mirrorings. Some whiff of empowerment for single women...until a nice guy comes along. And there's nothing like an obese, surprisingly aquatic black man to lighten even the heaviest moments. More importantly: is that angry, tatted-up Hawaiian surfer guy available hourly? Could I hire to him to take a dive if I need to act hard? It looks like it would be an accomplishment to kick his ass.

22 April 2008

Lola, Lola

Demy’s Lola is dedicated to Max Ophuls. On life he says: “It’s always beautiful in the movies,” and I (obviously!) agree. Especially in the movies with deep-voiced American midshipmen speaking in French accents.

The men in Lola: tall, handsome, seafaring, trumpet-purchasing, learning a second language, strumming idly onstringed instruments, leaving and about to leave.

The women in Lola: lithe, beautiful, world-weary, dancing, falling in love at Carnival, learning a second language, hair-tossing, explosively-dimpled, solemn on the topic of love.

The men and the women in Lola: convinced first love is the only real love.

The opening is a Fellini dream: an unknown man rolling through town in white convertible and suit. His figure continues to move through the film like a ghost (The Past always has to be a wraith I suppose).

Anouk Aimee is Lola (the song she repeatedly has to practice, and that we never see performed, is helpfully titled, "It's Me, Lola"), working as a dancer at cabaret translated as “The El Dorado,” but the place-name is spelled out in script: L’eldorado. So much more charming that way. (We can only hope that our Lola is a better dancer than Lola Montes in the Ophuls film.)

Aimee's love interest, Roland, is so serious he has his own charm as well. Here’s what I’d like to say to a woman someday: “I got fired, went to a movie, and met you.” A full day.

Many characters are doubles: Seaman Frankie is Lola’s stand-in for first love Michel, another blond sailor fond of taking 14 year old girls to the bumper cars. Lola herself is doubled by Cecile (Lola’s real name), a girl on the brink of her 14th birthday who so resembles a time warp Lola that our shy protagonist Roland is taken by her immediately. Shots, sequences, musical phrases and more are repeated in Lola's grand seaside cycles.

Lola is a gorgeous glut of natural light (Raoul Coutard cementing again his G.O.A.T. status). On the second morning when the white truck rolls by Roland and Lola in the café it reflects so much light through the window that the whole shot goes almost blind white, just as the music swells—a violin piece Roland might have played once.

The film's pinnacle is Young Cecile on the spinning carnival ride with (the slightly pedophilic but mostly likable) Frankie, smiling so freely my heart skipped a beat. The film itself actually breaks into slow motion as they leap out onto the boardwalk. This moment is transcendent because it is both a present tense sequence and a flashback to the young Lola and Michel, their own Carnival love at first sight. “Good day, Frankie,” says the youngster as they part by the sea.

Everyone and everything is lovely down to Roland’s older lady friend at the bar, who paints seascapes from her table. She may also be a poet, telling us at dawn that “the sky has run into the sea—it looks like a melted candle.” Once upon a time, she danced too.

16 April 2008

Twentynine Palms

My initial one line review for this film:

"There are wannabe Vincent Gallo movies now?"

This of course in reference to the Brown Bunny-level scorched physical and psychic earth of Twentynine Palms (two films that once you start you have to watch until their sick payoffs). But the truth is I have continued to think about M. Dumont's opus over the last few days (at one point reflexively recoiled when I heard a man say the name "Katya"). Mostly I have pondered the question: could Dumont actually be more full of himself than Gallo?

I know this seems impossible. But there is a moment in the Twentynine Palms commentary where Dumont "questions" his own decision to include the shot below in the film because it is "too artistic." Because you never want any art to sneak into your movies.

This is not to say that Gallo isn't trying to be more ridiculous. Personally I have high hopes for his new film about undertakers, which features Sylvester Stallone's son, Sage Moonblood Stallone, playing "The Guru."

10 April 2008


The best reason to walk into a Virgin Megastore is the off chance you will see Charlotte Gainsbourg browsing. After going through her recent filmography I’ve become totally entranced by Charlotte’s unusual sexiness.

Give me the first 45 minutes of Lemming over just about anything. Or, to be more precise, give me Charlotte Gainsbourg making dinner in a button-down shirt and jeans then serving it to a batshit insane Charlotte Rampling. I liked the film all the way up to the ridiculous lemming suicide metaphor.

Charlotte you’ll know from Science of Sleep. Amazing how she is so irresistible even next to the gorgeous Emma da Caunes, who, in Ma Mére, I believe actually lights the screen on fire.

Yet Charlotte blows the physically sexier one away with rhymes and un-made-up eyes. So nice with Gael, Golden the Pony Boy, running parallel to each other in backwards water dreams. So great and somehow rare when she smiles that you feel you’ve earned it just sitting in the audience.

In Happily Ever After, this Charlotte to add to the schema of the perfect woman: two men sit outside near recently used dinner table, the wife of the first walks out and says she knows what sexist things they are talking about and retreats indoors with plates, the wife of the second walks out and asks the men why they are on their fat asses and stalks back with some glasses. Charlotte, the wife of a third man, off screen, walks out and asks the men if they would like some more cake and then if she can have a cigarette—they both jump and light her up and trail behind saying “some guys have all the luck.”

You want her very much. Good to have a food fight with Charlotte every so often to break the tension and let her have her “Creep” trips at Virgin with Johnny Depp.

Perhaps in My Wife Is an Actress M Attal is trying a bit too hard to be Woody Allen. He does at least have Charlotte to play off the androgynous Keaton shirt and pants ensembles. A few moments might have been more unforgivable were they not French: playing “London Calling” when the characters went to London, putting in one bar sequence that was a Bacardi commercial (down to the red lighting) and allowing the sister character to smoke profusely throughout her pregnancy. As the 7th grade science class poster of a filthy middle-aged woman breathing out of a hole in her neck told me: Smoking Is Sexy. For Charlotte though smoking is great, definitively sexy. And if the Making Of docs are any indication, Charlotte smokes more off camera than on.

You can add Ludivine Sagnier to the list of gorgeous women Charlotte outpoints onscreen, though Ludivine was still a few years shy of her Swimming Pool stun gun body. The climactic line of the film totally killed me. In the context of his wife cheating on him with Terrance Stamp (this is somehow fairly plausible), Yvan is asking Charlotte over and over if she slept with him. She looks him in the eye (presumably, as this is all long shot) and says “No.” He says, “you’re a great actress.” Now this seems to me the most fucked up thing you could possibly say in the situation. I would slap him and leave forever. But she kisses and makes up. Because she’s Charlotte I guess.

The key realization came watching the extras for Science of Sleep—Charlotte is offscreen and purrs out out something droll: she sounds exactly like Grace Kelly.

Films that need to get made:

-One with Charlotte and Scarlett-Charlotte onscreen at once for the ultimate test of my affection.

-A Sofia Coppola biopic directed by Sofia Coppola and starring Charlotte Gainsbourg.

02 April 2008

Green Gone

I know I usually prefer hand clapping here but I have to ask. Is it now inarguable that David Gordon Green’s films have gotten progressively worse? George Washington>All the Real Girls>UndertowSnow Angels. I think this is (mathematically!) correct and what a shame. I, of course, like All the Real Girls the most since it is the most explicit LOVE and ROMANCE but probably the depth of characterization, place and Superman costumes in George Washington makes it the superior film.

I think the turning point has to be the moment a few shots into Undertow when the protagonist puts his foot through a nail. Everything since has been ordered around this oppressive, Gothic violence. And Snow Angels is relentlessly unpleasant, from sledgehammers to shotguns. There was one funny non sequitor I can't even remember.

Not surprisingly though, I wanted to love Snow Angels, defend it against its critics (as I just did with Funny Games). But I can't—I actually give this film less credit than most. Sure I can deride the people who still like to claim this is a period piece but it is just a DGG film—like Band of Horses songs they combine anachronism and modernity to free-range between the 70’s and the present.

I suppose Snow Angels still has beautiful codas of place detail, though it is strange to be in Nova Scotia instead of North Carolina. But Kate Beckinsale never felt quite right, her highlights slightly too well-done. DGG's recurring trombone is a welcome addition (and none of his previous trombonists have given head with a band hat on). The film is inescapably dominated by Sam Rockwell's caricature of drunken Evangelicalism though. I kept waiting for some nuance to the clearly anti-Christian Glenn but nothing interesting happens. He becomes less disturbing and more monotonous as the film goes on. Some people praised his work here as a "departure," a performance with "a new depth." Am I missing something? If we take the filet of Rockwell (Assassination of Jesse James... and Confessions of Dangerous Mind) when has he been anything besides deranged?

Olivia Thirlby does her best Zooey Deschanel but never as elusive as I’d like. I thought she might be the blow through town type but no—her two pairs of butterfly-wide eyeglasses seem permanent.

The Snow Angels shot that gave me the biggest, but temporary, thrill was a medium shot of a white and pink chalk drawing of a bride walking down the aisle. For a moment we can’t be sure where the blackboard is. But it turns out to be in the bar Glenn has chosen for self-destruction and his dance is nothing but ominous, unsettling. Compare that to the bar scene in All the Real Girls, where a more endearingly drunk Paul Schneider launches into his out-of-left-field stunner, “Have you ever seen an animal make a mistake?” Similarly, Nicky Katt’s Snow Angel serial cheater has depressing faux-prison tats whereas Paul Schneider’s cheesy tattoo in Real Girls provides impetus for an impromptu hot tub lesson on “Keltic lore.” I needed him to appear just once: walking into a room and saying, “It smells like pork tacos in here!” Give me a hug:

The bottom line might be I’m bitter Paul Schneider is not acting in Snow Angels—seeing his name in acknowledgment credits gave me a terrible pang.

But sober tones I have to say that I worry more and more about another of my favorite directors. After Marie Antoinette, Darjeeling Ltd., and Snow Angels, I don’t know how much more faltering I can stand.