0 min to 60 min:
I love Red Desert. It's in my top 20. I got it on blu-ray and watched it. It ended, I watched it again. It's been influential for me as a poet and fiction writer. I love Red Desert.
L'avventura...eh. There are some striking shots. And the dissolve when Anna and her dude finish their fight and he's lying on the rocks and she's standing nearing the water...we dissolve to just a cliff and just water. It's insane. Awesome. Beautiful. If we're taking metaphor for it, we can see it as how doomed they are as a couple. The cliff and water share proximity, sure, but they are in conflict. The water beats into the cliff. The cliff stands against the water. I don't see the two as being together. Same with Anna and the dude. They're close but...not together.
While I love that dissolve. The movie is boring me. The dialogue...The shots don't have a coherence to me in the same way as the ones in Red Desert. I've found it kind of boring? Which I think isn't something I thought I'd ever say about Antonioni. Much less a film from the Janus 50 Years of Art House collection. Hm. we'll see how the rest of the movie goes.
60 min to 85 min:
Monica Vitti, oy vey. The movie is bearable because of her. I never thought I'd say an Antonioni film was "bearable". Sigh. I am seeing more symbolism. Anna is like the water. She dissolves. And Sandro is like the island. Lonely. We had a line early in the movie, I forget who said it, about how lonely the islands must be. Then we had the shot where Sandro is lying on the rocks, then we dissolve to just rocks. It's as though he melted into the island, became the island. I wonder if by the end of the movie I'll appreciate it more? I have another hour. We'll see.
85 min to 110 min:
More Monica Vitti. I must say, it's a nice change of pace to see her less skittish and vacant, to see her impassioned and smiling. Red Desert she's so...off her rocker. Good to see another facet of her acting. This reminds me of a twitter-tasrophe I had with Sarah Gadon.
I tweeted at her: I've now seen you in Danger Method and Cosmo. Are there movies where you smile/laugh/get to be happy? I'd like to watch one haha
She responded with: is that what you look for in a female actress? Would you prefer it if I smiled and giggled more?
I said: not prefer, no, I really liked your performances! Cos is my fave movie of 2012. Just interested in seeing another side is all
She said: I'll get right on it :)
Which I thought was nice, at first, then I realized it's probably sarcasm: haha if that's sarcasm, well played! Either way, excited for your future work. frowning, stoic, smiling, anything. esp An Enemy
That was the end of our conversation. But this is what I mean. I think it's nice to see actors and actresses in different types of roles, displaying a variety of emotions. I don't very much care for character actors who do the same thing again and again and again.
Anyway. I'm finally enjoying L'avventura. At least this section. I asked myself "If Antonioni spent so much time using setting in Red Desert to discuss industrialism and the impact it has on the modern psyche...could he not be doing something similar here?" That's made the movie more interesting. There's some dynamic between human emotion and nature. Like the first time Sandro and Claudia seriously kiss and enjoy holding each other: it's in the middle of a field. Not a bed. Not indoors. In nature. Then a train comes by, out of nowhere, and reminds them they have things to do. It's interesting the movie keeps oscillating between very nature-dominant settings then civilized spaces. There's also the abandoned town preceding Sandro and Claudia's moment in the field. We don't know why the town is abandoned, in terms of "why aren't there people there". If we're looking at symbolic/thematic/metaphoric meaning, this is a clue. There's no other reason to have an abandoned town than to further symbolism/theme/metaphor. The last shot of the town is of a church in the middle-ground. But. If you pay close attention, you notice...on the left side of the frame, in the background: mountains. The mountains line up almost perfectly with the lines of the church roof. Which makes the mountains and architecture almost seamless. What's Sandro's profession? A fucking architect. And we see whenever a character is in a city very very very wide shots showing them dwarfed by the buildings around them.
There's also the cool moment of when Sandro goes into the hotel and Claudia is out on the street. All the dudes appear. They're drawn to Claudia. This is similar to when Sandro was in another town and all the men were chasing a woman. She appeared some celebrity. She ate it up. Answering questions, bantering, smiling. She was made for the attention. We know Claudia IS NOT MADE FOR THAT ATTENTION. So when she starts to get into a similar situation, we automatically worry how it will affect her. We know her will enough at this point to know she won't like this, she won't do well with this. Very very very very interesting to me.
So. Yeah. Finally. Themes are coming through to me and the movie is gaining enjoyment.
(Mortimer here. For the record, I to came to quite love L'avventura as the movie progressed. But dear God, it will try your patience along the way.)
Rest of the movie:
The last thirty minutes of the movie didn't do too much for me. When Sandro went down to the party, I kept thinking "please, don't let this become all about whether or not she can or can't forgive him for cheating..." And that's what it becomes. It's such a...small and selfish drama..."Can she or can't she forgive this man for cheating!" There's something very petty to me about that. Either break up or move on, I don't care. To bring this entire 143 minute movie to bear on that decision...I feel sort of cheated?
BUT. There's more going on. Which salvages the situation for me.
1. The girl Sandro fools arounds with is a blend of Anna and Claudia. We saw at the beginning of the movie how Anna and Claudia are similar in appearance, despite contrasting hair color. They share clothes. They're best friends. They're linked further by both loving Sandro and being loved by Sandro. Claudia is, in a sense haunted by Anna. We hear this when Claudia can't find Sandro. She tells her friend she's scared Anna is still alive, will return. Why? Because Claudia has assumed Anna's place as Sandro's love. Anna's returns would force Claudia out of that position (or so Claudia fears). When Claudia finds Sandro, he's with a dark haired girl, similar to Anna. But the hair style is much more Claudia. The body is more Claudia. Maybe she was solely supposed to represent Anna? I see a mixture. What is developed, then, is Claudia haunted psychologically and emotionally by Anna. Sandro is haunted physically. He couldn't resist. Which might be why Claudia forgives him. At first she is upset he is with another woman. But then maybe she thought about how the woman looked like Anna? And she gets it...Sandro is still hurting too, still misses Anna too. That doesn't mean he doesn't love Claudia. He just...is also confused.
Wow. I'm liking the movie more and more and more.
2. There's still something going with nature/civilization. Sandro and Claudia are happy when they're away from civilization. When they're in the privacy of a room (which is much like a cave). Whenever they got out in a city, there is tension. From other people, yes, but also because Anna could be there. And friends don't provide comfort in this movie, they would only provide judgment. Even Claudia can't stop from judging her friend that is making out with the 17 year old prince. At first Claudia is amused by it, enjoys seeing two people happy to be with one another. Then she remembers her friend is married. Which reminds Claudia she loves Sandro but Sandro is with Anna. So Claudia plays the hypocrite and chastises the friend. The friend, undaunted, escorts Claudia out and continues on with her romp. Where was I?
Oh. The final shot.
Look at how the frame is clearly divided down the middle. On one side is an obstructing wall. Part of civilization. Part of architecture. Part of a human-made structure. On the other half: a mountain, sky. It's interesting too that on the "nature half" is room for several people to sit on the bench. On the "civilized half" there's only room on the bench for one.
This shot dispels any doubt that Nature/Civilization is not a theme in this movie. Just like with Red Desert, landscape plays an important role in the psychology of the characters. Except Red Desert is straightforward in the use of such a tool. Not just straightforward...domineering. What is understated and subtle in L'avventura is escalated ten-fold in Desert. I must say. Despite my initial "meh" attitude toward this movie...I'm beginning to appreciate it more and more. There is total brilliance here. Antonioni did not let me down. He makes use of setting in ways no other director had or has since. Bravo.
I'll probably have to watch the movie again in order to better understand the nuance of what he did here. Or maybe the concept wasn't fully formed? He didn't quite have the mastery necessary to pull it off as he did in Red Desert? It's like... In Desert setting drives psychology which drives action which drives plot. In L'avventura plot drives actions which drives psychology which drives setting. Hm.
Modern Family: 4x22
I'm starting to dislike Cam. He's so needy all the time. I still laugh at things that he does. But most of the plot points involving him just...make me sigh and roll my eyes at this point.
I read somewhere this episode had the lowest ratings of any Modern Family episode ever. I wonder what the reaction will be from the creative team? Bring in a new character? Cause a more severe conflict? Other shows usually set-up some tension they keep using as bait. Friends had "Ross and Rachel" but in a more general sense: "Who will each of these characters settle down with?" They were all single. The next step is, obviously, committed relationships. We wanted to see them happy. With people who would make them happy. The same is true for How I Met Your Mother. People seriously continue to watch just because they want to know who the fucking mother will be. Even The Office used a similar mechanism: first Jim and Pam, then Michael with Holly. Modern Family has zero plot dynamic like this. They either have to begin focusing more on the kids and their relationships? Or they have to have a divorce? Or potential divorce? I don't know. They hasn't been a real plot arc? Haley going to college? Gloria and Jay having a baby? None of these are multiple episode arcs. There's been no significant threats or changes to status quo, which means momentum slows.
I still enjoy the show, I just wish it would...be a bit bolder. Not saying they have to HAVE CRAZY THINGS HAPPEN. But using things like...cliff hangers. Or stories that aren't self-contained and last only a single episode. Suburgatory did a great job in its second season of having understated story arcs. WATCH SUBURGATORY. That is all.
The Voice 4x14, 4x15, 4x16:
FINALLY. These are the performances I want to here. I'm finally connecting to performers. Seriously, I liked everything. Everything. Maybe these folks weren't capable of performing like this until this point in the show? But it feels like when the race horses are allowed to full sprint. THIS is why I watch The Voice.
I guess my favorite performance was Sasha Allen. Followed by Danielle.
Rod Stewart sounds like he's saying "Fine Ass woman that I've ever known."
Really liked seeing Cee Lo and Juliet Simms. Juliet's dress was cool.
The performance of "Don't You Worry Child" might be one of my favorite things I've ever seen on this show. In all four seasons. That was dope.
I went from not caring about any of the performers to not wanting to see any of them go. I'm a sucker. I'm writing as I'm watching who Usher is going to save. Josiah. I liked whatever it was he sang. He's gotten better? I mean, they've all gotten better so that was a stupid comment. But. I feel like he went from okay to legit.
Adam's team. Judith, good. The one girl looks so much like Alicia Silverstone circa Clueless it's freaking me out. And Alicia is gone. Man. Adam really couldn't figure out who to save. I wish he had gone too long. That would have been great for ratings. People would have been like "WHAT HAPPENED". They should do that next time.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World:
0 min to 60 min:
Well Keira Knightley, I always liked you. And recently, with A Dangerous Method and this movie, I'm respecting you more and more. It's not like I lacked respect before, I just think she's doing a good good good job as of late. Especially in this with letting her quirky side come out more. I think she's method-acting more than Steve Carell is or can? I'm becoming more bored by Steve Carell's range? Either goofy slapstick or semi-depressed observer who gets stronger as the movie goes along. But I enjoy watching Steve Carell movies, so he still has that.
Movie is way more black comedy than I expected, what with all the suicides and Steve Carell depression? And has way more emotion and character development than I thought it would. Part of me imagined this movie having less heart, but I feel like I can feel that someone, or multiple people, really cared about this project. For some reason, despite this being an Indie-film, I was waiting for a Yes, Man type "feel-good" movie. Hm. The only scenes that have stuck out to me are Keira's talk with the policeman and her phone call to her family. She's really doing work.
Rest of the movie (this is a running diary):
I like that during the dinner scene in the ex girlfriend's house, Keira Knightley's teeth are purple from the wine. And that you see Steve Carell falling in love with her. As she talks. Again, a nice monologue, full of character and emotion. I'm buying everything Keira is selling in this movie. When they kiss on the beach, SHE LOOKS SO HAPPY. It makes me happy.
All of Steve Carell's sadness seems to stem from his dad. Having coped with his dad, what happens? Carell finds a peace had hadn't had before. We see it on his face as his dad is flying off to take Keira to England.
Elsa amuses me. Other people seem in denial about the change. She just seems...like she's the embodiment that things will continue on. She provides a bit of hope there will be a next Tuesday.
As the world ends, all these characters want is each other. That with everything else on the line, they want nothing more than connection to someone else. We have two people who were strangers who have a lot to learn about one another. What would it be like for couples who are long term? How many long-term couples in this movie fell apart? Plenty. Which is interesting commentary. That's the thing about end of the world movies, right? The situation reveals to characters how pointless their daily routines are. How the structures in their lives are moot. They're now able to do whatever because there isn't enough time to matter. Which begs the question of the viewer: what are you doing? Each of us never knows when our life will end... We need to balance long-term planning with short-term happiness because while the world isn't ending, we can make long-term plans, it doesn't mean we have to put up with shit that makes us less than happy, that is sufferable but not unbearable. Ew.
The end made me really sad.
The lines about "I thought we'd save each other" and "We did" remind me of "Cosmopolis". Actually, the two have a lot in common. Same concepts, in a way. Except one is literal and the other is philosophical/psychological.
I now hate Elsa for giving me hope.
I never thought I'd say this, but: "What the fuck, Criterion???"
Mafioso isn't a deplorable film, but it's definitely not a good film. I'm not even aware of Mafioso's or its director Alberto Lattuada's historical significance. The only thing I can say about Mafioso, in all honesty, is that it's an absurd film.
I don't want to compare Mafioso to Sleepaway Camp or Speed 2: Cruise Control (I'm BLOWING YOUR MIND right now, aren't I?), but I honestly think the guys running the "How Did This Get Made?" podcast could do an episode on Mafioso. There are so many tonal shifts and random excursions and wacky props that I'm not even entirely sure if I'm supposed to take Mafioso seriously. It's billed as a "dark comedy" on the Criterion box, but what the hell does that entail? "Dark comedy" is such a specific genre, and I think Mafioso's general wackiness is much less helpful in aiding its dark comedy pursuits and much more detrimental to it as a serious psychological drama.
Like...OK, Eating Raoul is a dark comedy, and is just as frivolous and dizzying as Mafioso in its random excursions. But every time Paul and Mary host one of their murderous sexcapades (if that word isn't trademarked yet, it's now mine), it's building on the core goals of the movie: Paul and Mary despise the orgy-loving generation that is seemingly standing in the way of their perfect secluded lifestyle, yet they continually get off and profit from the generation's sexual offerings. Eating Raoul is certifiably insane, but each separated, random dress-up party contributes towards this goal. And not only that, but these moments are multi-faceted in their separate approaches, expressing various societal observations through the environments they recreate, giving Eating Raoul some substantial bulk to go along with its budding personality.
Mafioso indeed has quite a bit of personality, but I would say its not earned like Paul Bartel's Eating Raoul. Lattuada's wackiness is more a result of misguided intentions, a lack of ideas, and too many screenwriters (FIVE OF THEM) than a general playfulness. Eating Raoul is able to be dark while remaining zany, while Mafioso seems incapable of finding balance, beating the darker moments into the ground through recycled props and hitting the "repeat" button on the ominous music. There are some hilarious moments that are only hilarious to somebody looking for the latest "How Did This Get Made?" gem, like the random game of paddle ball that resembles tossing the pigskin in The Room, or Antonio's almost out-of-body musical number that's less convincing than My Best Friend's Wedding. Mafioso's goofier moments are nothing but just that, not really multifaceted or building on new ideas. Really, all you need to know is that Antonio has a dark past that can crop up any moment, and it does, of course, keeping in line with the myriad foreshadowing moments, like when Antonio shoots a pretend pistol, or when he preaches to his old band of criminals. Too bad I can't take it seriously, as I'm too focused on that glistening pot-belly and striped short shorts.
Branded to Kill:
My first Seijun Suzuki film. I'm gonna have to check out more from this crazy motherfucker, because this movie is INSANE (I've heard Pistol Opera is even crazier, which sorta scares me).
Knowing Branded to Kill's well-documented story helps in understanding how it functions as a film. It doesn't go much further than the fact that Suzuki was hired to make another Tokyo Drifter, but instead made a fuck-you to his studio execs by compiling this collection of images that's more erratic than a Tommy gun. Suzuki seems more dedicated to the pleasures B-movies have to offer than satisfying his boss' (and the mass audience's) desires, thus a film like Branded to Kill is as much a wacky B-film as a self-indulgent ode to the constraints of studio filmmaking.
The desire to be the "number one" killer is a blind, reckless one, thus Goro becomes this strange mix between suppressed filmmaker and James Bond parody victim. At some points I can't differentiate which Suzuki seems to go for, but knowing he probably despised the blasé big-budget 007 rip-offs, I don't see why he can't go a meta on our asses and give us a little of both. All at once I can see Goro's drive to kill his competitors to be both a comment on the forced rivalries between filmmakers created by studio execs to produce the most commercial film possible, and also a comment on those very films produced and how empty they really are. No matter how you look at it, there's blood on somebody's hands.
I guess most have attached themselves to the filmmaking metaphor because of the director's history, which I agree with and I think it totally makes sense. But I also think Branded to Kill becomes much more interesting if we view it as some erratic spoof on the genre, which introduces all sorts of political issues, especially in regards to how the "spy genre" deals with gender politics. Miami is the submissive woman who commits herself entirely to attempting to satisfy Goro's insatiable thirst for both sex and violence, thus he can leave her with ease--she'll be there (naked) once he gets home. Misako, on the other hand, never offers her body to Goro. She's cold and distant, which drives Goro much more insane than even if she was resisting. Even ripping her stockings off seems like a meticulous chore that won't get Goro hard. She covers her walls with butterflies, which is pretty much my favorite thing in this movie. It's meant to reflect the innocence of the female stereotype, but also how women are utilized as the "traitors" in so many spy films, using their sexuality to coerce men into submissiveness. This is shown in a disgusting shot where Goro reaches for Misako in a sexual moment and only grabs a handful of bugs, which he squeezes the juices from. Maybe it speaks of how perverted I am when I can attach no other meaning to the juices running down Goro's hands, but then again, you'll have to balance my perversion against Suzuki's insanity.
The Running Man:
Well, Arnold had a good run.
That's not some snarky comment referring to this moment in Arnold's career. Of course he went on to make some great films (including 2012 and 2013, before you start scoffing). But for me, as a dude who formerly had to be tied down in order to watch an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, this was a complete dud.
Part of the blame goes to Arnold, who is REALLY phoning it in on this one. But the biggest surprise is writer Steven E. de Souza's shoddy work. I assumed he wouldn't sandwich such a wildly stupid film between Commando and Die Hard, but I also didn't think he'd be attempting some sort of social commentary in the mean time.
(And now I see my blind faith in him is my own fault--he wrote Street Fighter in 1994. Just sayin'.)
Sometimes a movie can just give away how little of a shit it gives in a single scene. I honestly didn't expect another Commando when I started The Running Man, but I thought I'd at least be having a good time. Or I wouldn't be bullshitted. Alas, I discovered how little of a shit I myself gave about this steamin' pile of crap when Amber was cast into "The Running Man" game show. This was done not because it challenged some sort of well-developed status quo amidst Souza's lame and half-assed depiction of totalitarianism, nor because her role as a woman in such a sick system advanced any sort of gender politics on a game show largely dominated by men killing each other. No, she is simply sent into the game show to force the revelation: "Oh, Ben wasn't lying! HE IS INNOCENT!!!!!"
Bull. Fucking. Shit. I hated this moment so much that I thought about getting up, leaving the room, and finishing the end of Branded to Kill (or softly crying into my pillow because of the state of action films) while my friends finished the film. But I'm a trooper, and lo and behold, against my wishes for something horrible to happen so I have something to enjoy, Ben gets the girl in the end. Not because they've built any sort of relationship that's founded on trust or honest attraction, but instead a completely contrived moment that advanced no agenda other than, "Hey, it's 1987 and everyone else is making movies out of Stephen King movies, let's crank this movie out tomorrow afternoon."
The moment where John walks into the helicopter with Cindy and his daughter in Commando is hilarious. The moment Ben kisses Amber in The Running Man is just goddamn insulting. Fuck this movie.
Weekly Viewing Diary 4: Mafioso, Modern Family (4x22), Branded to Kill, The Voice (4x14, 4x15, 4x16), L'avventura, The Running Man, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World