Sunday, January 17, 2010

Movie Roundup: MLK Day Edition

Suzanne's Career - The second of Eric Rohmer's Six Moral Tales, and much darker in tone than The Bakery Girl of Monceau. It feels kind of like what would happen if the guys from Metropolitan tried to act like the jerks from In the Company of Men. A caddy young man dates a girl he doesn't really like. His friend (who seems to be a bit in love with the guy) really doesn't like the girl either, but considers dating her as well. The girl, seen exclusively from the boys' perspective, is a bit of a cipher. In the end, though, we see that Rohmer was totally on her side all along. The black and white cinematography has a really cool shadowyness to it during the many party sequences. The #15 film of 1963.

My Night at Maud's - Moral Tales, Part III, this time feature length with some great acting from Jean-Louis Trintignant (Three Colors: Red) and cinematography by Nestor Almendros (Days of Heaven). Trinignant plays an engineer in his early 30s (this is the first of the Moral Tales not about students) who's trying to be Catholic and has some issues with Pascal. He's in love with (but has never talked to) a pretty blonde he's seen at Mass. He meets an old school buddy who drags him along to meet his girlfriend, the titular Maud, who interrogates him about his life and philosophy and kind of flirts with him. The bulk of the film is their conversation. All the Moral Tales have essentially the same plot, but differ in the kinds of characters they present the dilemma of fidelity to. The is the first one wherein every character is truly lovable (the guys in the first two are pretty much jerks, Trintignant here isn't perfect (he's actually kind clueless) but adorably so). The #2 film of 1969.

La Collectionneuse - Moral Tales, Part IV and a step backward in the likability department. The Almendros photography is in color this time, and he really captures the beauty of the film's Riviera location. Two guys stay at their friend's vacation house for a month, along with a girl neither of them knows but who seems kind of slutty. They make a kind of game out of competing for her without acknowledging they actually like her. Their behavior is, for the most part, detestable, but at least seems to know that and enjoys playing along for her own entertainment. The ending, which is pretty much perfect, makes me love the film a lot more than I did while watching it. I too want to spend my time at an awesome house on the ocean trying my best to do absolutely nothing. The #15 film of 1967.

In the Loop - Pretty much as advertised: hilarious, with some great performances, especially by Peter Capaldi. It's a screwball farce about the lead up to war in Britain and the US, kind of The West Wing meets Arrested Development, with, yes, a little Mamet thrown in. Based on a TV series, and I can see it working a lot better in that format, as none of the characters are really developed. In the end, the fact that the film follows so closely what actually happened in the lead-up to the Iraq War moves it from good fun to horribly depressing. Up until then, it's the funniest movie of the year.

The Hurt Locker - Another highly acclaimed 2009 movie that succeeded in meeting my lofty expectations. Director Kathryn Bigelow's action sequences are as well-constructed and filmed as their reputed to be: they show a palpable sense of geography and a really patience with the building of suspense. Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie are terrific as bomb squad soldiers in Baghdad, though the film kind of falls apart whenever it's attempting to build them into characters, especially with Renner's character. The film seems to want him to be a crazy adrenaline junkie to is wild, takes risks and can't handle life on the outside. But Renner plays him more subtly, more as a man who doesn't love war, but instead has found it's the only place he feels at home. He doesn't need a rush, he needs to be a hero. Regardless, the action sequences alone are enough to make it a great film. The #10 film of 2008.