Saturday, January 21, 2006

Broken Flowers, 2046, 5 x 2, Enduring Love and Off the Map

I have seen a mixed bag of movies recently with one or two surprises like 5x2 . So here’s a quick summary of the 5 movies:

Broken Flowers (written and directed by Jim Jarmusch): Rating 9/10

Any Jim Jarmusch movie is worth a watch. And Bill Murray has now perfected his dead-pan look – he can look funny without moving a muscle or even lifting a finger. So as expected Murray is perfect in this movie as a former Don Juan (named Don Johnston) who one day gets a mysterious letter in a pink envelope from one of his former lovers telling him that his 19 year old son may come looking for him. Who sent this letter? Johnston does not care. But his neighbour, Winston (played hilariously by Jeffrey Wright) is obsessed with solving the mystery and makes Johnston drive across America visiting his 5 previous lovers from 20 years ago.

2046 (written and directed by Wai Kar Wong): Rating 7 / 10

When I first saw this movie, it had no English subtitles. And this is a movie you need subtitles for. I managed to watch a lot of the movie (some fast forwarding) and enjoyed the visual beauty of it. Ofcourse, that is to be expected from Wai Kar Wong and his usual cinematographer Christopher Doyle. The mood and music gave the movie a feel of In the Mood For Love which made sense as the movie was supposed to be a sequel of sorts. So with great expectation, I rented the English subtitled version. But I was hugely disappointed. Sure, there are some excellent portions here but I liked In the Mood For Love more (I was also a huge fan of Wong’s The Hand , Chungking Express and Days of Being Wild ). The sci-fi elements in 2046 really put me off as they seemed to get in the way of the otherwise enjoyable story. Ziyi Zhang looks gorgeous (as usual) and there are bit roles from a trio of heroines from Wong’s previous movies – Gong Li, Faye Wong and ofcourse Maggie Cheung. Tony Leung is perfect and it is quite enjoyable to see characters from one movie inhabiting another movie, like Leung’s and Ah Ping’s character (the annoying friend who is always seeking to land the hot woman). This is a movie which I don’t think I would have enjoyed in an arty theatre with beat up seats. Instead, this is a movie I like to watch comfortably at home. But that sci-fi section, argh! Why? This movie could have been really nice. Ofcourse, the sci-fi elements have not stopped critics from landing praises on this movie which has won tons of praise and awards. In the Mood For Love was perfect, 2046 is far from it.

5x2 (directed by François Ozon): Rating 9.5/10

Can sweet love go bad? Ofcourse, it can! And this movie uses 5 scenes to illustrate how the innocence of love can be shattered by time. The movie works backward in giving us glimpses into the lives of the couple in question (the brilliant Valeria Bruni Tedeschi and Stéphane Freiss play Marion and Gilles respectively). We first see Marion and Gilles going through their divorce, followed by a simple party scene where we can see the strains of their marriage in the open. The next three scenes involve their child birth, marriage and first love. This really is a well done movie which in a few scenes manages to show the complexity of relationships. There is a scene near the start, right after the couple are divorced, Gilles tries to force himself onto Marion. When she turns him down, Gilles attacks her. Facing the door and with her back towards Gilles, Marion sharply shouts out. Something about that scene really stood out for me. We could tell upto this point that Marion is a basically good person but she can’t take Gilles abuse anymore. As the movie moves on we learn that Gilles has his fears (whatever they are) and alienates Marion when she needs him most, like leaving her alone during the child birth. When this movie opened in my city, it didn’t last too long. No one went to see it. Which is a shame really because this movie is worth seeing! I have not seen Bergman’s Scenes of Marriage so I have to regard 5x2 as one of the best relationship movies out there. On an unrelated note, both the lead actors and Michael Lonsdale (who plays Marion’s father) had bit roles in Munich . Lonsdale played the impressive Papa in Spielberg’s movie.

Enduring Love (directed by Roger Michell): Rating 6/10

What a mess! An absolute mess! I am sure Ian McEwan’s novel is much more absorbing than this movie. Even though the movie starts out with one of the most unique opening scenes – a couple (played by the new Bond, Daniel Craig and Samantha Morton) head to an open field to have a picnic. They have their champagne glasses out when a hot air balloon suddenly lands behind them. A man falls out of the balloon’s basket and is trying to bring it to a stop while a little boy is helpless inside the basket. Joe (Daniel Craig) rushes to help the man and is immediately joined by a few other men who come in from different sides. The men manage to stop the balloon. But a gust of wind blows by and the balloon takes off with the men hanging onto the basket and an additional man hanging by the rope. As the balloon continues to rise, one man lets go of the basket. The others follow suit expect the man hanging onto the rope. Eventually, his grip loosens and he falls to his death. Now, there’s a whole range of possibilities as to where this movie could have gone. But it takes a turn towards the love crazy stalker angle with a difference – a man stalking another man. Jed (played by Rhys Ifans) believes that he and Joe shared a special love when the two of them prayed together for the dead man. Also, there are some subplots put in the movie only for the reason of trying to cover different elements of the novel but not for the benefit of the screenplay (one of the subplots was why did a man who was afraid of heights not let go of the balloon rope? And if never took risks in his life, why did he rush to help a complete stranger?). The movie is sharply shot but it could have been much more engaging.

Off the Map (2003 movie tenderly directed by Campbell Scott): Rating 8/10

What a surprise this movie was! I had never heard of this one but picked it up based on the interesting pairing of Joan Allen and Sam Elliot. The two of them play a couple (Arlene and Charley) who really live life off the map – they live in an isolated house in the middle of nowhere with no phone and no tv. The couple hunt for their own food and try to be as self-sufficient as possible. They have a young bright 12 year old daughter, Bo (played amazingly by Valentina de Angelis). Bo wants to leave her home when she grows up and move to the city to lead a normal life. She is very mature for her age and is tired of her parent’s unorthodox ways. One day, the couple gets a letter in the mail informing them they are being audited by the IRS. Arlene finds that odd as their annual household income is less than $5000 dollars. Moreover, Charley does not work and is continuously depressed. When the tax auditor shows up, Bo believes this is her ticket for freedom. But as it turns out, the auditor gets sick and ends up living in the household as well. Bo is infuriated at the adults around her and at times seems like the only mature person. The young Valentina is so perfectly cast -- you can see the intensity in her eyes and she really steals the movie with her strong lively performance. Joan Ackermann adapted her own play for this movie and Campbell Scott has done a good job of tenderly portraying the different characters as they go about their lives (odd yet simple) in New Mexico.

1 comment:

Pacze Moj said...

I agree about Enduring Love; it's all downhill after the opening scene, which is actually pretty neat.

High ratings for Broken Flowers and especially 5x2. I'd like to watch both, but have been putting them off because there's always something else to see. Still, an 18.5/20 double-movie night seems like a good bet!