Friday, January 07, 2011

My Week of Movie Watching

Black Swan – My only previous exposure to the work of Darren Aronofsky was Requiem for a Dream. Although I admired that film for its technical excellence and its go-for-broke storytelling, I have to admit that it left me depressed for days afterward. Thus, I went into Black Swan with a bit of trepidation. It turns out that BS is a great film, albeit one that also gets inside your head and stays there. Natalie Portmans performance as the doomed ballet dancer Nina is really a tour de force. It would have been really easy for an actress to look ridiculous in this, but she pulls it off. Vincent Cassel as the controlling director is worth a shout-out, as well. Barbara Hershey stars as Portmans controlling mother in a performance that has distinct Bergman-esque overtones. Recommended.

Kagemusha – First time seeing this Kurosawa epic. This one always gets grouped with Ran, and the two films tread similar ground. Both concern great dynasties that crumble due to arrogance and pride. Kagemusha follows a petty thief who is recruited as a double for a slain warlord. The films' central point is that it doesn’t really matter who is leading the clan, and that the warlord is strictly a figurehead. The climactic battle scene is really a marvel, as waves of men are sent into battle, only to be cut down. A masterpiece.

The Hitch-hiker – This Ida Lupino B flick from 1953 is a great example of a film being greater than the sum of its parts. Two fishermen (Edmond O’Brien and Frank Lovejoy) pick up a psychopath hitchhiker. That’s the movie. There is little interplay between the two men as to how to get out of their predicament. So, why does this movie “work”? The film develops it’s tension around whether the men will be able to get rid of the killer before the police realize he is with them, at which point he kills them and moves on to another poor soul. The reason this film works so well despite it’s lack of sophistication is the presence of William Talman as the mad hitcher. With his Jack-O-Lantern smile and his lazy eye (He sleeps with it open!), Talman’s Emmet Meyer is a truly unsettling presence - a low-rent cousin of Richard Widmarks’ Tommy Udo. This is not a great movie, but it’s sure a fun one. Recommended.

A pretty good week.

No comments: