Posted by: kfugrip | February 19, 2007

Continued from old blog… IN WITH THE NEW!

IMPORTANT NOTE: This is the location of my new blog. To read the earlier posts, which go back to the begining of 2007, go to http://steampoweredpachyder.blogspot.com

I’m slowing down in my viewing and writing as well. I watched, two or three days ago, The Lady Eve, by Preston Sturges. A screw ball comedy staring Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwick as a couple that falls in and out of love, in different identities no less, was good. 4 stars good. The dialogue and performances being especially strong aided a film that David Mamet, in his new book Bambi vs. Godzilla, calls “perfect” as an example of dramatic writing.

It is impossible for me to view, and review, this movie without the context of Mamet’s book, which I’m in the middle of reading, and his views. He is insistent in saying that the actors should be present and say the lines as written, instead of crafting a performance. This film is a perfect example of how wrong he is. Fonda and Stanwick are making performance choices that are not in the script as written. Is it possible that the director gave them no notes on what to do other than to block the scene? Yes. It is more likely that there were discussions on what these people would be doing and how they would be feeling when they said the lines. If you watch a Mamet film you will see how he views performance. It has little to do with the execution of The Lady Eve.

The film is a great piece of writing. Every scene is necessary and characters feel important and real, in spite of the stylization present in the dialogue. Screw ball, has a particular rhythm to it and this film comes close to the speed of a Howard Hawks screw ball, like His Girl Friday, but comes short of the prize. It does not take away from the film, but I will say that His Girl Friday is a 5 star movie for this guy.
I recommend this movie highly though. Very good female lead and Henry Fonda is one of my 5 favorite actors of all time.

Irma Vep, by Oliver Assayas, depicts the chaos and petty narcissistic nature of film sets and personnel… as satire. Though not as biting as I expected, the film does poke at french cinema. I enjoy French films, some of my favorite films are French (that sounds like a qualifier… like saying “I have lots of black friends”). The scene with the shooting of Maggie’s interview where the interviewer blasts French cinema and sings the praises of John Woo, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jean-Claude Van Dam was particularly funny.

The film is about the remaking of a famous french silent era serial called Les Vampires. Les Vampires is about a group of criminals (not vampires) that dress up in skin tight suits. The remake is surrounded by drama that leads to eventual disaster for Maggie Cheung, the Chinese actress playing the lead role. Nothing sinister here though.

Maggie Cheung is the best part of this film, as well as the directors use of camera. There is a long take with Zoe, the costume designer, talking to her Mother at a dinner party. The camera follows them into the dining room, switches subjects to a couple of other characters, then back to Zoe. Very elegant. I like scenes that are shot this way. It feels like you are at the scene, part of the conversations. He also does what I always think of as the Altman-overlapping-dialogue-thing. Much more realistic. People talking at the same time, talking over one another, interrupting each other. Well done.

When Maggie assumes the persona of her character midway through the film (I don’t feel I’m spoiling anything here, it’s in the movie description) is one of the more interesting scenes. There is a self conscious air to this part that I like. An ode to film noir, and Les Vampires itself (which I haven’t seen).

I give it 3 stars but I probably liked it better than that. It was better than Demonlover, that’s for sure. I look forward to seeing Clean, Assayas reunion with Maggie Cheung.

I also watched a documentary about Keislowski and the making of Double Life of Veronique. It was very interesting to see the master at work, and to hear one of the rare interviews with him. It was short, one hour, and left me wanting for a more in depth documentary on one of my favorite directors.

I was thinking that perhaps he is at the top with Kubrick. I don’t often think of who my favorite director is but my defauult answer is Kubrick. Just for the sake of conversation. People ask that question, I ask it myself, and rather than stumble of a list of people I like I go with Kubrick. Though I don’t like every Kubrick film (Killer’s Kiss, Spartacus) it’s pretty close. Ditto with Kieslowski, though I haven’t seen them all, his films are moving and brilliant.

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