Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Fallen 4: Fall Harder With a Plangance

Bruno Dumont: I can still say that along with Gaspar Noe and David Lynch, this French filmmaker/academic philospher makes films that originate only in his head. But unlike those two he manages to clod hop all over the esoterica he carefully prepares, like a kid kicking his own sandcastle in case anyone else wants to play with it. He has his own approach but it could do with the discipline of someone else's framing ideas as he always gets lost in his own self-indulgence. Now I like self-indulgence in a filmmaker but where Noe and Lynch welcome you aboard theirs with a high likelihood of you finding something rich and strange along the way. Dumont shows little awareness of how trite a lot of his stuff is. Clear talent clearly wasted. I was absorbed by Life of Jesus and Humanity but stopped at Twentynine Palms. Everything I've read about subsequent outings does nothing to alter this.

 Terry Gilliam: Always an iffy one with me but for a long time I would see anything with his name on it at the cinema. I began writing a holiday post about him a few years ago that burst out of its single article into a trilogy of career appraisal. Thinking of this grand visionary engenders grandeur by itself. I'll be briefer here. I probably don't entirely love any single film of Gilliam's but admire most of them, some as intriguing failures and others as disappointing near hits. I am aware with every one that appears that it has probably had a difficult labour and its screen life has been hard won. A great shame that one of the richest visions in contemporary cinema must assume such a Sysiphusian role (he was several features into his career before he could shake the Python association in his audience's mind). More's the pity, then that what does appear on screen is all too often greatness sabotaged into mediocrity. I guess I'll still see a new one at the cinema. I've just long surrendered the expectation of the highest among equals.

Quentin Tarrantino: This needs a qualification. When I first saw the cinema trailer for Reservoir Dogs back in the 90s I was thrilled to see what might have been the inheritor of the quickly waterlogging Scorsese. I didn't get around to it at the cinema and watched it with the flatmates at home. I enjoyed the smart dialogue and cinewise look and feel of the action. I was unimpressed by the whole thing as it seemed a pointless exercise in style. It wasn't long before the meme of post-modernism began to rise like steam from the gutters in Taxi Driver. I understood it but couldn't get over that its derivative motions were effectively what the film was. Scorsese made no bones of his quotes but always poured some substance into everything. There seemed to be none beyond style and a few smarts. I did see Pulp Fiction at the cinema and loved it. I forgot it almost immediately but remembered my enjoyment. Jackie Brown sealed it. It felt warm and well filled. Solid writing and performances with an appreciable restraint on the helm. I saw the first volume of Kill Bill, liked it but never got around to the second volume without feeling the lack. Nothing about Inglourious Basterds interested me. See also Django Unchained. I know I would enjoy these if I saw them but I also suspect I would feel as though I'd ripped myself off. His stuff does what it says on the tin but it's a tin I can walk past without noticing.

Christopher Nolan: Memento remains top shelf for its era. It's crisp, intriguing and moving and runs at a clip. Then, as he rises in the Hollywood swamp and gets more mainstream, doing cover versions of Scandinavian thrillers and reboots there, we are meant to follow his career as the one who gave mainstream multiplex a good name: brains and braun in the ring at the same time. I have found the Batman trilogy to be a steadily more bloated and needlessly wandering mess. One thing I noted on seeing the last one was that all the depth and character development that thieved so much of the running time (or rather added it by the lard-vat full) was not a quality particularly lacking in the average substantial action film with half the running time. Inception is nowhere near as clever as it appears to be and also adds too much needless expansion of points that might be more neatly offered with more invention and less pizazz. I'll give him The Prestige but even that feels too long for the Tale of the Unexpected that it really is. Nevertheless that was the last of his I think I'll ever see at a cinema.

Jim Jarmusch: Stranger Than Paradise and Down By Law were delights that formed a sequence that promised to lead to expansion into greater realms or just further into the monochrome netherlands of Jarmusch's imagination. Either would have done me. Mystery Train felt new but hollow. Night on Earth felt like an 80s movie on free to air in the predawn. I thought I liked Dead Man until I remembered how little there was of it and for how ceaselessly long. By Ghost Dog I was still at the cinema but it felt cute and pointless. After Coffee and Cigarettes (also at the cinema) I swore off. It's not even a Hal Hartley thing where I have to face that I just want the early stuff over and over. It's more .... why is there nothing of the humour or the spirit of those first two in anything else? No more for me.

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