Friday, March 04, 2011

RABBIT HOLE (John Cameron Mitchell, 2010)

***½
USA

Sure, every scene doesn’t need piano, and Aaron Eckhart does go a bit hard with the tan (there’s leathery, and then there’s just plain orange). But unlike most prestige-hampered explorations of grief, this one doesn’t get off on it. Or, it does – but in a way that feels keyed into the way grief works, the way it demonstrably feeds off itself. The dialogue is sharp, and the supporting performances, extravagantly detailed.

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

ANGEL (Ernst Lubitsch, 1937)

*****
USA

This love triangle between Marlene Dietrich, Herbert Marshall and Melvyn Douglas isn’t necessarily the best film Ernst Lubitsch ever made. But it is wonderfully representative because - the wit, the worldliness, the casual elegance – this is where Lubitsch turns it up to eleven. He dissects such things as love and marriage and (in particular) romance, and all this with an adult, slightly dry, seemingly unfussy, almost blunt sensibility. He analyses them casually, but to the core.

And yet, despite the bluntness, despite the sharp, unwavering, somewhat confronting insight, there is something intoxicating about Lubitsch’s company (not to mention, Dietrich’s, Marshall’s and Douglas’). It’s hard to say if it’s the sex, or the elegance, or the fact that all of the characters are so thoroughly at ease with the triple-entendres and jaw-dropping interiors. Whatever it is, the film leaves you with a singular feeling: you greet the credits clear-headed, yet dewy-eyed; demonstrably wiser, yet in reverie.

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The Bad Seed (Mervyn LeRoy, 1956)

***
USA

Cinema’s first foray into the mind of a serial killer with pigtails. It’s prime, hearty schlock but Warner Bros. inexplicably gave it a high gloss treatment (Mervyn LeRoy and all) and even Ampass took the film seriously. (..Even Ampass?.. Of course Ampass.) There are about eleven monologues too many and roughly three quarters of the two-hour-plus running time is spent bastardising then-trendy psychoanalytic theories. (Of course, you could also say that about every Christopher Nolan movie.) (Zing.)

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