Movie diary 9/19/14
A great writer began a famous historical novel by stating that it was the best of times and the worst of times. It’s kind of like that at the cinema this week. There are at least three films I saw that are opening today that I felt were rather brilliant – The Zero Theorem, My Old Lady, and Tusk. There are a couple of films I haven’t seen that are opening nonetheless – The Maze Runner (kid’s stuff) and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (which is itself edited down from two movies).
Then there was a trio of films that left me nonplussed. This Is Where I Leave You is a big studio version of a sex farce with very little actual sex. Frontera offers a politically correct version of race relations and seems to come to a complete halt less than half way through. Swearnet is a movie spin-off of the popular Canadian comedy show The Trailer Park Boys, and it’s not quite as funny as it thinks it is. There is a lot of profanity however.
The thing that grabbed my attention about Tusk was the way it honored the best movie conventions. Some of what happens reminds me of the way a director like Hitchcock could totally turn your world upside down. For instance when I saw Psycho (1960) it was long after it had come out, and I knew that the main star, Janet Leigh, died in the middle of the film. (Likewise when I saw The Sixth Sense I already knew the twist at the end.) That’s why I not only urge you dear reader, but also cinematically beg you, not to read or hear anything about what happens in Tusk, without a doubt the best film to come from the imagination of writer director Kevin Smith.
There’s the hidden narrative twist to this horror-infested nightmare. There’s also the comic as well as moral implications to everything that happens. Then there’s the quality of the writing, dialogue that reveals tons of information while exposing character motives. Throw a curve ball that could be called a casting twist rather than a narrative twist and you have a film that amazes and challenges you. Tusk is why you want to go to the movies, to be entertained and surprised. There is gore and blood but not as much as you think.
The Zero Theorem finds Terry Gilliam completing a kind of dystopian trilogy that began with Brazil and trailed into 12 Monkeys. Christoph Waltz stars as a cog in the wheel of the information age. The design is pure Gilliam, a combination of futuristic furniture and surroundings mixed with archaic means of telecommunication. Unlike the protag of Brazil, Waltz is not destined for the torturers touch so much as he’s likely to be fired.
I always wish Kevin Kline would be in films that are the sum of his talent. Not always the case with titles like Last Vegas or The Last of Robin Hood. My Old Lady is the film that gives Kline a role worthy of a great actor. Perhaps not oddly the film also marks the feature film directorial debut of renowned playwright Israel Horovitz. (Horovitz was played by Al Pacino in the film Author! Author!, and his children include Adam The Beasties Boys dude.).
Kline plays a sort of old loser guy who turns up in Paris to claim what he thinks is a grand inheritance. In France they have a law regarding apartments and tenants known as viaget. Basically the owner, after being paid a large sum, pays the tenant to live in their property every month until said tenant passes away. Kline goes through a gamut of sweet emotions as he deals with his own selfish problems while negotiating with (tenant) Maggie Smith and her daughter Kristen Scott Thomas.
- Michael Bergeron