Only Theo Panayides Has Wings

This is a blog about Theo Panayides, the cyprustician online critic that writes reviews of movies old and new on his website (http://leonardo.spidernet.net/Artus/2386/). He is very good. In fact, he is awesome. It is also an exercise for my english-writing abilities, as I'm from Brazil.

Name:
Location: Goiânia, Goiás, Brazil

Thursday, September 08, 2005

How Wrong Have I Been

While the TIFF is going on in Canada...

Two boring reviews.

NOBODY KNOWS (56)
It’s watchable, I guess. The best thing about it is how Kore-eda gets the feel of the small apartment exactly right, specially considering the child’s-POV angle. It feels a little cramped, with tight frames filled with details, characters shot under chairs, in doorways and hallways, everything a little zoomed-in. It’s simultaneously relaxing and claustrophobic, exactly as a “caged” child would feel like in that situation. It also has the TO BE AND TO HAVE feel for childhood: curious about them, realistic (almost like a documentary, really) and filled with details (many of which I can’t remember now because I don’t usually take notes; I better start taking those goddamn notes in my opinion) – and of course, like that movie, also a little precious and cutesy.

The theme actually resonated with me quite a lot, even though it’s treated in haphazard way: it’s about the Burden of Responsibility. The characters have to make choices between personal enjoyment and taking care of others – the mother chooses her lover and neglects the kids, and shit happens; the older brother Akira chooses playing videogame with his loser friends and shit happens (and other echoes throughout, like the “father” who doesn’t accept that Yuki is his daughter, and says he’s stuck in “credit card hell” because his girlfriend spent too much). There’s a moving shot (IMO) of the sister sitting at the table on the foreground, under yellow light, looking at unpaid bills, while her brother and his friends play Playstation and make a mess out of the house. It made me feel bad for all the (many, usual) times I chose to ignore my own responsibilities – and it also reminded me how it can feel so good (for a limited time) to do that, shown when the older brother takes his brothers out of the house, spends all his money on food and toys, and plays all day long in the park.

This also makes it clear how the movie doesn’t really work very well: the burden and the sense of freedom are felt, but only in a minor way -- unlike in PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE, when Barry Egan spends the entire first half dealing with extreme anxiety and oppression, and then suddenly takes the orgasmic trip to Hawaii. It’s too predictable and too low key and too long overall. Theo says: “Personally, I had a strange reaction to NOBODY KNOWS: after about an hour I started to get fidgety - even a little drowsy - and wondered if I'd last the course; after about 90 minutes, though, I'd fully adjusted to the rhythm, accepted the situation was going nowhere, and could easily have watched it toddle on for another hour.” This is not just your reaction bud, this seems to be the actual movie’s doing; it does get a little annoying and draggy by the half way mark, but about 30 minutes later and things start moving more smoothly and pleasantly (and then, at least for me, it went back to draggy in the last 15 minutes or so).

Most of the last third, I kept wondering how exactly it would end. When the high school girl marks her presence in the narrative, I thought it would resolve with her doing something about the situation (becoming a new Mother for them, taking the Responsibility), but by the end she actually becomes a “new older sister”, just tagging along for the ride. The death scene is useless, the burial in the airport is kind of beautiful, and that tear-jerking song near the end was fucking awful. I mean jesus.



SIN CITY (62)
There are many ways to start this review; none of them will make me look good. As much as I wish I could’ve used “If you turn in the right corner in Sin City you can find just about anything. Anything… that sucks ASS” as a starter, I can’t, because this isn’t bad at all. I quite liked, in fact, and suspect I might like this even more on second viewing. Even my thoughts about this being completely shallow and superficial were wrong, as there’s a coherent theme working under the narrative, pulling everything together – even though the theme itself isn’t of much use. At first I thought the Castration Obsession this movie had was just some weird personal issue for Frank Miller (hey Frank Miller are you castrated? Thanks), but there was also talk of “making yourself worth”, and the “quest for Justice” and “warrior women and gladiators” it all tied down to Being a Man, fear of emasculation, some kind of code of honor where you only shoot honest people unless you really have to, and when the dude is bad, killing him is just not enough, you have to “go to work on him first” (and specially “every nice looking blonde deserves a revenge”).

Maybe I’m way off, but during that scene where Clive Owen watches as the hookers prepare to kill Benicio del Toro, he starts having second thoughts about actually killing the guy (that he was so sure about killing a few minutes earlier), and he even says stuff like “he never killed anyone, this is not right” and “something’s wrong about this” and I suspect these are his fears of emasculation coming to the surface; he wishes *he* was killing the guy and doing the revenge, being the hero and the Man, saving the blonde – but he has to stand around and watch someone else (women!) do the work. He only comes to terms with this in the end of this story, when the hookers come to the revenge and he acknowledges them as Warrior Women, Valkyries. In this same story, there’s also a scene where Clive’s character wonders whether he’ll have to kill a cop or not, and whether that would be right (which kind of gives weight to the rest of the random killings).

Random cool stuff: the Elijah Wood supposedly-creepy character didn’t seem all that creepy (maybe because I was already expecting creepiness), but the first appearances of the Yellow Bastard were menacing, and this last Bruce Willis story was my actual favorite: I kept hoping Bruce and his daughter/lover/protégé (the smoking hot) Jessica Alba would turn out all right (the only characters I really cared about). Any sign of anything yellow in the frame would get on my nerves. And Clive Owen’s introduction – “Hi, I’m Britanny Murphy’s boyfriend and I’m out of my mind” – got my blood going the way the rest of this movie should have. And Marv’s execution (“I haven’t got all night”). And Nicky Katt with an arrow through his body, making jokes about it (that *was* Nicky Katt, wasn’t it?). And many of the noir-ish, shadowy, beautifully composed shots. And lots of other stuff I don’t remember right now because I don’t take notes (gotta take those fucking notes in my opinion).

Still, I wish I could’ve been more enthusiastic about this, but I watched most of it in a detached way, just admiring all the striking photography and fast rhythm and hammy, cheesy acting (in a good way), with only the occasional burst of excitement. Needed more action scenes, maybe; the car crashes and gun shots and killing were too short, too cartoony. Maybe it was just that there was hardly any emotional connection (that’s why only the Bruce Willis bit worked for me fully). Maybe it was the constant narration that got annoying (like waves bumping on a rocky shore can get annoying if you’re sitting on top of one of those rocks and the water’s spraying on your face and your eyes until you develop some kind of facial burn). Also, the Gilmore Girl, the one that dies in the end: hot stuff. And I have no idea what Theo means by this: “even more inspiring than PRIMER in demystifying the filmmaking process”. Nothing in THE SIN OF A CITY is half as inspiring as in THE PRIMER, much less the Demystification of the Filmmaking Process (what the fuck).



Also, some second viewings:

BREATHLESS (Godard) (77), up from a 75.

GHOST WORLD (Zwigoff) (84), up from a 72. (this is one of the most beautiful and poignant and depressing films ever made, not just about teens)


Theo-Related Quote of the Day
"Theo's IRMA VEP Review is so good I'm thinking of making it into a movie."
- Khansc

26 Comments:

Blogger Kza said...

Okay, I'm glad I wasn't the only one who didn't know what the hell Theo was talking about with that "demystifying" business.

9:09 PM  
Anonymous kayrojones said...

Perhaps Theo considers “City of Sin” and “The Primer’s” supposed demystifying prowess to originate in their well-documented, self-made productions—both directors’ all-consuming, one-eye-sees-and-edits-all aesthetics. Is there a Sarris think piece/reexamination in store? If these DIY trends take hold over the mainstream—so the uncomfortably amphibious-looking Lucas wants us to believe—could auteur theory eventually become revitalized? Probably not. Theo was pretty just aiming for pretty prose again—which he’s more than entitled to do, however evasive the result.

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Anonymous fission mailed!!!! said...

It must speak rock-concert volumes that out of the most recent efforts by three directors I have a lot of apathy for - Lucas, Rodriguez, Spielberg - I actually hated (i.e. constant eye-rolling and watch-checking) the former's the least. Or that Michael Bay's was preferable to any of them(!).

And that ain't saying much, but I'll elaborate why the City of Sin is still a despicable mess. If you're going to try pushing the cinematic envelope when it comes to onscreen violence, there had better be a reason for it beyond the "Look Ma, no hands!" showmanship that can be accomplished by any fledgling upstart in the director's chair and ketchup (or mustard, in this case). Rodriguez doesn't offer up any reason, never mind any compelling reason, why all of the violence he depicts requires to be shown, nor does he have the guts to make the most insipid, sophomoric comments on it he can muster.

There is practically nothing on this film's mind except set design and bloodletting. It doesn't even have the drive to make the violence eclectic; instead, we have three almost identical, rather nondescript story outlines one after the other, and all of it blurs together into what I assume's a pseudo-lesson in making other people, be they high or lowlifes, pay - it's the kind of superficial drivel the mentally stunted would appreciate, showing us an irritatingly one-dimensional view of macho without ever contrasting it with anything.

Certainly, there's no point trying to untangle some sort of gender war debate, as all the women here are either hideously vapid, defenseless baby-dolls, or complete dispiriting replicas of the men darting around them. The only time the film sheds it's obnoxious brassballs sheen and lets a little air into the room, is when Nicky Katt turns up, as a fey psycho complete with swastika tattoo. And he's interesting because he's pretty much the only attempt to be humorous in the movie. This is a surprise, because how else can you treat the stone-faced claim that to be of worth, you have to find someone in danger and then kill spree your way out of a jam, other than by laughing at it?

Sin City's not nearly as an offensive movie as you'd think, though I'm sure it's trying to be, it's just an unusually boring one chock full of shitty performances (like the Spielberg and Lucas in that regard), inflicted by the twin malaise of trying to be faithful to a medium where this sort of hard-boiled noir material may actually work while keeping what's clearly an undemanding, juvenile crowd fascinated. Different strokes, you might say, but I still think that other than the Katt cameo, it's of no redeeming value whatsoever.

So yeah, between this and say, Aladdin, I'd guess Theo's expectations would be intermittently plunging, but to each his demystifying own, whatever.

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