Saturday, 21 July 2012

Scribblings Of A Random Nature #24




The Black Dahlia (2006 - Brian De Palma) - Many times better than my previous De Palma film - the stylish but highly disappointing and awkward "Femme Fatale", but still just a shade underwhelming. I can't help but feel De Palma is somewhat tone deaf when it comes to his actors' line readings, though I grant that he's obviously much more interested in the visuals. I can't help but feel that many of his films could absolutely benefit from more natural or even consistent approaches to how the characters come across when they speak. There's a school of thought that says he intentionally has stilted dialog and acting, but it makes it no less frustrating at times. Still, a pretty strong film overall.











Carlito's Way (1993 - Brian De Palma) - Even more interesting and entertaining than Dahlia, "Carlito's Way" has more of that consistency I was looking for from De Palma. For example, Sean Penn is playing a scumbag, drug-fueled lawyer at a high pitch, but he does it at that same level throughout the whole film. Pacino manages to avoid his completely over the top performances of the last few decades and reins himself in just enough so that he's believable as a former gangster trying to go straight but finding no easy way to do it. And yet, the film overall still manages to feel somewhat undercooked - every scene feels like it's been edited into the picture a bit too soon, like the director has just called "Action!" a mere split second before we join it.










My Summer Of Love (2004 - Pawel Pawlikowski) - Two young ladies meet in a small village and begin an intense friendship/affair over one languorous summer. As their relationship blossoms, the brother of one of them embraces his born-again philosophy and converts his pub into a place of worship. The two leads are excellent (Emily Blunt in one of her very first film roles), there's some strong tension that builds up within the triangle of the brother and two girls, and Pawlikowski manages to capture what feels to be some very spontaneous moments, but it never fully brought across the characters nor a purpose for the story. It's probably more a factor of what felt like a let down of a final third after so much possibility had been brought to the screen in the early going. By its end, it simply didn't feel like it had achieved anything except for some really fantastic camera shots - in other words, it felt like an exercise in filmmaking instead of an actual story that needed to be told.











Sound Of Noise (2010 - Ola Simonsson, Johannes Stjärne Nilsson) - I guess you could say this is another case of potential squandered, though in this case the let down is slower and much more prolonged. A group of musical "terrorists" perform their compositions on a variety of different pieces of their city - a hospital operating room, a bank, a city square and a set of transmission lines - while a policeman who just wants quiet starts to track them. There's certainly some moments of invention in the "musical" numbers (which are really percussion pieces since the group are all drummers), but each successive one seems to be less impressive and the group's purpose becomes less and less engaging, relevant and meaningful as the film goes along. It's well made, well acted and well paced for sure, but feels like it stalls after the first full group performance. I couldn't help feeling that the filmmakers either lost their way or never really knew where to go with their team of anarchists and their tone-deaf pursuer. Still, there are certainly moments of cleverness (like the animated walkthrough of the "score" of the four percussion pieces from which all the screencaps come). Check out their short (same cast) Music for an apartment and six drummers that apparently led to the film.







6 comments:

Davey V said...

I honestly kind of enjoyed the slow let down of 'Sound of Noise' it felt some what appropriate not overstating the importance of what the characters are doing...and well anything with Emily Blunt is automatically on my list, and Pawlikowski's latest "The Woman in the Fifth" had a similar vibe of being an exercise in film making, but still visually very enjoyable. I never really got into Dahlia, and I always viewed as somewhat of an admirable failure 'cause I could never get past the bad dialogue, and while your right about the editing on Carlito it's still one of his stronger films since Blow Out...and the mystery of Brian DePalma continues

Jandy Stone Hardesty said...

I remember kind of hating The Black Dahlia when I saw it. Sounds like I better not even try my luck with Femme Fatale, even if the title is calculated to draw my interest. :)

Chip Lary said...

I liked The Black Dahlia, but I've never been tempted to watch it again.

Carlito's Way didn't do much for me, but part of that is the gangster genre, which doesn't do much for me.

I liked My Summer of Love at first, but I disliked Blunt's character enough that it started to affect my enjoyment of the movie.

Bob Turnbull said...

Whoa...I let these comments slide. Sorry 'bout that. You were kind enough to stop by and here I am ignoring my guests...

Dave, I hadn't heard of "Woman In The Fifth" - I'm curious. As for Dahlia, perhaps it helps if you see it directly after "Femme Fatale" - talk about stilted dialog. Either Rebecca Romijn just can't handle too much screen time or De Palma gave odd direction to her. I get that he may purposely create the artifice, but it doesn't always work for me. "Body Double", however, is a ton of fun. As a general rule, Emily is just lovely and charming as all get out...

Jandy, I would probably recommend you avoid it as well, but part of me can't help but want to hear what you think of it. There are something well-staged moments and plot turns that fit the title, but it just felt painful to me at times. Particularly any seduction scene with Romijn.

Chip, I agree about Blunt's character - it did indeed start to wear on me. As for Carlito, there's enough there for me to recommend it - if only because I liked Pacino's character (or, at least, I found him interesting) because he really truly did want to get out of the life and he stayed consistent with that.

simoncolumb said...

Love love love Carlitos Way. I love how Pacino simply comes across as so sensible but you feel like you know his past. You know how bad he muts've been.

Bob Turnbull said...

Yeah, yeah..."Sensible". I think that's the perfect way to describe Carlito (though it sounds strange to characterize anyone attached to the mob that way). I kept waiting for that stupid move or sudden change of heart, but he stayed consistently sensible. Until his hand was forced of course...