Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Back in the saddle

FORTY SHADES OF BLUE (2005, Ira Sachs, seen on DVD)- the kind of intimate character drama that Sundance champions and sea-level audiences largely ignore, and while I'm certainly not averse to "little" movies, this one just didn't grab me. Fine performances by Rip Torn and especially Dina Korzun keep it watchable, as does Sachs' off-kilter compositions, but Darren Burrows doesn't hold up his corner of the girl-dad-son love triangle, which certainly contributed to my lack of interest (sure, Torn's an asshole, but he's at least an interesting asshole, whereas Burrows is just a tool). Also, it's high time more filmmakers find ways to make movies that are sixty- or seventy-odd minutes long, because Sachs really pads the story to get to 110, and the film suffers as a result. Rating: **.

NINE SONGS (2004, Michael Winterbottom, seen on DVD)- speaking of sixty-odd-minute-long movies... Anyhoo, who would have thought a movie about fucking and rock concerts could have been so listless? Might have improved had Winterbottom actually made a movie that alternated fuck scenes with concert footage, as a kind of statement about modern relationships, but the characters are just fleshed out enough (so to speak) for me to realize that I didn't much like either of them. Also, the Antarctica framing device was a mistake, in particular the film's use of it as a metaphor for memory. Rating: *1/2.

EROS (2004, Wong Kar-wai, Steven Soderbergh, and Michelangelo Antonioni, seen on DVD)- the problem with so many big-name-filmmaker omnibus projects is that the masters in question don't usually bring their A-game, and the results feel like trifles. Which is not to say that the abbreviated periods in the company of Wong and Soderbergh are unpleasant- Wong's short feels like a gap-bridger between ITMFL and 2046, and Soderbergh's is a diverting bit of (mostly black and white) nonsense- but you kind of wish they'd try harder. Of course, perhaps Antonioni was trying TOO hard, making a film that seems to take it cue from old fragrance commercials and stars the most insipid bickering couple I've had the misfortune to witness in years. I perked up a bit when another (hotter) woman entered the scene, but even some nudity towards the end of the film couldn't keep it from being one of the worst offerings of 2005. Still, two-thirds are pretty good, and it's never a waste of time to gaze upon Gong Li or bear witness to the oddly perfect pairing of Robert Downey Jr. and Alan Arkin. Rating: ** (WKW and Soderbergh: **1/2 each; Antonioni: *).

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