Sunday, September 24, 2006

Eureka (2000, Shinji Aoyama)

When people usually talk about movies that need to be seen on the big screen, they generally mean big spectacles, like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA or ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, in which the larger-than-life styles of the films comes through most fully when projected, well, larger than life. But just as demanding of big-screen treatment are languid, low-key, dialogue-light pieces of great duration, which can feel interminable at home (too many distractions, for one) but command the full attention the theatrical audience can devote to them. JEANNE DIELMAN is one of these films- one of my absolutely faves, but one which, even if it were to get a DVD release, I'd be reluctant to buy; so are LA BELLE NOISEUSE, HUMANITÉ, and now EUREKA. What distinguishes these films from titles like THE MOTHER AND THE WHORE, which would seem to fit under the same category, isn't just the sparseness of the dialogue, but how incidental the dialogue is to the film itself (the two teenagers are silent for almost the entire film). Indeed, EUREKA could almost have worked without dialogue altogether, with the exception of a talkative cousin who drops in on the central trio about an hour into the film. Another thing thats struck me was the alien quality of the cinematography- black and white 'Scope is a particular fetish of mine, but while most films shot this way thrill me with their lushness, Aoyama gives his images a sepia tint that makes them especially anemic and joyless. Which, under the circumstances, is just as it should be- if there was ever a story that resisted lushness, it would be this account of three survivors of a bus hijacking who form a surrogate family. I daresay that shooting the film in color might give the film a maudlin feel, and Aoyama and his cast- particularly the great Koji Yakusho- avoid falling into this trap. I've been wanting to see this film ever since it was released in 2001 only to become a victim of the shuttering of the Shooting Gallery film series, and having done so I'm happy to report that it lives up to expectations and could very well be a masterpiece. And yet I can't shake the sinking feeling that I would have enjoyed and appreciated it so much more had I see it on the big screen. Maybe someday... Rating: ***1/2.

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