Sunday, February 22, 2009

Muriels: Best Picture, 7th Place

In Bruges (120 points/13 votes)

“The Bruges of In Bruges is an in-betweeny kind of place, unstuck in space and time. First of all, it's in Belgium, which is neither Holland nor France, and that's all it isn't to some people. On the one hand, Bruges is renowned as the best-preserved Medieval town in Belgium, apparently, which is getting fairly specific -- a fairy tale historical vision of towers and canals and cathedrals and other old buildings. On the other, it's the very model of a modern major tourist town, overrun by corpulent Ugly Americans and even uglier self-righteous Canadians -- the perfect location for shooting a nightmarish Dutch film about a midget. And the perfect hiding place, then, for a pair of Irish hit men waiting for things to cool down after their last job. Their instructions are to go there, stay put, and wait.

"In Bruges -- great title, the preposition suggesting a state of being, not just a geographical location -- marks the auspicious directorial debut of Irish playwright Martin McDonagh (see 2008 Muriel Award for Best Cinematic Breakthrough), author of The Pillowman, a bleak black psycho-comedy about child abuse, serial murder, torture and religion, set in the interrogation chambers of an unnamed police state. Think Becket, Kafka and the Brothers Grimm. (He's added Lonely Planet to the mix for his first feature film.) I habitually refer to In Bruges as a comedy, because it is -- which is not to say that it isn't shot through with pain, profanity, cruelty, violence and tragedy. In Bruges has it all.

“To say McDonagh's film is clearly the work of a gifted writer in love with his mother tongue (the shapes and rhythms of the language are composed and played with the precision of a cantata) is not to slight its equally impressive command of direction, performance, cinematography, editing... hell, moviemaking. The ongoing philosophical duels/duets between Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell) are hysterical and heartbreaking, but who would have expected a man of the theater to craft some of the best-directed action, suspense and party sequences of the year, as well?

“This movie blows me away every time I see it, and I think I've seen it three or four times now. The tightness of it, the attention to detail, and the way it gets better and deeper and funnier every time, remind me of the Coen Bros.' work (and not just because they share a composer, the magnificent Carter Burwell). In Bruges plays like a great album (remember albums?) that can be experienced repeatedly without losing its freshness. It's effin' beautiful.” ~ Jim Emerson

1 comment:

BTW said...

You guys here convinced me to see it and I'm glad I did. One of those films where the trailer really doesn't do it justice.