Friday, November 26, 2010


On the general moral/ethical questions raised by watching screeners I offer only two notes. First, a sidelong glance at the Indian minority religion of Jainism, which "evokes images of monks wearing face-masks to protect insects and micro-organisms from being inhaled." Second, a link to an earlier post about a staunch vegetarian who occasionally makes exceptions.

Give thanks for the bounty of the season.

BLACK SWAN The horror of heightened body-consciousness among masochistically emaciated workaholic ballet dancers. Acutely aware of bones and muscles moving under the skin, often accompanied by creaking, crackling sound effects. As one of the dancers descends into madness this feels less like Lynch or Cronenberg than the ruthless young Polanski of Repulsion. Highly effective but almost too creepy to be fun to watch.

LET ME IN Shouldn't have to hype the results in a particular case to argue that comparing several adaptations of interesting material is a worthwhile exercise. The story created by novelist John Alvide Lindqvist in Låt den rätte komma in became the moody Swedish movie Let the Right One In, admired mostly for what it refrained from doing by people who don't often enjoy horror pictures. Now the story of the soulful vampire girl ("I've been 12 for a long time"), bonding with a bullied boy in a snowy apartment complex, has been adapted again, with more swoop and dazzle but with somewhat less heart and impact, by wiz kid Matt Reeves (Cloverfield), who refrains a good deal less. The US rendition is as good as the first, but not better, and the variations are not significant. Both films elide what I liked best in the book: a detailed new life cycle for the vampire that makes the familiar phenomena more or less hang together.

RED HILL See below.

THE SOCIAL NETWORK Not prepared for how little the movie actually has to do with Facebook; why people like it, how they use it. Except for the note that it was a geek/outsider's frustrated observation of college mores that led to the breakthrough that "relationship status" was the key variable. In terms of running time, the movie is mostly a series of deposition hearings, in two lawsuits, with amplifying flashbacks; meetings in which issues of collaboration, intellectual property and the moral right to claim authorship are hashed over. (When many people contribute, how do you isolate the defining contribution?) In dramatic terms it's about watching somebody build something that grows and grows until it becomes so huge that a bunch of other people are driven to try to destroy it. It's the Fountainhead of the Internet.

WINTER'S BONE Heard this one described as "arty," recently, when it seems to me it's the deadpan/declarative antithesis of the fancy schmanciness that implies. Director Debra Granik'a uninflected naturalism is applied to a hillbilly-noir detective story, by Daniel Woodrell, set in the clannish, meth-cooking Ozarks. Both film and novel are textbook examples of how the framework of a genre story can be used to chart a path through complex material, to open up an exotic milieu. The ambiguous "solution" to the central mystery reveals something about the code these seemingly feral people live by that could not easily be made apparent by other means. Perfectly calibrated performances by Jennifer Lawrence, a local discovery, and by Deadwood's John Hawkes as the terrifying, surprisingly righteous Uncle Teardrop.

WASN'T ABLE TO GET THROUGH: Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll (flailing chaos), Stone (too much glum De Niro, not enough naked Milla Jovovich). And the hyped 127 Hours is inconsequential; it didn't succeed in convincing me there was real drama in these events beyond the news mag sensationalism.


Tulkinghorn said...

If given a choice between having only the book or the movie of Winter's Bone, which would you choose?

It seems like one of those books that might benefit from being well filmed.

David Chute said...

The ex. once upon a time, responded to an invitation to the opera by saying, "We've already seen 'Rigolletto.'"

Seriously, both versions of WB are worthwhile. You being you, however, there's probably more long term value in making the acquaintance of Woodrell.