Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sean's DVR-O-RAMA Day 1

Today found me in my first of 4 Dr. prescribed days of bed-rest. In a somewhat ironic turn of events this happened due to me preparing for an end of the month move out of my apartment and into RFC US-HQ's new digs. Yes, the real move hasn't even begun and I've already fucked up my back but good. But since this move means I'm going to lose all my DVR recordings, it's the perfect time to burn through the 13 movies I had on there as of this morning. I'm going to attempt to knock these bastards down between now and next Monday and share a couple thoughts on each one. A couple weeks ago, when I first found out that we won't be able to keep our cable box, I went through and deleted the movie's I had already seen -- so these will all be first impressions.

8am -- one (1) Alleve, one (1) Vicodin, one (1) Valium. I have a full French press full of coffee next to me -- let's rock. First up is Robert Altman's Vincent & Theo. It's the oldest movie on my DVR having been sitting in there since 2/11/06.

The opening title music is fantastic, it's this great menacing electric guitar thump while we pan around a close up of a painting. The first scene is quite striking as well -- the audio of an auction of van Gough's sunflower painting is going on in the background while the brother's argue over Vincent's future. From the get-go you know you're going to have to cut this movie some slack with everyone's British accents. But Tim Roth (Vincent) has got that crazy glint in his eyes and makes it easy for you to give yourself over to him (despite those false teeth).

While less Altmanesque than some of his more well known movies, it still carries many of the signatures that set him films apart from the majority. Which makes me wonder why more young film makers haven't cribbed his style. The weight a good zoom or push into an actor during a scene, usually while someone else is speaking, is immense. His technique during a scene with Roth in a field of sunflowers is tremendous; sunflowers have never seemed so perfectly maddening. And the editing -- I love the way his movies are cut together, maybe more than anything else. It's what makes a movie like Vincent & Theo, a pretty standard bio-film, crackle with energy when in the hands of another, it might simply plod along hitting the requisite moments and rely on a good lead performance, costume, locations and art direction to keep it afloat. The score here too is particularly great dealing out menace and foreboding in good measure. Quite happy to finally see this one.

11 am -- Ok. All that coffee was a bad idea. Mixing it with all those meds has left my stomach in a bad state. Will try and come down off this perilous perch with the next film, Neil Jordan's The Good Thief.

A remake of Jean-Pierre Melville's Bob the Gambler, it's interesting to see it get translated from a slow burning meditative character study into a fast paced heist picture. Bob the Gambler was never my favorite Melville picture -- quite the opposite, in fact. It's good, but it lacks some of the pizazz of his other films. I enjoyed this remake quite a bit though. It cuts about an hour of the originals running time and turn in a cracker-jack heist plot.

Jordan is in a kind of Soderberg mode here, employing some fancy editing tricks and getting Nick Nolte to put his charming setting to 10 in the part of Bob. It's nice to see Tcheky Karyo used well here rather than the villain in some b-movie action flick. He plays Bob's cop pal torn between admiration and duty; the most faithful role to the original. It would have been cool to see Jordan score Soderberg himself in a role alongside the other directors he managed to get into the picture -- the Polish Bros. and Emir Kusturica (who we'll get around to discussing one of these days). It's a smart, classy, twist-filled heist flick pulled off with a lot of style and grace.

2:30 -- Needed a break for lunch and a little decompression. Read a few comics and took another pill. But it's time to keep moving. After some debate we're going to continue in order of the most time spent sitting in the DVR with Polanski's Knife in the Water.

If I remember correctly this was one the movies I missed in film school by skipping class one day. It's Roman Polanki's first feature film and an excellent example of how to do a lot with a little. What happens when a dysfunctional husband and wife invite a young naive stranger along on weekend boating trip? 90% of the film takes place on the small boat with three characters and we simply watch the tension build until it boils over.

Polanski deftly toys with the audience and builds suspense that never gets fully released. It's definitely more drama than thriller. Being a Polanski movie I was a bit surprised by how mild it is. It packs in a good amount of sexual tension but overall it's missing that Polanski perversity. But what the hell was I expecting from the guy's first feature? It's an amazing achievement that's concerned more with the male ego, aging relationships and subtle mind games than the murderous kind of games that were played out on a similar boat a couple years prior in Purple Noon.

Especially great are the cinematography and score. The black and white, deep, deep focus photography is striking. I don't think there's one image out of focus in the entire film. And Krysztof Komeda's jazzy score is cool, outta sight stuff, man. I dig this film.

Ok. That's about all I can handle for one day. I'll catch you cats and kittens tomorrow with Day 2 of Sean's DVR-O-RAMA.

Oh, one note -- at the end of my recording of Knife in the Water was the first five minutes of Milos Forman's The Loves of a Blonde and I now must see this movie ASA fuckin' P. Amazing.

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