Thursday, January 27, 2011


It goes like this: little Nina (Natalie Portman) is a ballet dancer who is up for the role of the Swan in a production of Swan Lake, and her Svengali-ish choreographer/impresario tells her that her dancing is technically perfect but emotionally frigid. This sends Nina very predictably over the edge, and anyone who has ever attended the movies at any time in the last 50 years should be able to see what comes next. Aronofsky & Co. try to shoehorn in some stuff about Nina being a perfectionist and there are vague hints about anorexia and self-mutilation, but Nina's real problem is quite simply that she's batshit fucking crazy. The movie tips its hand very early as to where it is headed, when Nina, while washing her hands, finds that flesh is peeling off her fingers, only to then realize that it was All In Her Mind.  The whole godforsaken movie falls into place after that, and I had to sit there and listen to the gasps of folks who were actually surprised at the little plot twists that any sentient third grader should have seen coming (GASP! THERE'S NO DEAD BODY IN THE BATHROOM!!!!!!). 

The movie aims for a high seriousness (and borrowed High Art Cred with the World O'Ballet setting) that it misses by miles, finally devolving into a flashy but cheap little horror flick for Lincoln Center donors who don't get out to the movies much, with lots of Flashy Editing and Special Effects for the easily impressed. At least we're spared the overt moralizing of Scorsese's SHUTTER ISLAND, with its Dachau flashbacks and prattling about morality, but Aronofsky's film collapses under its own solemnity just as completely as Scorsese's does. It comes off, ultimately, like Aronofsky found an abandoned Tracey Ullman sketch, didn't realize it was a comedy, and brought it to the screen as high tragedy.

Don't be fooled. BLACK SWAN is bogus crap from start to finish. But at least it is made with some energy, as opposed to--

There's not a lot to say about the Coen Brothers' latest opus, because I just found it a bore. Very prettily shot by Roger Deakins, lots of things that they couldn't apparently do in the 1960s like graphic gunshot violence and some silly computer-generated rattlesnakes, and all that. I was bored senseless. No tension, not even the barest basic interest. An utter waste of time, resources and actors. Even the usually reliable Carter Burwell phones it in this time: his score consists of the hymn "Leaning On The Everlasting Arms" played and played and played and fucking played again. And of course it has gotten the usual raves and award nominations, the Coens having evidently inherited Clint Eastwood's cache of Blackmailable Material on American Film Critics & Oscar Voters.

Now we're talking. Claude Lanzmann's 1985 film SHOAH, all 9 1/2 hours of it, shown in a brand new 35mm print, and I did the whole thing in one day and was just blown away. A film about the Holocaust, which contains no historic footage or recreations, depending entirely on Lanzmann's interviews with survivors and others involved with the camps and the workings of the Holocaust itself. Astonishing, and heart-rending. I can't blame anyone for being scared off by the extreme length, and I'll cop to finding some of the interviews rather, shall we say, prolonged, but the film has a cumulative impact that is like nothing you'll ever see.

The film is more than just a batch of tear-jerking accounts of the daily horror. The film includes illuminating interviews with an American historian who gleans remarkable and revealing information from a simple train schedule, for example. One other sequence is among the most chilling moments in any film, play, or work of narrative art I've yet experienced: over footage of a truck driving through industrial areas, Lanzmann plays a simple voiceover reading a letter from a local German officer detailing the success of the local extermination programs, and giving some specifications needed for modifications for certain specific equipment and transport vehicles. The blandness of the language doesn't disguise the fact that he's talking about how large moving vans used to gas Jews need to be modified because the resulting corpses tend to congregate near the rear exit of the van, thus throwing the van off balance and making driving difficult. As the letter ends, the onscreen truck is shown to be manufactured by the very company that manufactured the killing vans in the letter, and is finally shown driving past the still thriving factory.

A brand new restored print of Visconti's early 60s epic of family and history in a changing 19th Century Italy. This is at least the third version of this film that has been released in the last 20-odd years, and I'd always missed it, mostly because I have a severe allergy to Burt Lancaster's acting. What a fool I was. This new print is a marvel, as is the film itself. A big juicy delicious inter-generational saga, with politics, civil war, religion, hypocrisy, intrigue, love, lust, betrayal, the whole passion-desire-bloodshed-and-death kitchen sink, and miraculously it manages to keep its head, never getting too serious or too silly. Burt Lancaster, in his finest performance, plays the patriarch of a more than usually distinguished Italian aristocratic family, who is doing what he can to ensure his family's future endurance in changing times, while dealing with his own hot-blooded desires. Alain Delon plays Lancaster's charming nephew, and Claudia Cardinale lights up the screen as the lusty daughter of a local politician who you just know is going to be causing trouble as the film progresses. The film's main astonishment is a 45 minute ball sequence where the entire film comes together, everything is dealt with and summed up and I dare you not to be moved and impressed. If all great films were this entertaining...


Alex DeLarge said...

"Write" on! I was moved by THE WRESTLER but thought BLACK SWAN a redundant and superficial failure. I wanted to like it but I actually laughed out loud at one particular SPFX which took my out of the story for good. Portman's character was so cold and one-dimensional that I never really cared what happened to her. One scene was very funny: when Portman begins to masterbate and rolls over and her mother is asleep in the chair.

I just re-watched THE LEOPARD on Criterion's new blu-ray and what a film!

I have been lazy with my writing recently but hope to publish more this year. I always check your blog so keep up the great work.

Clerk Chakrit said...

Follow me please.

Anonymous said...

Your critics suck. Hating every movie does not make you cool, it just shows that you are a whining hipster. Seriously, it's because of people like you that critics have a really bad image.

Anonymous said...

You are such a boring writer... Jesus Christ you love yourself.

ninest123 said...

oakley sunglasses, louboutin outlet, jordan shoes, nike free, prada outlet, tiffany and co, gucci outlet, prada handbags, nike air max, louis vuitton, louboutin pas cher, cheap oakley sunglasses, longchamp outlet, louis vuitton outlet, ugg boots, replica watches, ray ban sunglasses, oakley sunglasses, michael kors, uggs on sale, chanel handbags, longchamp pas cher, louis vuitton, longchamp, ray ban sunglasses, nike air max, replica watches, longchamp outlet, nike outlet, sac longchamp, nike roshe run, polo ralph lauren outlet, kate spade outlet, tiffany jewelry, christian louboutin outlet, oakley sunglasses, ugg boots, polo ralph lauren outlet, air jordan pas cher, air max, ray ban sunglasses, ralph lauren pas cher, louboutin, louis vuitton outlet, louboutin shoes, oakley sunglasses, tory burch outlet, nike free, louis vuitton, burberry

ninest123 said...

ralph lauren uk, timberland, abercrombie and fitch, ugg boots, michael kors, vanessa bruno, michael kors, ray ban uk, lululemon, air force, replica handbags, ray ban pas cher, michael kors outlet, nike free run uk, coach purses, mulberry, ugg boots, coach outlet, tn pas cher, michael kors, new balance pas cher, nike roshe, true religion jeans, nike air max, north face, burberry outlet online, lacoste pas cher, michael kors outlet, burberry, nike air max, coach outlet, true religion jeans, kate spade handbags, michael kors outlet, nike blazer, true religion outlet, nike air max, michael kors outlet, hollister, converse pas cher, vans pas cher, hermes, north face, michael kors, oakley pas cher, michael kors outlet, hogan, true religion jeans, hollister pas cher, sac guess

ninest123 said...

nike huarache, soccer shoes, valentino shoes, iphone 6s cases, ferragamo shoes, insanity workout, iphone 5s cases, iphone 6 plus cases, mont blanc, giuseppe zanotti, north face outlet, p90x workout, herve leger, hollister, louboutin, hollister, nike air max, iphone 6 cases, longchamp, asics running shoes, vans shoes, lululemon, nike trainers, bottega veneta, soccer jerseys, nfl jerseys, ghd, oakley, north face outlet, babyliss, iphone 6s plus cases, new balance, jimmy choo shoes, timberland boots, birkin bag, abercrombie and fitch, celine handbags, reebok shoes, hollister, s5 cases, mcm handbags, iphone cases, instyler, beats by dre, wedding dresses, baseball bats, nike air max, mac cosmetics, ralph lauren, ipad cases, chi flat iron, nike roshe

ninest123 said...

ugg,ugg australia,ugg italia, pandora charms, ugg,uggs,uggs canada, converse outlet, hollister, barbour jackets, moncler, gucci, moncler, canada goose uk, wedding dresses, moncler, moncler outlet, converse, links of london, marc jacobs, swarovski crystal, canada goose, pandora jewelry, juicy couture outlet, ugg boots uk, barbour, ray ban, replica watches, toms shoes, louis vuitton, pandora jewelry, canada goose outlet, louis vuitton, vans, canada goose, canada goose, moncler, karen millen, montre pas cher, thomas sabo, bottes ugg, ugg pas cher, sac louis vuitton pas cher, louis vuitton, doudoune canada goose, swarovski, lancel, moncler, moncler, pandora charms, supra shoes, canada goose, juicy couture outlet, moncler, canada goose outlet, louis vuitton, coach outlet