Movie Reviews: “Leviathan” and “The Judge”  From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

The cold, watery landscapes are reminiscent of Lisandro Alonso’s “Liverpool.” A story  slowly emerges as three characters in a house near a lake, backed by mountain ranges, dress, eat, and discuss.  A man and a woman in the foreground, prepare to leave the house while another man, in the back, near the door, puts on his boots.  No actor is idle; each earns a place in the composition. The acting and landscapes are sublime, but the story becomes the primary focus as we learn that the municipality is robbing the man of his property, in exchange for one sixth of its value.

Stories of corrupt governments are so common that we ask ourselves why we should care.  Isn’t “Leviathan” just another story about the struggle of a common man to find justice in a world without human rights?  Does the skeleton of a beached whale have any practical significance?  Is the quotation from The Book of Job really applicable to this man who will never live to an ancient age surrounded by plentiful sons and livestock? Are stunning landscapes and performances enough to make a twice told tale worth telling again?

I thought not, until I watched a picture wholly without merit.   “The Judge” is the lowest of the low, a ridiculous entertainment that spreads the manure on so thick that you will choke from sulfur poisoning. The landscapes are digitally manipulated by a board of imbeciles who decide what shade of green to make the trees. The actors are chosen for their real-life defiencies, then cranked up with self-confidence and set loose before the cameras, instructed to ignore the behavior of those actors inhabiting the same composition. As this nonsense rambles on, the complications in the preposterous script escalate beyond the stomach’s ability to stomach them.  Until finally, the director scrambles about to find a lost hat, when he should be looking for a final shot.

“The Judge” reminded me that we should treasure movies like “Leviathan.”  Even if it seems we have been told some variation of its story several times, the intelligence and artistry behind its creation give us a reason to believe that movies are still a potential art form, and a hundred years of world cinema haven’t wound up in the toilet.

And something more.  We read in the papers that Argentina’s federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman has been shot dead in his home on the day before he was scheduled to present evidence in court that the country’s president, Christina Fernandez (may her name live in infamy) was involved in covering up Iran’s role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in which 85 people were murdered.  Perhaps the story told in “Leviathan” is not so marginal after all.

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