The Cinema Penitentiary Diaries – July 1 – 6

1.Don Juan de Marco I believed Johnny Depp was Don Juan de Marco, but a lot of other people didn’t.  They believed he was Jack Sparrow. So who is delusional?  Everybody.

  1. Le Pont du Nord Twenty years after Godard lowered the standards for narrative film-making with “Breathless,” Jacques Rivette makes an even more careless film with Paris as its only attraction.
  1. Terminator Genisys When machines beat the crap out of each other for two hours, the rating is PG13 because there is no bloodshed.
  1. Titanic Following his ” top of the world” speech at the Oscars, I joined in the general backlash against James Cameron, but after a recent revisiting of “The Abyss,” I am thinking he may have been the last of the great action directors. It also occurred to me that “Titanic” might have been a lot more than the romantic juvenilia most people took it for.  Instead, the film seemed a dark, nihilistic companion piece to the optimistic  “The Abyss,” in which the working class revolted against the power  elite of the military to save the world from nuclear destruction. In “Titanic,” there is no redemption, not in life or even in  love. The unbending rules of class and privilege have doomed  us all,  even the survivors. The bleak, hopeless apocalypse  brought on by a refusal to acknowledge and correct the errors of history swallows both the over-valued rich and the under-valued poor alike.  Days and Nights This most wretched adaptation of Chekhov’s “The Seagull” claims only to have been inspired by the play, but if this is the fruit of inspiration, then inspiration be damned.   Omar Khayyam William Dieterle directs this low budget fantasia on the life of Persia’s greatest poet and mathematician  as if it were a Shakespeare play. It is rare to see such care and respect given a property that would be judged a common display of cheap swordplay.  But even such swordplay is played far above the level of movie shenanigans, with a physical skill usually seen on the stage in the fifth act of Hamlet.  And the opening scene plays like an Eastern variation on King Lear. I’m not suggesting the content of the film be falsely elevated to such a level, but Dieterle’s direction is already there of its own accord.
  1. Spy A comedy either makes you laugh or it doesn’t. There is no pretending  it is any good if it doesn’t make you laugh.  You can sleep through a Godard movie and still call it a masterpiece.  You can scream your head off at a horror movie and walk out of the theater complaining that it was crap.  But there is no faking your way through a comedy.   If it makes you laugh, it is a good comedy.  And just about everything about “Spy” made me laugh. The Spy of the title is a fat girl who  works for the CIA as a  computer whizz who is given the opportunity to prove herself in the field.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find out the script was written by a “Criminal Minds” fan who wanted to cut Garcia loose from her limitations  and give free vent to her fantasies.  Since surprise is a major  factor in whether or not a comedy makes you laugh, I will say no more.
  1. What Maisie Knew and Timbuktu are two movies that betray their downbeat subject matter with the entertainment factor. The Henry James novel about a couple who use their young daughter as a vehicle through which to express their hatred for each other has been given a feel-good gloss that makes these despicable parents come off as merely self-centered professionals who sometimes get mixed up about where the responsibility falls in the confusion of joint custody. The tales of injustice surrounding the takeover of a small village by Islamic jihadists are small potatoes compared to the casual genocide that is routine under such conditions.  While we do get a feel for what it might be like to live under Jihad rule, the murder, rape , torture, kidnapping  and thievery  propagated by these hoodlums is minimized by slight example.  In the main plot,  a man is executed for a murder he did in fact commit, so his judges cannot be see entirely at fault, and some of the cruelest behavior is in response to the refusal to comply with new laws that are almost comically unjust, such as the command for women to always wear gloves and socks, and the banning of playing music in rooms.  We enjoy these tales as we enjoys the fables of the Arabian Nights, when we should be revolted by such savagery in modern times. Both movies  soften the hard, cold truth of their circumstances in order to be palatable as entertainment, and this is where the movies nearly always fall short.  Whether it is a literary adaptation, a documentary, or a  tale inspired by true events, movies are coated with so much icing that their sweetness becomes a poison in itself.

2 thoughts on “The Cinema Penitentiary Diaries – July 1 – 6

  1. I’m glad you liked Spy. I laughed my ass off. Maybe because I’m dying for Spectre, and to see the sexy cast get knocked around by a at woman is dark humor right up my alley. I have no issues with Cameron. I like all his stuff.


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