Titular

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“No, wait, we made that,” says Tony Randall at the start of WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER? as he realizes that the film he’s introducing cannot possibly be called THE GIRL CAN’T HELP IT. And he’s right, of course. Because why would you make a film that was already made?

I know there are possible reasons or excuses. Maybe it was OK for Vincent Ward to make THE NAVIGATOR after Buster Keaton had already made THE NAVIGATOR, since even though that film is one of Keaton’s best, it’s not his best-known. But it was surely goofy of John Boorman to make THE GENERAL, under that title, since Keaton’s GENERAL regularly makes top ten lists. And indeed, you never hear about that Boorman film nowadays. Perhaps the only reason Ward’s film isn’t completely forgotten is that everything he’s done since has sucked so very, very hard.

Night Moves

And so to Kelly Reichardt’s NIGHT MOVES, which is excellent — saw it in Rotterdam — but did it need to be called that? Arthur Penn’s NIGHT MOVES isn’t going away. In Reichardt’s film, the title is the name of a boat. Now, the boat didn’t have to be called that. In fact, Dakota Fanning actually lists a whole bunch of alternative boat names, although admittedly one of them, Gone With The Wind, might also have caused problems.

Still, quibbling aside, this is an excellent film. Fanning plays an aspirant eco-terrorist intent on blowing up an unpopular dam with the help of Peter Sarsgaard (a blithe bullshitter in the tradition of Bruce Greenwood in MEEK’S CUTOFF) and Jesse Eisenberg (wrapped too tight for Oregon). Fanning is touching, Eisenberg confirms his reputation as American cinema’s leading depressive, folding up into himself as the story unravels, like a man with ouroboros of the soul.

Reichardt and screenwriter Jonathan Raymond do the most amazing endings — usually bleak or at least potentially bleak, mysterious, uncertain, troubling. This one, laid in a sporting goods store, is the most inexplicably distressing retail experience since Anne Bancroft’s Harrods breakdown in THE PUMPKIN EATER.

Meek’s Cutoff [DVD] [2010]
Wendy And Lucy [DVD] [2008]
Old Joy [2006] [DVD]

12 Responses to “Titular”

  1. If Hitchcock can make a The Secret Agent that isn’t an adaptation of The Secret Agent, and a Sabotage that is, and then a Saboteur that isn’t, AND two The Man Who Knew Too Muches then – WHY ARE THERE ARE NO RULES?!

  2. Plus Babette Mangolte’s What Maisie Knew is markedly different from McGehee and Siegel’s What Maisie Knew

  3. Do we allow L’Appartement after The Apartment? L’Amour L’Apres-Midi after Love in the Afternoon? One thing is for sure, I don’t allow the remake of Sabrina.

    Filmmakers can do whatever they like with their own films and titles — as long as the original release version remains available.

  4. David Boxwell Says:

    Dwan, Godard, de Palma: I love ’em all, especially when I am “wearing” Elizabeth Taylor’s PASSION perfume.

  5. The other thing I deplore is movies referencing other movies’ titles. Documentaries are espcially bad at this. I don’t mean like Spellbound, which just expects us not to know the title was used before, but docs that coyly serve up a slightly altered but familiar title. It suggests to me that documentarists still don’t take themselves seriously as filmmakers. The only other genre where this is rife is porn.

  6. eg. Shaving Ryan’s Privates

  7. I really hated MEEK’S CUTOFF, which I found grimly sophomoric (or was it sophomorically grim?), but I liked WENDY AND LUCY (and liked the look of MEEK’S CUTOFF) enough that I’m still really looking forward to NIGHT MOVES. Although now I kind of wish it *had* been called GONE WITH THE WIND. Maybe GONE WITH THE NIGHT MOVES? Didn’t know that Eisenberg was in it.

  8. I thought MC’s ambiguity stopped it falling into the more obvious traps (“noble savage” being one). I think this one is more mysterious still. I wasn’t 100% sure about where it chose to go, but the last scene is very strong. And the touches of nour style are intriguing — I would kind of love it if Reichardt made a full-on noir.

  9. I thought MC’s “ambiguity” — more of a radical unknowability, really — also led it *into* traps — the Indian as Unknowable Other being one. But I did like the way Reichardt filmed the Oregon landscape in a contrarian fashion that suggested something claustrophobic and enclosing.

    WENDY AND LUCY has some noirish aspects as well, so I could see her pulling that off, except that she seems to be allergic to genre. I suppose she could do an anti-noir of some kind, where we never find out who the murderer was, because we *can’t* know, man. It’s existential like that.

  10. He’ll be knowable just as soon as we get over that next hill!

    A noir without a solution would be the most noir of all.

  11. Finally saw NIGHT MOVES, and I agree about the ending, which was full of completely enigmatic menace. It felt perfect, but I couldn’t tell you why.

  12. The best kind of screen poetry is when you couldn’t ever rephrase it.

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