Archive for Mark Isham

Significant Other in a Coma

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2019 by dcairns

I’d never gotten around to Jeremy Irons’ Oscar-winning turn in REVERSAL OF FORTUNE, but was finally spurred on by a few things. Viewing director Barbet Schroeder’s fascinating feature doc TERROR’S ADVOCATE led me to suspect the film might provide a more nuanced view of legal ethics than hitherto suspected, and recent appearances in the news by Alan Dershowitz, who is portrayed in the film, and Felicity Huffman, who acts in it, further sparked my curiosity.

Huffman’s appearance in the flick, giving a perfectly decent performance in vivid contrast to the sort of behaviour she’s been charged with, isn’t specially revealing. The representation of Dershowitz, now a bloviating Trump mouthpiece, is more intriguing. The seeds are present here.

Though a lot of the film’s interest comes from creepy touches like Sunny Von Bulow’s narration from her coma bed (beautifully performed by Glenn Close), Irons’ bravely accurate rendition of Claus Von B.’s distinctive and very weird mode of speech, and Ron Silver’s typically robust performance as Dershowitz, a good deal of the fascination now stems from the ambiguity in the way this figure is presented. Though Schroeder’s filming is a bit too dependent on the Steadicam for my liking, with shots floating about aimlessly when they could have been more tightly rendered with traditional tracks (perhaps the schedule was oppressively tight?), he does well with the story, characters and issues explored in Nicholas Kazan’s script.

In TERROR’S ADVOCATE, we hear the story of Jacques Vergès, a lawyer who started out defending, based on his political convictions, of various Algerian freedom fighter’s/terrorists, and follow his path from this to acting as legal advisor to a mindbogglingly array of war criminals, dictators and serial killers. The slow decay of the moral sense, or just a successful career progression?

ROF is very interesting on the ethical dilemmas a lawyer may face, and when the film uses the same arguments as THE PEOPLE VS LARRY FLYNT to show that every accused person deserves a good lawyer — “I may not like Claus Von Larry Flynt-Bulow, but etc” — it does so with more nuance, with the sense that this may be a slippery slope fraught with peril. Silver, looking like a sort of Groucho Einstein, plays Dershowitz with enough compassion to be compelling and enough beady-eyed critique to make us feel that this flawed and morally rather flexible figure could turn into the televisual apparition we now all know and regard with revulsion. For the lawyer who fights a monstrous system becoming a monster may be a professional hazard.

Nicest directorial touch, for me: standard-issue helicopter shot credits, but sailing over palatial residence after palatial residence, as Mark Isham’s score pours a kind of heartsick malaise over the top of it all.

REVERSAL OF FORTUNE stars the Marquise de Merteuil; Beverly & Elliot Mantle; Eugene Hunt; Angie Tucci; Frieda Maloney; Constance Bulworth; Lynette Scavo; and Elaine Dickinson.

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Hardcore Stenography

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2014 by dcairns

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So, INVESTIGATING SEX — I had a hard time getting to see this. I heard about it when it was new, ie before it failed to come out, from Emily Bruni, who plays the wife of Alan Cumming and the lover of Til Schweiger in it, and she spoke very warmly of writer/director Alan Rudolph, whom I love (usually). Not long after, I shared a car with Alan Cumming, but I didn’t get a chance to ask him much of anything as he was on the phone most of the time. He seemed nice, but very very busy.

Meanwhile, years passed, and the film never got a UK distributor (despite featuring Dermot Mulroney, Julie Delpy, Neve Campbell, Robin Tunney, Nick Nolte, Tuesday Weld…) and didn’t play any festivals near me.

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Finally I obtained a copy, which proved to be dubbed into Greek, then another copy in English and subtitled in Portuguese, and then the film turned up on YouTube in its entirety, and I quite simply failed to watch it.

But now I have, and it joins the pile of really good Rudolphs, funny and sweet and romantic and just a little strange. At the mansion of an eccentric millionaire (Nolte), a group of (initially all male) artists, writers, filmmakers gather to recount their observations and experiences of sex. It’s 1929, so dressing a couple of lady stenographers in sexy black uniforms and employing them as combination secretaries/muses seems cool. The known factors (Campbell, who never previously seemed able to act, and Tunney, whom I don’t recall well enough from THE CRAFT because that had Fairuza Balk in it) are excellent, but the film also has up-and-comers Terrence Howard and Til Schweiger and Jeremy Davies — and the aforementioned Bruni, whose face has all these unexpected swoops and arches, like a wondrous funhouse Fonda, and John Light, neither of whom has caught on as they should (though they both work regularly, which is the main thing). Both have the kind of faces that make you lean forward, and maybe even cock your head sideways sometimes, which I regard as a good thing.

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Funny how Rudolph’s ensembles — the main thing he shares with his mentor Mr. Altman, an exec producer here, is a desire to let the supporting players nose ahead of the leads — never really attracted a big audience. They’re always intriguing mixtures, like a great party you wish you could throw. Consider —

Kris Kristofferson, Genevieve Bujold, Keith Carradine, Lori Singer, Joe Morton, Divine…

Jennifer Jason Leigh, Campbell Scott, Matthew Broderick, Peter Gallagher, Wallace Shawn, Lili Taylor…

The film doesn’t have a Mark Isham score, normally an essential trait of any Rudolph joint, nor does it have songs per se, but Ulf Skogsbergh’s slightly eerie music — woven around the idea of the succubus that tantalises Mulroney’s character — is a standout. Why hasn’t he done anything else in movies? Google suggests he’s a photographer, unless there are two Ulfs.

Highlight: Nolte’s confession of a love affair with a donkey.

Retrospective, anyone? Or an Eclipse box set?

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