Archive for Moonrise Kingdom

Grand Hotel

Posted in FILM, literature, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2014 by dcairns

The Grand Budapest Hotel

My friend Stephen Murphy worked on the makeup for the aged Tilda!

To the 100-year-old Cameo Cinema to see THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL. They were also showing INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS. You wait ages for a movie with F. Murray Abraham in a roll-neck sweater and then two come along at once.

I liked MOONRISE KINGDOM more than any other Wes Anderson film (though I still haven’t caught up with BOTTLE ROCKET which some people like best of all, considering everything subsequent to be an ever-downward spiralling into bloodless mannerism, which is a point of view) and I liked FANTASTIC MR FOX before that more than everything before that, so there was evidence that he was on a roll. I didn’t like this one as much as those but I enjoyed it. There was a slightly uncomfortable quality though.

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The art direction and look are as finicky and perfectionist as ever — I don’t dislike that so that’s fine. And he does vary the screen ratio, the font and even the lens I think on this one (unless all those zooms are all CG fake, which is possible), so in a superficial way we have to say he’s progressing artistically. I’ll come to the more thematic progress in a moment.

More good stuff: Ralph (it’s pronounced “Ralph,” by the way) Fiennes is extremely funny and a little bit endearing, doing his Leonard Rossiter impersonation which he always does when asked to be light. No bad thing. I can’t decide if it IS an impression or if it’s just his natural comic mode. Weirdly, Peter Serafinowicz’s impersonation of Ralph Fiennes as Leonard Rossiter seems to predate IN BRUGES, the first film I saw in which he got his Rossiter on properly. Maybe he was inspired by it.
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The whole rest of the cast is very fine. It’s deliriously overdone, like everything with Anderson. Is this role a good use of, say, Harvey Keitel’s remaining time on earth? He mainly seems to have been employed to jiggle his pectorals. Couldn’t somebody who needs the money and exposure more be given a chance at that? But it was nice to see Jeff Goldblum, who doesn’t seem to do enough movies, and who should still be a top leading man, not some kind of guest star. Nobody else can do what he does.

This is really the first Wes Anderson film with proper villains, it seems to me. Adrien Brody is not really heavyweight enough compared to Willem Dafoe, who does all the nasty stuff anyway, so there’s a slight problem of dramatic priorities in terms of dealing with those characters and their evil schemes. The violence was startling for an Anderson film. Sure it’s cartoony but it leaps out at you in this flat, pastel, artificial world. I felt it was a problem that (a) Anderson concocts his own version of European history, with a Ruritanian central setting (which is fine in itself) menaced by a fictional version of Nazi Germany (which was fine for Chaplin in THE GREAT DICTATOR but doesn’t make such clear sense here) and (b) gives almost all the violence to some scheming aristocrats — in other words, Nazi Germany, present by proxy, has almost no role in the story. I didn’t get the sense that the personal perfidies of Brody and Dafoe were there to be compared to the encroaching political darkness, either in terms of “These minor villainies are insignificant compared to what’s coming” or “These minor villainies are a microcosm of what’s coming.” I felt Anderson was actually uncomfortable dealing with the politics at all. He’s said that the kind of politics he likes in films is the kind you get in DUNE — fictional factions whose movements add to the reality of the created world, rather than saying anything about this world or making any kind of point. I mean, there are NO politics in DUNE — there are good guys, bad guys, and different factions, but there is no sense that the Atreides clan, the Harkonnens or the Emperor desire any different kind of constitutional set-up. It’s similar in GBH.

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The natural comparison would be with Lubitsch and TO BE OR NOT TO BE. How do you stage a comic operetta narrative against a backdrop of fascism? The difference is, Lubitsch had a compelling reason to do it and he knew what the reason was, and he clearly thought deeply about all his choices. I mean, for all I know Anderson had reasons and thought deeply too, I just don’t see the evidence onscreen. I think the film falls short of that part of its ambition which is serious, which is why I don’t feel reminded of the work of Stefan Zweig.

One thing that was fun about MOONRISE KINGDOM was that it didn’t have any bad guys but still managed to function as a peculiar kind of action movie, making quite enthusiastic use of Bruce Willis as an icon of that genre. GBH has a chase through a museum seemingly inspired by the one in Hitchcock’s TORN CURTAIN (a lovely scene in a darkened hall full of suits of armour, each picked out of the enveloping blackness by its own personal spotlight, is the film’s most striking visual development — it doesn’t violate Anderson’s ironclad aesthetic, but it doesn’t look like anything else he’s done either) and a toboggan chase that comes either from ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (an influential film, these days) or THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS, though the figures’ movements in longshot have the speeded-up zaniness of FANTASTIC MR FOX.

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I would like another animated Wes Anderson film, please.

Moonrise Keaton

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on July 11, 2012 by dcairns

As I believe I mentioned, Fiona and I (and houseguest Chris) really dug MOONRISE KINGDOM. Which opinion is of no use to anybody else, of course, so I thought I’d talk about the Keaton connection, which might even be of interest to people who don’t like the film, or Wes Anderson, or even Keaton.

Chris reminded me that it was David Bordwell who, borrowing the term from Heinrich Wölfflin, used the term “planimetric” to describe Anderson’s trademark shot, perpendicular to a flat surface such as a wall, characters arranged along it in a clothesline formation. Earlier, Steven Soderbergh had labeled what he called the “Lester tableau” in Richard Lester’s films —

HELP! “Nice boys, and still the same as they was before they was…”

Symmetry isn’t so important (though in the masked ball of  THE THREE MUSKETEERS Lester basically invents the whole Peter Greenaway style) as the arraying of the elements across the screen, treating the screen AS a screen rather that trying to create an illusion of depth. And Lester’s biggest influence as a director is Buster Keaton.

ONE WEEK. Buster has the house turned slightly at an angle to show off its dilapidation, but he still has the front porch fencing horizontal, and it plays as a continuation of the utterly perpendicular fence running through the background. Ozu-esque!

One of MOONRISE KINGDOM’s minor pleasures is the way it uses the Bruce Willisness of Bruce Willis while at the same time diminishing him to human status, a small town cop trapped in an unhappy adulterous relationship, dismissed as dumb and sad even by children. Yet by the climax he’s doing DIE HARD stuff with ropes and dangling and high places and exploding buildings, and it’s delightful.

But that’s Keaton schtick too. So at the risk of spoilers if you haven’t seen MOONRISE KINGDOM (or any Keaton films), here are some elements that MK appropriates from the Keaton oeuvre —

A hurricane  — STEAMBOAT BILL JNR

that results in flooding — STEAMBOAT BILL JNR

A bursting dam — THE GENERAL (and OUR HOSPITALITY)

Dangling, tied from a rope, with another character dangling from one’s wrists — OUR HOSPITALITY

MOONRISE KINGDOM is very funny and sweet and I find no flaws to pick on in it. If there’s anything I can imagine enhancing Andersons’ work further it’d be a collaborator with an unusual talent for devising gag sequences (a rare thing today), so that the Keatonesque framing and low-key performances could be augmented by Keatonesque gags which build upon on another. The last filmmakers with a real gift for that seem to me to be Lester and Tati, but I will accept other nominations from Shadowplayers

Japan Day

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 2, 2012 by dcairns

The Edinburgh International Film Festival is over for another year. I may attempt some kind of summary later in the week. I had a ball. For now, though, I’m going to flashback to a week ago. Our friend Chris Bourton arrived from Reading last Monday and we all piled into the tiny Cameo 3 to catch MOONRISE KINGDOM before it disappeared, afterwards proclaiming it Wes Anderson’s best film to date.

Then it was off to the Film Festival for me and Chris, while Fiona caught up with her buddy Jonathan Romney. By chance, the best stuff on offer which could be slotted together into a schedule seemed to be all Japanese. In the end, ISN’T ANYONE STILL ALIVE? by Gakuryu Ishii (who, under his original name of Sogo Ishii, made the brilliant satire CRAZY FAMILY and the hyperkinetic lunacy of ELECTRIC DRAGON 80,ooo V) was too much like a teen soap opera so we skipped out early, but we got a lot of pleasure from Shinji Somai’s final film, KAZA-HANA, and Shin’ya Tsukamoto’s latest, KOTOKO.

In the Somai film, a disgraced, alcoholic bureaucrat and a desperate bar hostess take off together for Hokkaido, northern Japan, to  commit suicide in the snow. If TYPHOON CLUB is Somai’s BREAKFAST CLUB (and it is, but crossed with King Lear — everybody goes mad in a thunderstorm) then I guess this is his PLANES TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES, a road movie in which a couple come together emotionally after a lot of conflict. (He never made an UNCLE BUCK.) But really it’s more like Mitchell Leisen and Preston Sturges’ REMEMBER THE NIGHT. As with other Somai films, it moves from naturalism to elemental, mythic moments of transcendence, by way of spectacular long takes.

There’s also a striking use of flashbacks, as the heroine’s life story is told backwards in a series of vignettes dropped into the forward-moving road trip narrative — as each earlier memory is happier than the one before, this has a quietly devastating effect, and Kyoko Koizumi is a powerfully sympathetic player. Leading man Tadanobu Asano (seen recently in THOR and BATTLESHIP) has a less appealing role, but is effective with his slick Alain Delon looks, which becomes more appealing when he’s rumpled and ruffled.

KOTOKO, the latest from the maker of TETSUO and TOKYO FIST continues Tsukamoto’s obsession with couples transforming their relationship by transforming their bodies through violence, but that’s really a sidebar to the main event, a mental breakdown drama with elements of REPULSION. A new emotional maturity and depth jostles against upsetting scenes of baby endangerment — the movie can be hard to take, and if you’re a recent parent, I’d kind of recommend avoiding it. I’m a hard bastard, though, so I mainly enjoyed the thing. Lead actress Cocco, a singer who also co-wrote and designed the film (leaving the multitasking Tsukamoto in charge of cinematography, production, direction, editing and co-starring), is extremely impressive, wrenching out a performance which is effective, audacious, intense, sometimes embarrassing and often rather cunning

The movie may not altogether hang together, but it does continue Tsukamoto’s evolution from physical to psychological horror — both are strongly present here, giving the film the grotesque fascination of a bug halfway out of its larva.