Archive for The Lighthouse

Block and Tackle

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 14, 2020 by dcairns

Other directors had tackled the work of Lawrence Block before A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES, but it hadn’t gone well. Hal Ashby was shut out of the edit on 8 MILLION WAYS TO DIE, and Nic Roeg was fired after five days on NIGHTMARE HONEYMOON. Block also served as screenwriter for Wong Kar-Wei on MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS, which I haven’t seen.

AWATT was also a bit jinxed, since Harrison Ford bailed on it (too violent, perhaps) and it collapsed. When it sprang to life again, screenwriter Scott Frank was in charge and Liam Neeson was the lead, and the result is very violent indeed. It also fits snuggly into that rather unproductive and creepy subgenre Neeson seems now irrevocably associated with, the female kidnap drama where Neeson says bad-ass things into a phone in a husky voice.

We watched this purely because the writer-director’s two Netflix miniseries, Godless and The Queen’s Gambit, are absolutely sensational. You’ve probably sought out the latter if you have Netflix, but go after the former too. Both are much better than AWATT, which is a decent thriller. The banter and relationship between Neeson and Astro (yes, that’s his name), defrocked cop and homeless kid, is really good. There’s what they call “strong support” from Dan Stevens (Frank seems to get half his casts from Downton Abbey) and Boyd Holbrook, and a good turn from Ólafur Darri Ólafsson.

It just doesn’t seem to add up to more than a really horrible situation that gets resolved with a substantial body count. What have we learned? I mean, I don’t require a message. But maybe the problem is that Neeson’s character, Scudder, is the star of a whole series of books, so he’s a bit unchanging. At any rate, at the end of this one he seems substantially the same lumpen brute as at the start. There’s a sense in which, if Stevens’ character were the protagonist, the stakes would escalate markedly.

Very snazzy cinematic use of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 steps, though.

Scott Frank is a big fan of seventies US films like DOG DAY AFTERNOON. He just doesn’t want to ever take things that far, it seems. As he himself puts it, he’s “always looking for a safe place to land.” But he’s a huge talent and The Queen’s Gambit is still the best new thing I’ve seen this year apart from THE LIGHTHOUSE.

A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES stars Oskar Schindler; Hellboy; Gatz Brown; Pierce; David Haller; Alma Wheatley; Calvin Walker; Ragnar the Rock; Hiram Lodge; Jesse Edwards; and Ptonomy Wallace.

Tower of Terror

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on February 15, 2020 by dcairns

Three recent things we saw — JOJO RABBIT, PARASITE, THE LIGHTHOUSE.

The first two are about people hiding in your house. The third isn’t. Unless they were very well hidden.

JOJO is very well done — on its own terms, close to perfect. I’m not sure if I accept those terms or not, though. But the kids are really good, aren’t they? The round kind who can’t do a German accent, he’s FANTASTIC. And Johanssen is great.

The most noticeable weak point storywise is Jojo suddenly turning detective and locating a secret panel just because he heard a noise. It’s weird they couldn’t devote more attention to that nailing the logic of that key moment.

It’s not a film that worries about setting things up in advance — apart from the shoes and shoelaces business which they make sure to hit hard and often, and then they certainly reap the dramatic rewards. It’s surprising that they wouldn’t plant a single clue before the big reveal of the hider in the house.

I can’t quite decide if the film is a problematically inadequate response to its subject, the way that most of us seem to feel LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL was. I haven’t put my finger on the one thing that would clinch that. In the Benigni film, it’s the idea of a father being able to pretend to his son that a concentration camp is a holiday camp. To suggest that’s possible requires us to adopt the view that life in Belsen wasn’t that bad, that the awfulness was deniable. I can’t get on with the idea of THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS either. Any child is going to know when something that terrible is facing them.

But, as I say, I don’t have a clear sense of where Waititi’s film may have put a foot wrong. Although I wasn’t as moved as I expected or as amused as I expected, and I did feel a tension that the film at any moment might do something unforgivable. But, for me, it just made it to the far end of its tightrope.

PARASITE really is close to perfect, and took almost equal risks, and seemed to me to achieve more. It was genuinely thought-provoking. It was beautifully worked out — the end of the first movement of the story, as the family of impostors infiltrates the house, was a crux, because Bong needed to do something new, unsurprising, and equally brilliant, to carry the film into its second act, and it really looked as if he hadn’t prepared anything.

He had, though.

THE LIGHTHOUSE is just extraordinary. Not a lot going on with the story, perhaps, though it makes ambiguity interesting again. There is gaslighting, which makes it somewhat topical.

Mainly, though, it’s the way each shot, undergirded by the sound design, is not only staggeringly beautiful but POWERFUL in a way that always seems exactly right. We were impressed by THE WITCH, though I’d resisted seeing it for a while because I’m broadly pro-witch and I didn’t like the idea of the film taking a witchfinder’s attitude. It doesn’t exactly do that, though — again, ambiguity is everywhere.

Eggers is a major talent. Can’t wait to see what he does next.