“Will Once, the recently released Irish film, turn into this summer’s indie hit? It’s showing early promise. Starring Glen Hansard, the lead singer of Dublin’s the Frames rock band, as an Irish street singer and his sometime musical collaborator, Marketa Irglova, as a classically trained pianist who sells roses on the street, the film opened May 18 on just two screens, both in L.A., to an abnormally high $30,000-per-screen average. An unvarnished ode to musical discovery, Once expanded to 20 screens in 13 cities over the Memorial Day weekend, averaging $21,626 per screen.” — from Sheigh Crabtree‘s L.A.Times piece, which is actually more about the music.
Stanley Kubrick “always admitted he took too long to make Barry Lyndon,” former Kubrick assistant Leon Vitali tells The Reeler’s Jamie Stuart. “There was about a year of pre-production, a year-plus of shooting, then he took an awful long time to edit. And by the time it was ready to come out, I would say, the blockbuster action movies had become de rigeur. That was what the people really wanted to see. So when this film came out it was received as strange, slow, completely out of context to what was going on.
“And I think people were expecting something a little closer to A Clockwork Orange, which, of course had caused such a furor. It was living! A Clockwork Orange was playing for over a year in London. And Barry Lyndon was trashed by many critics, equally so in the UK. That really hurt Stanley a lot. He was very depressed about it. Very upset about it. He took it to heart.
“It took a long, long time really before…I can tell you exactly when it was… It was in the early ’90s. The BBC ran a series of his films on television. It was all the films from Lolita, Strangelove, 2001, Clockwork, Barry Lyndon, The Shining …The Radio Times, which is like a TV Guide, but more of a magazine, I suppose — they gave each film a critical breakdown. Well, they gave Barry Lyndon five stars, because they believed that was the true Odyssey film: you start with someone who’s lowdown; he travels all the way around Europe; gets himself into the upper-echelons of the British aristocracy; then there’s a slow decline back to where he came from. It’s a classic Odyssey story.
“They gave it five stars and all the other films got four stars, but perfect critiques. And they said if it hadn’t been for the fact that wBarry Lyndon was playing along with these other films, they would have given all those films five stars. I realized there’d been a real turning point, especially toward the end of Stanley’s life, where we were getting feedback from a lot of critics that suddenly said: ‘I’ve just seen Barry Lyndon again and I did not realize at the time what a wonderful film it was.’ They went so lyrical about it.”
I — not Stuart, not Vitali — have seen Barry Lyndon at least fifteen times. Possibly a bit more than that –I’ve lost count but who counts and who cares? It’s brilliant, mesmerizing, exquisite — a dry, note-perfect immersion into the climate and mores of William Makepeace Thackeray‘s novel, and, by its own terms, one of the most perfectly realized films ever made. But the problem — and this needs to be said (or re-said) with all this passionate but vaguely snobby Lyndon gushing going on — is that it turns sour at a very particular point. And, in my eyes, it is just a notch below great because of the dead zone section in the second half.
I’m speaking of the moment when Barry (Ryan O’Neal) blows pipe smoke into the face of his wife, Lady Lyndon (Marisa Berenson). Something happens at that moment, and from then on it’s “oh, odd…the energy is dropping, and I’m starting to enjoy this less.” For another 30 to 40 minutes (or what feels like that amount of time), Barry Lyndon gets slower and slower — it becomes more and more about stately compositions and dispassionate observation.
Then, finally, comes the duel with Lord Bullington (Vitale) and Barry gets his groove back. Then that perfect, dialogue-free scene with Lady Lyndon signing checks with Bullington and Reverent Runt at her side, and she signs the annual payment to her ex-husband. And finally, that perfect epilogue.
There’s one other draggy component that diminishes Barry Lyndon, and in fact makes the dead-zone portion even deader than it needs to be, and that’s Berenson’s performance. Even now, the mere thought of her glacial expression — there’s only one — in that film makes me tighten with irritation.
If anyone’s going to hire Lindsay Lohan after her latest drunken meltdown, she “might have to be more than sober,” reports the N.Y. Times‘ Sharon Waxman. “She would need perhaps to post her salary as bond, or pay for her own insurance, even on an independent film.” And what’s so terrible or unfair about that?
The bigger problem is that the supermarket-tabloid version of Lohan, as has been the case with so many others who’ve grappled with her disease, has almost totally eclipsed what little power or aura she had as an actress before this latest episode. (The quick death of Georgia Rules indicated her diminished popularity a few weeks back).
Waxman briefly mentions that Lohan’s various enablers and wink-winkers are perhaps a factor in her inability or unwillingness to fix the problem, but she fails to even mention the biggest enabler of all — Lohan’s manager-mom Dina. The latter’s defensive comments last August in response to criticism of her daughter’s wanton ways by Morgan Creek honcho James G. Robinson spoke volumes.
With spooky, half-shaped visions of Roman Polanski‘s Pompeii flashing in my head, Hollywood Elsewhere visited the actual Pompeii ruins yesterday. I’m very glad I went — this is the best-preserved ancient Roman city anywhere, covered as it was and frozen in time by tons of ash that spewed out of Mount Vesuvius on August 24, 79 AD. The problem is that I was too cheap to buy a map or go with a tour group, and by the end of our visit I’d come across only one lousy plaster-covered body.
The frescoes and the pottery and the precisely preserved apartments and villas are fascinating, but let’s be honest — if you come to Pompeii, you want to see how the citizens met their doom. You want freeze-frame death statues of people going “aaaah, this hurts!” And in this respect, Pompeii struck me as a faint ripoff. There should be bodies everywhere, in every house. Bodies of men, women, children, dogs, horses. Plus there were no chariots or carts. Or none that I came across.
On top of which the area just outside Pompeii’s ancient walls looks like a cross between Orlando Disney World and the border approach in Tijuana. Scores of ticky-tacky motels, gross souvenir shops, low-grade pizzerias and fruit stands. Jett found it disgraceful, saying that the commerce dishonors the dead.
I’d run a couple of photos but the laughing Mediterranean ISP that’s linked to the Positano internet cafe I’m sitting in is, for some reason, giving me “access denied” messages when I try to upload images to my server. I spent two hours with tech support trying to fix the problem, and it’s costing me 8 euros an hour.
If the casting rumors are true, Orlando Bloom will play an upstanding engineer named Marcus Attilius Primus in Roman Polanski‘s Pompeii, which will start shooting in August. The rumor mill is also saying that Scarlett Johansson may be cast as as Cornelia, the “defiant daughter of a vile real estate speculator who supplies Marcus with documents implicating her father in a water embezzlement scheme,” according to an Amazon synopsis.
How did Johansson become the dominant period actress of our time? She was right for her role and quite good in Match Point, playing an insecure 21st Century neurotic, but did anyone really believe her as a subservient Dutch maid in The Girl with the Pearl Earring? There’s something about her that’s almost molecularly 21st Century — something common and mall-ish in that vaguely teasing, mind-fucky manner of hers. I didn’t believe her in The Black Dahlia and The Prestige, both period films. And she’s up to more period The Other Boleyn Girl and Mary Queen of Scots.
I thought it had been widely agreed that Johansson hasn’t just been over-rated but is close to over. (Which doesn’t mean “dead” — only that it’s time for a serious career re-think.) Why is it that the internet community always seems to understand the the new modes of perception about this actress or that genre months faster than the filmmakers and the suits?
In honor of tomorrow’s opening of Judd Apatow‘s Knocked Up, here’s a re-run of that HE-vs.-Joe Leydon piece I wrote after seeing it 40 days ago. And that Seth Rogenis-the-new-John–Belushi piece. Doing so conveys as impression I’m linked up to the USA hubba-hubba, which, let’s face it, I’m not. Not in the laughing Mediterannean culture of sunny Italy, which is still living in the Bill Clinton internet era. It is easily the biggest and darkest black internet/wifi hole I’ve ever struggled with in my professional life.
L.A. Times columnist Patrick Goldstein takes a gander at the script for Peter Jackson‘s The Lovely Bones, and thereafter understands “why the film’s supporters see it as less of a brooding Little Children-style drama and more of a supernatural thriller, packed with creepy chills and a sense of wonder.”
It doesn’t matter. Even if it’s a dark adult drama about a 14-year-old girl who is brutally raped and murdered, which sounds nervy at the very least. If it’s a Peter Jackson film, I know I’m going to suffer one way or another. All of you Jackson haters out there know exactly what I’m talking about. He can’t and won’t go home again and revert into the filmmaker who made Heavenly Creatures. He’s become like Federico Fellini was in the late ’60s and ’70s (i.e., indulgence is everything!), and nothing is going to change that.
Goldstein then reads the untitled Michael Mann-Leonardo DiCaprio Hollywood period thriller that’s been having trouble getting financed, and concludes this is due to (a) it being too costly at a $120 million, plus the concern that Mann almost always goes over-budget, and (b) the film being “full of familiar Hollywood characters who’ve been portrayed endlessly, in altered form, in films over the years…for all its popularity among filmmakers, the inside-Hollywood movie genre has a limited commercial reach.”
As much as I love anything Mann does, I wasn’t all that thrilled when I first read the idea for thisfilm — DiCaprio as a private gumshoe in 1938 who falls in love with an actress he’s hired to watch/protect. Burnished period stuff has a built-in ceidling. But I’d love to see Mann and DiCaprio make theirversion of For Whom The Bell Tolls.
The Weinstein Company will distribute Woody Allen‘s Cassandra’s Dream, which “has been said to be in a darker vein, similar to Match Point,” according to one published report. Forget darker — it’s pitch black, this film. (I happened upon a massive third-act plot spoiler on the Cassandra’s Dream Wikipedia page.) The drama costars Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell as two brothers under financial pressure who fall for a femme fatale (Haley Atwell), who steers them into a criminal scheme.
Reader Dennis Costa feels this is “the epitome of the mash-up trailer trend…a downright inspired piece of comedy using Star Wars footage (specifically Vader scenes) with audio clips of other James Earl Jones movies…approaching genius-level…the first three and a half minutes could be the funniest thing I’ve ever seen,” etc. My 1998-level flat screen inside a cafe in Greve (south of Florence about 25 kilometers) doesn’t play video so I’m trusting Costa.
Because the $142 million earned by Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End over the Memorial Day weekend opening was the absolute biggest ever, that means that Movie Nation is delighted, Gore Verbinksi and Jerry Bruckheimer are crowned geniuses who are supremely in touch with the hoi polloi, and all the Pirates haters are curmudgeons who need top re-screw their heads on….is that it?
Two movies made about Mark David Chapman’‘s killing of John Lennon, and they both apparently have major problems and are both sitting around in theatrical-release limbo. Is there something about the material that enforces a kind of cinematic curse? I was told late last year by a director friend that J.P. Schaefer‘s Chapter 27, which showed at last January’s Sundance Film Festival with Jared Leto as Chapman and Lindsay Lohan as a girl he befriends in the days/hours leading up to the Manhattan shooting, had been edited and re-edited to little success. And then there’s Andrew Piddington‘s The Killing of John Lennon, a British-produced drama that’s played two or three film festivals since the summer of ’06 and…nothing.