As I suspected it would be, Andrey Zvyagintsev‘s Loveless is a chilly, anguished and entirely brilliant film. Sad but so good. Every shot, every frame, every line is dead cold honest — it deals straight cards without a smidgen of bullshit. Plus it’s beautiful to look at and exquisitely performed. It’s a story about a marriage gone bad — a moribund mismatch, utterly ruined — and a 12 year-old boy, the emotionally aloof son of this mournful couple, gone missing. But like Leviathan, Loveless is about much more than just the tale.
It deals in specifics (certainly in terms of finely-drawn character and investigative logistics when it comes to searching for the boy) but it delivers a rich, reflective look at everything and everyone under the gray Russian skies. It’s about the whole undertow of Russian life right now, or more specifically five years ago as it takes place in 2012 — a capturing of things not right and depleted, of self-absorption and a lack of wholeness and fulfillment, a case of bitterness and uncertainty and a general sense of downswirl, the whole current of a culture no longer thriving with spirit and tradition and togetherness but starting to fray from a lack of these things.
If Leviathan was about Russian corruption from the top down and a populace drowning in hopelessness and vodka, Loveless is about spiritual attrition through vanity, selfishness, manipulation and too many ambivalent, disloyal people seething and shouting and staring at smartphone screens. Or into the abyss.
For me, Loveless is somber and dazzling at the same time. By no means a feel-good thing but definitely a movie that you’ll believe and trust in every way imaginable, and in that sense it’s the kind of immersive experience that you can’t help but feel nurtured by and delighted with. I was 100% engaged and enthralled. Hell, I was spellbound.
Zyagintsev is a major-league, genius-level hombre, no question, and this movie is another serving of that recipe, that stew, that vibe that makes you lean forward in your seat and just go “wow, I need to see this again as soon as possible.” Is that “entertainment”? For me it is. Will the megaplexers have the same reaction? Of course not. They’re too dull and stupid to get a movie like this, but if you have even a shred of longing for the rock-solid elements that Zvyagintsev’s Loveless, Leviathan and Elena provide, it’ll fill you up like a big juicy steak.
Battle of The Sexes (Fox Searchlight, 9.22) will obviously be a hit. With Emma Stone having won a Best Actress Oscar for her La La Land performance three months ago, Steve Carell, who is totally on fire as Bobby Riggs, is going to get most of the award-season action. Cheers to co-directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton (who delivered Little Miss Sunshine) for lucking into good material plus the right people to work with. The story boils down to (a) obnoxious if indefatigable asshole gets his comeuppance and (b) a gay, closeted tennis player has to cope with a huge professional challenge while sorting out emotional matters with her lover (Andrea Riseborough) and male husband (Austin Stowell). Costarring Sarah Silverman, Bill Pullman, Alan Cumming and Elisabeth Shue.
“Just saw the Despleschin,” I wrote a friend early this afternoon. “Indulgent, too long, at times overheated, generally undisciplined, taxes the patience, no tension to speak of and all over the place. In a word, minor.”
It’s called Ismael’s Ghosts (aka Les Fantomes d’Ismael), and I can’t imagine it’ll make the slightest dent in the U.S., even among admirers of the kind of talky, drifting, oh-so-French films that over-40 urbans used to pay to see at urban arthouses on slow Sunday evenings. Back before streaming lessened their interest in seeing them in theatres.
The story (which is a kind of free-associating fantasia) concerns an impulsive, immature film director (Mathieu Amalric…frequently shouting, slurping alcohol, smoking cigarettes and doing his bug-eyed, intense man-child routine) whose imagination heats up and starts to merge with reality when an ex (Marion Cotillard) returns after a long absence, and thereby stirs up a hornet’s nest of emotions. Charlotte Gainsbourg plays Almaric’s wife, often with a quizzical expression. Louis Garrel plays some kind of handicapped…you know what? Forget it. I don’t care to explain who he plays. All I could think during his scenes was “wow, I hope he’ll be better as Jean-Luc Godard.”
The stand-out scene, or at least the one that many critics have mentioned, comes when Cotillard dances to Bob Dylan‘s “It Ain’t Me, Babe.” I was reminded, of course, of Ralph Fiennes dancing in a similar fashion to the Rolling Stones‘ “Emotional Rescue” in Luca Guadagnino‘s A Bigger Splash. Fiennes totally nailed it; Cotillard is okay.
A 20something guy sat next to me during yesterday’s train trip from Gare de Lyon to Cannes. About 90 minutes after departure he got up and went to the food car, an all-metal enclosure on the upper deck, mostly serving McDonald’s-like eats and drinks. But instead of wolfing his food up there, the guy brought it back to our first-class haven. Right away the smell of microwaved cheese, pickles and burger meat filled the air. And then he opened the wrappers and it was even worse. I gave this asshole two or three stink-eye glances, just to let him know he was behaving like an animal. It would be one thing if he returned with an apple or a cappuccino or a cold sandwich, but subjecting travellers to toxic fast food fumes is only a step away from cutting a series of elephant farts. On top of which the guy darted outdoors every time we stopped at a big city (Lyon, Marseilles, Toulon) to smoke a cigarette, and when he returned the putrid aroma of nicotine and cheap tobacco was nearly as bad as the cheeseburger. Did it occur to this guy that that his fratboy manners were a problem? Naaah. One of the key traits of assholes worldwide is not being even faintly aware that they might be one. The thought never even occurs.
While Vanity Fair‘s Rebecca Keegan is sipping Nespresso from the new Terrasse de Journalistes atop the Grand Palais, Hollywood Elsewhere is content to file from a third-floor, west-facing bedroom at 7 rue de Jean Mero. Not that I don’t intend to visit and maybe even file from Keegan’s perch, but it’s a lot simpler to just do it here. A six-minute walk from the Palais. 19th Century building, excellent wifi, quiet, food in the fridge, nice little bathroom, a washing machine, etc. This is the fifth or sixth year I’ve been sharing this place with Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday. The grace and generosity shown over the years by our hosts, Julien and Ann Biri, is much appreciated.
In a 5.17 interview with the N.Y Times Dave Itzkoff, Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon addresses his playful mussing of Donald Trump‘s hair during a 9.16 telecast, which in my view is the worst thing Fallon has ever done and probably ever will do for the rest of his life.
Fallon “acknowledges now that the Trump interview was a setback, if not quite a mistake,” Itzkoff writes, “and he has absorbed at least a portion of the anger that was directed at him by critics and online detractors. ‘They have a right to be mad,’ a chastened Mr. Fallon said in an interview this month. ‘If I let anyone down, it hurt my feelings that they didn’t like it. I got it.'”
Improved Fallon quote: “Yeah, I fucked up. That episode told me that maybe from time to time I play things a little too light and goofy, and that maybe I should develop an alternate mode when certain guests are on and certain subjects come up.”
Posted here on 9.18.16: “Jimmy Fallon‘s talk-show brand is, to him, naturally, a prime consideration. That cheerful, easy, let’s-have-fun vibe. Play games, sing songs, fool around. Fallon will never challenge a guest with even a whiff of contentious political chatter.
“So when Orange Hitler came on, he had to keep that thing going. He presumably despises the fuck, but he had to maintain that Jimmy Fallon vibe. He had to lighten the mood and massage his head and make Trump seem to God knows how many millions like a somewhat more palatable guy than what the news media has been reporting and portraying.
In a just-posted cover story, People‘s Sandra Sobieraj Westfall writes that former President Barack Obama delivered the following opinion about President Donald Trump: “He’s nothing but a bullshitter.” The remark was shared early last November, and comes second-hand from two friends of Obama’s. Has Obama’s opinion changed since Trump has been in office? “Well,” said one of the sources, “it hasn’t gotten any better.”
Last Friday AlterNet‘s Steve Rosenfield and others began writing about a pair of 45-minute Dutch-produced docs focused on President Donald Trump, one of which alleges that Trump has “extensive connections to Russia’s ruling oligarchs and a history of illegal racketeering.”
Doc #1, The Dubious Friends of Donald Trump, Part 1: The Russians, broke last week. Produced by Zembla, it examines Trump’s alleged relationship with, among others, Russian mobster Felix Sater and the people behind Bayrock LLC.
Rosenfield says it also examines Trump’s arrangements with wealthy Russians involved in elaborate pyramid–style money laundering. The financial trail raises questions about whether Trump canned FBI director James Comey “because the FBI’s investigation of his campaign’s collusion with Russia was encroaching into Trump’s world of dark money and dubious business partners.'”