The reviews are just starting to trickle in but Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End has a 40% positive Rotten Tomatoes rating thus far. My favorite trash quote is from a review by the Philadelphia Weekly‘s Sean Burns, to wit: “Such a tangled thicket of overwritten, labyrinthine mythology, backstabbing betrayals and mixed motivations that a massive chunk of the running time is devoted to characters standing around on boats, trying like hell to explain the plot to one another.”
Quentin Tarantino‘s stand-alone Death Proof — running 114 minutes, or 27 minutes longer than the version that showed in the second half of Grindhouse — is a slightly tangier and more filling thing, but it’s not what I would call significantly enhanced. There are several marginal augmentations — Vanessa Ferlito‘s lapdance for Kurt Russell‘s “Stuntman Mike” is the most significant — but none of them make you go “whoa!”
The best part of this enjoyably trashy tribute pic is still the car-chase sequence, but it’s the same version that appeared in Grindhouse so the throttle factor is unchanged. Truth be told, the sassy-chick dialogue that I had so much fun with during my first viewing plays just a tiny bit weaker the second time around. And the fact that the footage and the sound have an appropriately aged, scratchy quality in the first half but not in the second portion is still a little bit weird (i.e., curiously inconsistent).
Variety‘s Robert Koehler told me an hour ago in the press room that Serge Bozon‘s La France, a World War I musical with Sylvie Testud, Pascal Greggory and Guillaume Depardieu, is the best Director’s Fortnight film he’s seen by far. (He had just come from the screening.) Will HE get around to it? Doubtful, but at least I’ll be looking for it down the road. I will, however, finally see Anton Corbijn‘s Control, the black-and-white Ian Curtis suicide flick, at 6 pm.
I’ve now seen Juan Antonio Bayona‘s The Orphanage twice, which is perhaps an irresponsible thing given all the movies and events to be absorbed at the Cannes Film Festival. But it’s such a deliciously haunting and rousingly effective work that I couldn’t resist. Joel and Ethan Coen‘s No Country for Old Men is the best all-around film I’ve seen here, but The Orphanage is a very close second (with Michael Moore‘s Sicko and Michael Winterbottom‘s A Mighty Heart running third and fourth).
The Orphanage director Juan Antonio Bayona following our chat in the Majestic Hotel lounge — Wednesday, 5.23.07, 12:25 pm
Produced by Guillermo del Toro, The Orphanage is hands down the creepiest sophisticated ghost story/thriller to come along since Alejandro Amenabar‘s The Others, and if you ask me (or anyone else who’s seen it here) it absolutely deserves a ranking alongside other haunted-by-small-children classics as Jack Clayton‘s The Innocents and Nicolas Roeg‘s Don’t Look Now. It also recalls Robert Wise‘s The Haunting, although the ghosts in that 1961 film were all over 21.
Bayona, whom I spoke to a couple of hours ago at the Majestic Hotel, is the newest addition to the current pantheon of Spanish-language directors (most famously repped by Del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu) who have made — and will hopefully continue to make, if they don’t allow the Hollywood flotsam-jetsam effect to dilute their focus — the most full-spirited and excitingly crafted films of our time. This is all the more wowser knowing that The Orphanage is Bayona’s first feature.
I was told this morning that Bob Berney‘s Picturehouse is planning to open The Orphanage sometime in early ’08. Due respect, but that feels like the wrong call. It should definitely open before the end of the year to qualify in the Best Foreign Language Film category as well as the various critics’ awards. (If I were calling the shots I would open it in late October.) This adult-level, mostly gore-free chiller is so many cuts above the crude horror films of our day (i.e., the Lionsgate torture-porners and slasher films) that their fans may feel moderately ashamed after seeing it. Or at least wised up.
Written by Sergio G. Sanchez, The Orphanage is a close stylistic and thematic cousin of Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth as well as Henry James‘ “The Turning of the Screw.” It’s about nocturnal, other-worldly imaginings taking shape and governing destinies inside the heads of young children — a kind of nightmarish “Peter Pan” tale about (as Variety‘s Justin Chang has observed) “a grown-up Wendy figure grieving her lost boy.”
Laura is a mother in her early ’40s (Belen Rueda, last in The Sea Inside) who is running an orphanage for disabled kids with her husband Carlos (Fernando Caya). She is doing this partly as a way of communing with her childhood since she herself was raised there. But there are residual forces at work in inside the old house, and they have their strongest effect upon Laura and Carlos’ excitable young son, Simon (Roger Princep), who is soon reacting to and then conversing with a small group of young tyke-sized ghosts. We soon learn they’re remnants of kids who suffered a bruising trauma when they were living in the orphanage roughly 30 years earlier.
The film’s two key events are Simon’s sudden disappearance one day, and then Laura’s increasingly manic and desperate attempts to find him (even if that means venturing over to “the other side”) and bring him back. I’m not going to recap any more of the story, but there are at least two heavy-jolt scenes that result — one in the second act, and one in the third. They are worth it, trust me — especially the latter, which gives you the serious chills by panning back and forth between Laura and her five or six visitors during the playing of a childhood game.
What 97% of today’s horror filmmakers don’t get is that it’s not the number of “scares” that matter as much as the effective delivering of seriously creepy mood. Bayona, trust me, knows how to play this game and then some. Cheers also to Oscar Faura for his shadowy widescreen photography, which captures it all just right; ditto the economical work by editor Elena Ruiz, and the very pronounced and melodramatic orchestral score by Fernando Velazquez.
Again, here’s the Bayona interview from earlier this afternoon.
The Arizona Daily Star‘s Phil Villarreal caught Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End the other day and says, “Man, is piracy paranoia ever getting out of control!
First, he says, “Disney held just one screening in the state of Arizona, meaning I had to drive up to Tempe. Second, they wouldn’t let me bring my DS into the theater, I guess for fear I would somehow record the screening with my innocent little video game machine.
“I absolutely need that sucker as the minutes tick down before the movie starts, to pass the inevitable delays as the p.r. folks try to scramble to get people in seats before they let the projector roll. Back when I had a camera phone I was forced to take it back to the car on many occasions, but never had I been ordered to make the march of shame due to a Game Boy Advance, PSP or DS.)
“Weirdly, they did allow non-camera-equipped cell phones in – which I discovered during my lengthy argument with the security guy – meaning I could have brought my DS if I said it was a cell phone. Unfortunately this didn’t occur to me until I was hunched over my Subaru’s passenger window, waving goodbye to my little patience-maker as I abandoned it to the 300 degree heat of my car interior. (I have no games on my cell phone because I’m a snob who can’t stand dumbed-down mobile games).
“Anyway, once I was finally granted admission to the theater – I couldn’t resist muttering ‘I hope this movie gets pirated’ as I walked in – they shoved this paper in my face that said…
“Dear Friends/Colleagues –
“You are among the first audiences to see ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End’ prior to its worldwide release on May 25. We respectfully ask the following:
“Please do not reveal the many plot resolutions that occur throughout the film, completing the characters’ story lines from the previous two movies in the series. We would appreciate it if you would not reveal these details in your articles, on your program, online, on your blogs or in any other format.
“We hope you appreciate there are many Pirates fans who will enjoy their moviegoing experience so much more not knowing in advance the outcome of the many plot twists. Thank you for your consideration.’
“All of what the letter asks are basically understood tenets of film criticism, but the urgency of the writing made me think we’d be in for some unbelievable, Keyser Soze-like twists. The funny thing is, nothing at all surprising happens in the movie.
“They also handed me another form telling me I’d get thrown out if I tried to videotape the movie, and a third form asking me, among other things, to name my favorite scene. That was easy to do: The end credits.”