I’m not sure that Speed Racer was unfairly panned, per se — a lot of writers felt genuinely pained and pummeled by it — but it seemed that people didn’t give it enough respect for what the Wachowskis were at least trying to do, which was create a new kind of film language. This Darth Mojo piece is flat-out angry about the fierce critical put-downs, protesting the film’s “assassination.”
√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√Ö‚ÄúWe come to bury Speed Racer, not to praise him√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√Ç¬ù might as well have been imprinted on the foreheads of critics as they marched into their screenings of the new Wachowski flick,” it begins. “Sure enough, page after page of critical vitriol has been spewed all over this film, creating the widespread perception that Speed Racer is the must-avoid movie of the summer.
“So, it was with little-to-no enthusiasm that the Super Summer Movie Fun Club — Go! took their seats last weekend, prepared to endure the headache-inducing groan-fest that we√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢ve all been warned about. When the lights came up [over] two hours later, we all blankly stared at each other for a moment and, almost in unison, began singing ‘I liked it!’
“We all liked it. Every one of us. In fact, as we walked out of the theater, we all scratched our heads and wondered where√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢s this terrible movie all the critics have been bitching about?√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√Ç¬ù
Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor making each other quiver with posterior pleasure is just what moviegoers are looking for, only they don’t know it yet. I’m always intrigued by the idea of straight actors playing gay guys, but comedies in this vein always seem to run into trouble. Is it a flat-out comedy or a dramedy? I need to read this, if anyone has a PDF copy.
Oliver Stone’s W has nothing to worry about as Karl Zero and Michael Royer’s Being W apparently has yet to begin filming. (Posters of this sort are put up to attract pre-sales.) The poster art is somewhere between awful and amazing. Bush as a French clown, Jesus Christ on a fighter jet, the twin towers still standing, a billowing American flag, etc.
A press release sent out earlier today claimed that U.S. theatrical distributors “appear to be boycotting” Uwe Boll‘s controversial Postal. The film was scheduled to be released theatrically nationwide, but will now open on only four screens in four cities on Friday, 5.23.
“Theatrical distributors are boycotting Postal because of its political content,” said Boll. √É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√Ö‚ÄúWe were prepared to open on 1500 screens all across America on May 23rd. Any multiplex in the U.S. should have space for us, but they’re afraid.”
American exhibitors are a fearful conservative-minded bunch, to be sure, but the only thing that moves them one way or the other is money. If they’re saying they don’t want to book Postal (which I still haven’t seen, by the way), it’s because they’re afraid it won’t sell enough tickets.
Postal currently has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 29%.
Taken during last night’s Carlton pier party for Kung Fu Panda, which I was happy to be invited to. (Thank you, David Waldman!) A review by Variety‘s Todd McCarthy said, by the way, that the Jack Black film “features an abundance of broad, buffoonish slapstick that will play perfectly well with kids to desired B.O. effect. But comic inspiration is distinctly lacking in [the] script, which largely feels structured to accommodate the maximum amount of action, much of which is intended to be funnier than it is.”
I woke up at 4:30 again this morning and did my usual, which is to go to the Carlton lobby and use the free wifi there to do some work. On the way over — it was about 4:55 by this time — I walked by a small, dimly-lit club packed with the usual vampires. You could hear the cheap music blaring two, three blocks away. And right next to the Carlton yet! Are they keeping Sean Penn up? If I were Penn and the music was keeping me up, I would walk down to the club and spit in the doorman’s face.
Hardcore criminals and sociopaths excepted, is there any lower life-form than clubbers? Drinking and jabbering and hitting on people you want to go to bed with for six or seven hours straight. Indiscreet, loud, coarse. A couple of assholes were walking down a dark street near my place — guys who’d obviously been at it all night — and they were talking so loudly you’d have to call it shouting. No respect for the time of night or people sleeping nearby or for God’s general rule, which is that only the aimless and the Godless prowl around in the wee hours.
Walking west on the Croisette a couple of minutes later I heard an American guy say to a couple of friends, “I can’t fucking believe you…300 for a lap-dance?” (That would be 450 US if was talking euros.) I ran into an unattractive prostitute with big feet a minute later. She offered the usual enticements. “What I really need is a bottle of water or a can of Coke,” I replied. “You know where I can get that?” I was feeling thirsty, dehydrated. A door man at the vampire club wouldn’t let me in to buy a Coke or a glass of Perrier. “You won’t let me in for two minutes in so I can buy some water because I’m thirsty?” I said to him. What an arrogant waste of skin. I finally managed to talk the night clerk at the Noga Hilton into selling me a large bottle of Evian. It cost 10 euros or $15 U.S. This town is dangerous.
The moral undercurrent in Nuri Bilge Ceylan‘s Three Monkeys — a quietly devastating Turkish family drama about guilt, adultery and lots of Biblical thunderclaps — is in every frame. It’s about people doing wrong things, one leading to another in a terrible chain, and trying to face or at least deal with the consequences but more often trying to lie and deny their way out of them. Good luck with that.
Hatice Aslan, Yavuz Bingol in Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Three Monkeys.
I was hooked from the get-go — gripped, fascinated. I was in a fairly excited state because I knew — I absolutely knew — I was seeing the first major film of the festival. Three Monkeys is about focus and clarity in every sense of those terms, but it was mainly, for me, about stunning performances — minimalist acting that never pushes and begins and ends in the eyes who are quietly hurting every step of the way.
It’s a very dark and austere film that unfolds at a purposeful but meditative (which absolutely doesn’t mean “slow”) pace, taking its time and saying to the audience, “Don’t worry, this is going somewhere…we’re not jerking around so pay attention to the steps.”
A 50ish politician named Servet (Ercan Kesal), fighting off sleep as he drives on a narrow country road, hits a man and kills him. Freaked, he drives off without calling anyone. The next day he convinces the quiet-mannered Eyup (Yavuz Bingol), his longtime driver who’s abut the same age, to confess to the crime and do the jail term, promising to give him a lot of money in addition to paying his salary to his wife Hacer (Hatice Aslan), and son Ismail (Ahmet Rifat Sungar) while he’s in stir.
Except Servet soon takes advantage of Eyup’s absence of having it off with Hacer in a what-the-fuck recreational sense. (He’s a politician, after all.) The plot thickens when Ismail, a morose downhead to begin with, learns of the affair and starts twitching with anger and grief and guilt, not knowing what to do or say. Then Eyup gets out of jail and immediately starts to sense the after-vibe. Then we realize that Hacer hasn’t indulged with the boss out of lust or boredom or to keep him sweet but because she’s obsessively in love with the creep. (Good God.) Then matters get even worse.
Every step of the way you’re reading the characters, absorbing what they’re feeling or looking for, guessing what they might do, feeling their vulnerability, pulling for them, wanting to see it all come out right or at least end in a way that won’t result in more pain or ruination.
Ceylan and his cinematographer Gokhan Tiryaki are into filling their frames with muted but luscious browns, grays, blacks (lots of black) and faded greens. The visuals are such a bath that Three Monkeys almost deserves a standing ovation for this alone. But it’s the unstinting sense of engagement with the moral cost of what’s being done and lied about and covered up that matters. It’s heavy material, all right, but it’s not a reach to call it the stuff of classic tragedy. The script (by Ceylan, Ebru Ceylan and Ercan Kesal) is right up Will Shakespeare’s alley.
Nuri Bilge Ceylan
And ohhh, that thunder! Four or five times it growls and rumbles like God’s angry symphony. Lightning, too, at the very end.
I think Three Monkeys is fundamentally a political film because it’s telling an eternal political truth, which is that people with money and power rarely pay for their wrong-doings — they simply arrange for someone down the food chain to take the rap. And then sometimes they fuck the rap-taker’s wife for good measure.
The (mostly) static camera work and powerful quietude of Three Monkeys reminded me every so often of Cristian Mungiu‘s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, which played here last year and won the Palme D’Or.
I’m not sure if Three Monkeys is a masterpiece — I’m still sifting it through — but I knew all along I was watching an exceptional, very powerful, high-end thing. It’s the kind of film that plays like gangbusters inside the Grand Palais but will barely be seen in commercial cinemas, and may even irritate the ADD crowd. It’s not going to do much business in the States, I’m guessing — some critics, I’m told, were saying they bored with it as they talked things through at the bottom of the steps outside the Salle Debussy — but it looks to me like a sure contender for the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme D’Or.
You absolutely have to put Hatice Aslan at the very top of the list of Best Actress winners here. I don’t care what comes along between now and Friday the 23rd — her performance is knockout stuff. Ditto Yavuz Bingol for Best Actor. I read somewhere that Ceylan, in the tradition of Robert Bresson, doesn’t use professional actors; I read somewhere else that he uses friends who are actors– just not famous ones. I’m sure someone will point out what an ignoramus I am for not knowing this stuff chapter and verse.
It’s obviously early to be talking Palme D’Or winners, but when a film has the Unmistakable Right Stuff, you know it right away. Moral fortitude, razor-sharp vision and stylistic sure-footedness of this calibre are impossible to ignore.
Originally a photographer, Ceylan seems to me like the Satyajit Ray of Turkey. His hallmarks, to quote from a recent Turkish Daily News article, are “a strong minimalist shooting style, themes of alienation and” — I didn’t know this until recently — “strong autobiographical elements.” The piece adds that Ceylan’s cinema “is not for those who view cinema as a form of entertainment, but for festival-followers who revere art-house filmmaking.”
Except — hello? – great art-house movies are something very close to entertainment. They take you out of yourself and into a realm that adds to your empathy and understanding of life’s infinite sadness. They turn you on with their mesmerizing style and condensed capturings of instantly recognizable human folly. When films of this sort really deliver they satisfy in ways that stay with you for decades. They add meat to your bones.
My suitcase is still in the hands of Air France baggage retrieval. A French-speaking gentleman — probably, I’m guessing, the delivery guy hired by Air France to deliver retrieved luggage — called this morning, but our attempts at communication were a complete failure. (His English was non-existent; my French is pathetic.) I’ve been wearing the same clothing since Monday morning. I have to figure this out, so I may be out of the loop until later today.
I’m nursing a vague interest in attending a 3 pm Kung Fu Panda press conference. I’m definitely seeing Nuri Bilge Ceylan‘s Three Monkeys at 4:30. pm (Salle Debussy) and Steve McQueen‘s Hunger at 7:30 pm (Ditto.). A couple of parties are happening later this evening.