My first screening yesterday was Marc Forster‘s Machine Gun Preacher. It’s a unexceptional boilerplate thing about a criminally-inclined druggie (Gerard Butler) who finds Jesus and then goes off to the Sudan to build houses and wipe out the evil warlords, etc. It’s not a dreadful film but one completely untouched by any kind of vision or inspiration. “What’s happened to Marc Forster?,” I asked a couple of friends yesterday. “He used to be the artful Monster’s Ball guy, and now he’s made a so-so film in the style of an anonymous hack.”
Then came William Friedkin‘s Killer Joe, which is based on a Tracy Letts play. It’s technically adept and Matthew McConaughey is okay as a chillly psychopath type, but it’s primarily about a demimonde of intellectually challenged low-lifes ( Emile Hirsch, Thomas Haden Church, Gina Gershon, Juno Temple). After 40 minutes or so I was asking myself, “Why am I watching a movie about low-rent trailer-trash scuzballs nosing around like pigs in the gutter?” A friend says that Letts’ stagey dialogue is part of the problem, and that so far his films (this and Friedkin’s Bug) haven’t been satisfactorily translated to film.
Then I caught a 2 pm showing of Juan Carlos Fresnadillo‘s Intruders, which is basically another spooky-monster-in-a-child’s-bedroom movie in the tradition of Guillermo del Toro‘s Pan’s Labrynth. I felt I was seeing nothing original wbatsover. I’ve been feeling more and more fatigued and irritated by CG monsters who make that same deep digital-gurgly sound. Please…stop it!
Ralph Fiennes‘ Coriolanus was the last film of the day, and the only one with intelligent, commendable high-end chops. And yes, Vanessa Redgrave is a Best Supporting Actress contender, no question. Fiennes is a fine performer and a first-rate director who can handle action scenes with the best of them. Cheers to costars Gerard Butler, Brian Cox, Jessica Chastain, James Nesbitt and Paul Jesson.
One problem: I was able to understand maybe 20% of the dialogue. Maybe it was the sound system or the echoes in the Elgin theatre but at most I was able to decipher an occasional phrase or word or what-have-you. I’ve absorbed and enjoyed Shakespeare all my life, on stage and in films, and we all know that Shakespeare takes a little while to get used to and “hear.” But I couldn’t find the groove last night. And I’m in the older and educated Shakespeare movie demographic.
Think about the millions of under-40s moviegoers who wouldn’t watch this film with a gun at their head. How will they react, if they somehow find themselves watching it in a theatre? Solution: American colloquial subtitles that would offer Tobacco Road rephrasings of Shakespeare’s dialogue. I know — a dreadful idea. A metaphor for the end of civilization, etc. But we’re living in a debased and under-educated culture, and we might as well deal with it as practically we can.