I found a place in my head for By The Sea (Universal, 11.13). I know what this kind of low-key, vaguely depressing, damaged-relationship film is supposed to do so I was prepared. And if you know this also and can just settle in and let it unfold at its own pace…it’s somewhere between mildly okay and a little better than that.
Yes, you would be correct in assuming it’s not the equal of Michelangelo Antonioni‘s La Notte (’62) but it’s close enough — a sophisticated middle-aged glumathon, a marriage coming apart, alcohol and cigarettes, the whiff of infidelity, the husband having trouble writing like he used to. It’s certainly coming from the same downish, semi-lethargic European art-film ballpark. Quiet, intimate, slowish and yet, after a fashion, disciplined. If you can roll with this kind of mood trip, By The Sea isn’t half bad. Really. It’s more than tolerable.
Plus it has a nice erotic vibe that develops during the second half. A nice bathtub sex scene at the two-thirds mark. Plus Angelina’s bathroom boobies pop through two or three times. And it’s fascinating to just watch these two play off each other like grown-up, disappointed, starting-to-look-older human beings without the Mr. and Mrs. Smith bullshit. Plus Brad and Angie speak French-with-subtitles a third of the time. It should also be noted that false eyelashes are a significant part of Angie’s performance, at least during the first half.
And despite the depressive, lying-around-and-doing-next-to-nothing-except-drinking-and-smoking-and-and-staring-at-the-sea atmosphere, By The Sea does manage to evolve. Once the Act One lethargy has had its say, Act Two turns up the heat a bit, pivots, builds and goes somewhere. Brad Pitt finally says, “No, I don’t want a fucking drink.” And then he beats the shit out of a guy who starts to unbutton his wife’s blouse. And each scene ends a little earlier than you might expect it to. That’s usually a trait of a director who knows what he/she is doing.
For 53 years the Bond films have, with variations, started out with the same half-silhouette of a lethal guy in a suit walking west inside a bobbing circle, and then he does a 90-degree pivot as he quickly swings or arcs his right arm in our direction and fires. For over half a century the extra second it takes to swing or whip around has driven me nuts. The way Mr. Lethal should have been doing it all these years is as follows: He crouches slightly, half-pivots (i.e., 45 degrees), raises his left arm in a horizontal balancing gesture and fires under the left arm without physically turning his whole bod and facing the target straight on. In short, he twists and shoots. The whole reason for the idiotic swing-around firing (which we’ve been seeing since 1962’s Dr. No) is to make certain his left arm has nothing to do with his aim or balance. Dopey. Raise it, horizontally cock it — problem solved.
In the first full-boat trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which popped two and a half weeks ago, an older woman’s voice asks Daisy Ridley “Who are you?” Ridley’s reply: “Ahmahwan.” In the new Japanese trailer, which has more footage than the U.S. version, she replies “I’m no one.” Conclusion: the sound on the Japanese trailer has better mixing than the U.S. version. Most likely the Japanese marketers heard about the “ahmahwan” bitching and re-mixed the line so it sounds like RADA English.