All indications suggest that Joel Coen‘s The Tragedy of Macbeth (debuting tomorrow at the New York Film Festival) may be on the visually constrained side. It was shot on sound stages and in misty black and white — exactly the opposite approach taken by Roman Polanski‘s open-air, braving-the-elements, full-color 1971 version. I just rewatched the Polanski a couple of days ago, and found it bracingly realistic and fully alive.
N.Y. Times Manohla Dargis: “Blood and betrayal, toil and trouble — filmmakers from Akira Kurosawa to Roman Polanski have taken on Macbeth. In his stripped-down version, Joel Coen pitches his expressionistic tent between cinema and theater, taking a lead from Orson Welles, whose 1948 adaptation” — shot on hand-me-down western sets in Studio City — “was one of his last Hollywood films.
“Is this an ill omen from Coen?” [HE interjection: An ill omen in what sense?] The play is still the thing and so is a volcanic Denzel Washington, who ferociously embodies, as Welles put it, ‘the decay of a tyrant.'”
An “expressionistic tent” suggests something inventive but shrouded, protected from the elements, a realm with limits. Dargis also implies that Coen’s film is as much of a theatrical piece as a movie. In other words, a film that may strike some as confining, perhaps under-oxygenated?….maybe. We shall see what we shall see.
No Time To Die helmer Carey Fukunaga to THR‘s Tatiana Siegel: “Is it Thunderball or Goldfinger where, like, basically Sean Connery’s character rapes a woman? She’s like ‘No, no, no,’ and he’s like, ‘Yes, yes, yes.’ That wouldn’t fly today.”
Of course it wouldn’t. Such a scene would never be considered. But it didn’t “fly” 57 years ago either.
Even by mid ’60s standards the Goldfinger “barn” scene was a silly jape. The joke was that Connery’s 007 was such an irresistable hound that even Honor Blackman‘s Pussy Galore, an avowed lesbian, succumbs to his overbearing masculinity after resisting for three or four seconds. Remember also that Blackman’s surrender happens after a judo match in which she and Connery throw each other around.
True, Connery is on top of Blackman during the moment of capitulation, but the attitude is half-comedic. The playful music conveys the mood.
Perhaps Fukunaga is partly recalling a scene from Alfred Hitchcock‘s Marnie, in which Connery’s Mark Rutland actually rapes the frigid titular character (Tippi Hedren), whom he’s just married. Marnie and Goldfinger were released the same year (’64) and two months apart — Marnie on 7.22.64, Goldfinger on 9.18.64 (in England) and 12.22.64 (in the U.S,).
The New York Film Festival press screening of Joel Coen‘s The Tragedy of Macbeth happens on Friday morning, 9.24. Several public screenings of the A24 release will happen a few hours later (Alice Tully, Walter Reade and two other venues).
There’s an embargo, as always. Critics can never post reviews of the opening-night NYFF film until that night.
I’ve been detecting “uh-oh” reactions for a while now, but let’s cool our jets until the moment arrives.
Roman Polanski‘s shortened but reasonably faithful Macbeth (’71) ran 140 minutes; Coen’s version runs 105.
The trailer for The Tragedy of Macbeth pops on Tuesday, 9.21.
Somewhere in these United States, 35 to 64 year-olds** have been invited to see Aaron Sorkin‘s Being The Ricardos later this week. Word around the campfire is that Javier Bardem‘s performance as Desi Arnaz is the standout element, and a likely contender for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. The descriptive copy in the invitation is a bit windy, but here it is:
“Being the Ricardos, directed by Aaron Sorkin, charts the ups and downs of Hollywood legends Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) in creating their iconic I Love Lucy TV show, which both strengthened and destroyed them as a couple.
“Even though the series allowed them to play house and become people they weren’t in reality (but wished they could be), the movie examines how being the top pop icons of the day took a toll on both their personal and professional lives in an inventive and unique style, filled with kinetic energy.
“As Lucy and Desi prepare over the course of a single week to shoot an episode that will go down in history as having some of the funniest and most memorable scenes to grace television, we will be enthralled to peek into why despite all of that passion and success their world-famous relationship could never be.”
Cutting to the chase: Arnaz’s Cuban upbringing taught him that catting around outside the bonds of marriage was perfectly acceptable or at least workable.
Excerpt from Chicago Tribune interview with their daughter Lucie Arnaz: “My father loved women, and Latin American countries have a whole different code of ethics. There’s the home with the wife, and the house with the mistress. Each is highly respected by the other.
“Unfortunately, my mother was from upstate New York, and my father couldn’t get her to go along with that concept.”
A 1955 Confidential article alleged that the Cuban-born actor told a friend, “What’s she so upset about? I don’t take out other broads. I just take out hookers.” (Reported in an 8.13.20 Vanity Fair article, titled “Did Desi Really Love Lucy?“)
Obviously Arnaz was an inconsiderate sexist dog. If a husband is determined to run around to his heart’s content, he at least needs to keep it on the down-low. Out of respect for his wife’s honor, I mean. Never push it in her face. Allow her to think that things might be okay.
Not to take anything away from director-writer Paul Schrader or his recently released The Card Counter, but the thing that held my interest during the below Zoom interview between Schrader and Santa Barbara Film Festival honcho Roger Durling…the thing that really put the hook in as I watched and listened last night…what matters most right now are Durling’s magnificent Jack Nicholson-styled, red-mud-with-a-hint-of-amber reading glasses.
All my adult life I’ve wanted to own a pair, but I somehow never got around to it. Okay, I never pursued them because I suspected they were out of my price range. Durling informs that the manufacturer is Jacques Marie Mage, and that the basic price is $650 per pair. And that’s without the crafting and insertion of prescription lenses.
Obvious question: Why doesn’t some enterprising second-tier designer create a knockoff version of Jacques Marie spectacles? Affordable by someone like myself? Glasses you could buy for, say, $150 or $200.
This enthusiasm in no way suggests that Durling’s Schrader interview is anything less than absorbing, intelligent, interesting. One of the most intriguing aspects is Schrader’s raspy voice. I remember interviewing him somewhere near the old Columbus Circle Paramount building at the time of American Gigolo (’80), and he was giving the exact same kind of answers back then.
From Owen Gleiberman’s Cry Macho review: “Even though he doesn’t rule physically anymore, the 91 year-old Clint Eastwood we see in Cry Macho is just as rooted in the domineering presence of his mystique as he ever was. He’s just quieter about it.
“The movie turns into a romance: When they’re at that ranch, the woman who runs the adjoining cantina cooks for them, and she and Clint strike up a flirtation so sly it kind of sneaks its way into the movie. The actress Natalia Traven has a face that seems to have lived, just like Clint’s, and it’s sweet to see them pair off. But it’s not more than sweet.”
HE to Gleiberman: A subtle, pleasing flirtation between Clint and Natalia…fine. She’s 40 years younger but that’s cool. Some years ago Terrence Stamp (now 83) was asked about love and relationships, and he said “I’ve fallen off that horse.” That probably goes double for a 91 year-old.
A trailer is only a trailer, but it appears as if Steven Spielberg‘s West Side Story is going to be “more” than Robert Wise‘s 1961 Oscar-winning version — more vivid, more ethnically authentic, more alive, more fully felt, angrier, cooler, artier, more intense, more multi-shaded, less “Hollywood”-ized.
If the original Leonard Bernstein-Stephen Sondheim-Arthur Laurents stage musical hadn’t opened at the Winter Garden in ’57, if Wise’s film hadn’t won all those Oscars four years later, if there hadn’t been so many revivals and re-interpretations over the years…if Spielberg’s film was a brand spanking new period musical, all pink and damp and fresh out of the nursery, it would be a huge wham-bammer. The Gold Derby whores would be calling it the presumptive Best Picture winner. But it’s not that.
West Side Story is an old chestnut that reflects a world that no longer exists…a capturing of urban racial tensions among poor Irish and Italians vs. poor Puerto Ricans during the mid-Eisenhower era, in a once-grubby part of Manhattan…it’s the umpteenth version of a musical that’s nearly 65 years old, and there’s just no getting around that.
The only shot I don’t like is the overhead view of the Jets and Sharks approaching each other with intense shadows merging in front of them — that’s Spielberg and Janusz Kaminski pushing the boundaries.
An adult all alone and on a phone, having to talk his or her way out of a tough, high-pressure situation. I don’t know how many times this set-up has been built into a compelling feature, but I’m thinking at least four**.
The very best is Steven Knight‘s Locke (’14), an 85-minute character study about a construction foreman (Tom Hardy) grappling with issues of personal vs. professional responsibility. Three years ago Gustav Möller‘s The Guilty, a gripping, Danish-made crime thriller that I just re-watched yesterday, delivered similar cards. Last weekend a same-titled remake, directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, played at the Toronto Film Festival, and will debut theatrically on 9.24 before hitting Netflix.
And now there’s Phillip Noyce‘s Lakewood, which stars Naomi Watts as Amy, a widowed, small-town mom reacting not only to news of a Parkland-esque high school shooting, but to the possibility that her sullen and estranged son Noah (Colton Gobbo) may be involved in some way.
More than two-thirds of this 84-minute film (roughly 47 minutes) are focused solely on Amy and her iPhone in a remote wooded area. We’re talking about a torrent of smooth steadicam footage plus several overhead drone shots and some elegant editing (kudos to Lee Haugen), plus Watts stressing, emoting and hyperventilating her head off — a one-woman tour de force.
Right away I was thinking that Noah might be the shooter, and that, you bet, made me sit up and focus all the more. And that’s all I’ll discuss in this vein.
My second reaction was about Amy’s iPhone, and what an amazing reach it has. She’s in a woodsy area a few miles from town (I didn’t catch how many reception bars were showing) and yet she experiences only a couple of signal drop-outs, and she’s watching all kinds of video and whatnot without a hitch. I was also impressed by her iPhone’s battery — what power! (I never leave home without a back-up battery for my iPhone 12 Max Pro — I have too many active apps and the battery is always draining hand over fist.)
Despite all that’s going on at the high school and having to juggle all kinds of incoming info, Amy continues to jog during most of her phone marathon. If there’s one thing that all Lakewood viewers will be dead certain of, it’s that Watts will stumble and suffer an ankle injury. I was telepathically begging her not to. HE to Watts: “C’mon, stop…don’t…there are all kinds of obstacles on your forest path and you obviously need to focus so just start speed-walking”…down she goes!
The pace of Lakewood is very fast and cranked up, and Amy is nothing if not resourceful. She manages to persuade an auto mechanic whom she doesn’t know to supply crucial information about Noah’s whereabouts, as well as info about the possible shooter’s name and contact info. All kinds of conversations and complications ensue, and you’re always aware that Chris Sparling‘s script is determined to increase the stress and suspense factors.
Most of these efforts felt reasonable to me, or at least not overly challenging or irksome. Lakewood is a thriller. I didn’t fight it. I accepted the rules and requirements.
Jose Ferrer made it clear that he regarded his brief performance in Lawrence of Arabia as his best-ever screen work. Quote: “If I was to be judged by any one film performance, it would be my five minutes in Lawrence.” I can’t think of any other non-comedic, cameo-level performance as good as Ferrer’s — can anyone?
Sean Connery‘s cameo as King Richard the Lionheart at the end of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves wasn’t on Ferrer’s level. Connery was showboating, taking a bow.
Comedically speaking, Tom Cruise‘s Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder and Bill Murray‘s walk-on performance as a pretend zombie in Zombieland are obvious stand-outs. But it’s easy to be amusing in a quickie context.