Sunday, December 6, 2009

My week's films

The documentary Joy Division (Grant Gee, 2007) is a pretty straightf
orward look at how one of Britian's earliest and seminal punk groups got their Manchester start. There are interviews with remaining members of the band as well as renowned Factory Records owner Tony Wilson, now-deceased along with lead singer Ian Curtis of course. The film's background is dreary dirty Manchester in the late-1970s. But, which, as all know, was the fermenting ground for the post "classic rock" (ay - hate that term!) new music era. With lots of home footage, concert and recording shots of the struggling - and in many ways such straight, boys - building the band, leading to their breakthrough fame and the amazing song Love Will Tear Us Apart. But just when they were on the edge of becoming really big - their first American tour - Curtis commits suicide. The rest of the group went on to become wonderful in its own way in the band New Order. The companion film to this is Michael Winterbottom's 2002, 24 Hour Party People, the fictional account of the scene with Steve Coogan as Wilson - a terrific film.....Now I remember why I rented Eastern Promises. It was directed by David Cronenberg. Not sure what ol' Crone was getting at in this 2007 drama about the Russian Mafia in London. Ok, we know the Mafia exists and we know it's violent. That's no excuse for the gratuitous violence in this 101-minute rollout, although I have to admit the near end-of-movie steam room fight with our hero Viggo Mortensen, as a piece of action, wasn't too bad. But Cronenberg gives us no reasons to care about the Mafia or the film's characters - Mafia or non-Mafia (such as nurse Naomi Watts). Instead we get a slowly-developing linear plot about some ugly personalities in a nondescript part of the U.K. capital. Crone doesn't contextualize at all. Who are the Mafia? What do they represent in post 1990s-London? Are they a sign of the flaw in British immigration? (Hmm, can't imagine a liberal director touching that theme.) Or a problem with post-Thatcher capitalism (hmm, can imagine a director touching that but he doesn't).....And, finally, back in time a little with 1962's Richard Brooks's- directed Sweet Bird of Youth, based on T. Williams's play. Paul Newman (as Chance Wayne) is typically great. And he's teamed with smashingly-gorgeous Geraldine Page (Princess Kosmonopolis) as an over-the-hill alcoholic movie star, and Wayne's best-chance to seek fame. Ed Begley is terrific (when isn't he?) as Boss Finley, the local political operative and father of Heavenly (gotta' love these names), Wayne's one-time love whom he seeks to win again. Rip Torn has a delicious role as Boss's thug of a son in this story about love and loss, the consequences of sex, American political corruption, and the old South trying to hold on to the vestiges of power.

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