Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A 2007 Film Festival--Woo Hoo!

I had a marathon home screening the other day, heding the warning from pay-per-view that some of the hot films of 2007 would soon no longer be available. I know, Netflix is a click a way, but the Movies on Demand service is so ridiculously easy that I’m spoiled for anything else.

And that’s how I came to watch Before the Devil Knows You're Dead; That’s No Country for Old Men; and There Will Be Blood in one 10 hour stretch.

I really enjoy watching “big” films from a safe distance of the hubbub. I can clearly see just see the film divorced from the hype. And so here’s a little attention for these flicks that the rest of the world has left behind in pursuit of the next big thing.

Yes, there are spoilers here.

BTDKYD: A middle-class, Shakespearian play. The familial intrigue,with idiot brothers and lots of death has a whole different ring to it when kingdoms aren’t involved. It was engrossing, if depressing to watch the Brothers Hanson struggle so painfully as their lives are circling the drain. Playing off the drinking toast “May You Be in Heaven” and written by an ex-Franciscan brother, it’s the darker side of Irish overtones. Albert Finney is ultimately feudal king, as judge, jury, and executioner. Filicide of a son by a father is not very common in myth, literature, or film. (The daughters don’t fare as well--Agamemnon, Orchamus, Titus Andronicus. . . .)

TNCFOM: Yeats meets the Coen brothers via Cormac McCarthy. The violence is so shattering that I did think, why am I watching this story? What value does it have to my life? Not sure I have an answer there. Much hubbub was about the technical mastery of the film. Yea, okay. But that’s about the vessel. What about the story? I felt a huge, momentary relief when Sherif Tommy Lee Jones entered the story (after opening the film’s narration), thinking that he would get his man, he would bring order and goodness to this place. But as the title warned us, this country doesn’t take to old men. We are left with unredeemed, unchecked, lawlessness.

TWBB: This was the most artistic of the three. The oil derrick fire is the best cinematic conflagration since GWTW’s burning of Atlanta. The film homages were as strong and blatant as everyone said they were, from Scorsese to Altman to Huston. Daniel Day Lewis seemed to be channeling the Chinatown John Huston in the heaviness of his speech. What struck me the most was the music: from the haunting, haunting use of Arvo Part and Brahms to Johnny Greenwood’s own orchestral compositions. The music is a full-blooded character, helping to define the drama of the story and its own consciousness of that drama, which I liked. The bowling-alley scene was either going to be a distinctively brilliant, memorable one--- a la last scene of Lady in Shanghai---or not. I think not.

(Jeremy, what was your point about the Brothers Sunday? I thought they might both be the same person (beyond being played by the same actor, until Plainview makes a point at the end of saying exactly where Paul is.)