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Monthly Archives: March 2010

A high-end hooker lifes with a struggling personal trainer, she is too independent for his comfort, he is too honest not to tell her. She gets entangled in a web of customers pretending to lover her but returning to her families, website promoters promising to bring her out big-style but actually only chasing freebies, and maybe also her own dissatisfaction about what she stands for.

It took me a while (some years, actually) to understand this is not a RomCom, but one of Soderbergh’s more experimental efforts in filmmaking (after some research I now learned that the GFE word is actually quite clearly defined… who knows that the mongers of the world have their own code). I am all for experimental, and Soderbergh seems to have a soft spot in most of my generation’s hearts, even though he may be the most inconsistent filmmaker ever to show up in an arthouse cinema.

With this film, he shows his love for stylish appearance and rotten inside, or maybe he wants to expose the supposedly tough girl who knows how to get along with her business, but is really a cheap and empty shell who has no control whatsoever over just about anybody. She fails in competition, in love, in advertising… in everything she tries, but holds up the pretentious façade. This can be read completely different, I am sure, but after a while I really started despising her for representing nothing but nothingness.

As a film, it’s not a big thing, just a glance at some people’s lifes, which is perfectly fine to make an interesting film…

Alice revisits Wonderland more than 10 years after her first visit, in an effort to flee from a jerk lord trying to marry her. Even though she does not remember going as a child, Wonderland remembers her, and sets the hope in her defeating the evil queen and the Jabberwocky.
To be honest, I missed a substantial part of the movie, falling asleep now and again. I blame my jet lag, but I can also blame Tim Burton. As in almost every other movie of his that I have seen, he takes a great premise, mixes it with great actors (and with Helena Bonham Carter), creates a great production design, and then seems to lose interest in the movie. I am not sure whether apart from Edward Scissorhands there was a Burton production that I really loved (Beetlejuice was nice, I seem to remember). There are great bits and pieces, good creatures (the cat, the twins), but there is also an odd feeling of Burton running out of interesting ideas and throwing the leftovers of his considerable budget at the Lord of the Rings software to create some battle scenes and involving a Jabberwocky right out of some … what was that Verhoeven SciFi film with the alien bugs? Hmpf… try again.

An acclaimed director sets his mind on the development of a new play. A lifetime later, he has found out a lot of things about life, universe, himself, and the nature of the beast.

I was wondering what to do with my own stupid decision of placing a plot summary at the beginning of every single movie review for a while … no, it’s not reviews in the first place, it’s comments and remarks and things to remind me of what the film was about when I come back to think about it years later. So: no review, but a plot summary – and that for “Synecdoche, New York”…. way to go. What I will remember about this film – or the aspects about it that will help me remember, are:

  • Every character comes up a couple of times, being replaced with their respective older iteration, while a replacement for the younger one comes in
  • The set of the stage play is a massive brick complex in New York, sitting like a fat walrus in the middle of what looks like Brooklyn – and that building takes on a life of its own, growing with the play, getting modified according to the ever evolving script, new walls coming in and down
  • Which leads to the script: the director uses his life as a model for the play, reenacting the cornerstones word by word
  • His assistant and love of his life, running around each other for what seems to be a decade

“Charlie Kaufman is one of the few truly important writers to make screenplays his medium. David Mamet is another. That is not the same as a great writer (Faulkner, Pinter, Cocteau) who writes screenplays. Kaufman is writing in the upper reaches with Bergman.”

This is quite a sentence by Ebert, not just because of the praise it involves, but in particular because of the appreciation screen-writing as art, as truly artistic authorship. And how many screen writers are well-known, stars in their own right even? Not too many, William Goldman comes to mind, but the one superstar is Charlie Kaufman, so maybe he has defined a new segment of artistry.

The amazing thing about “Synecdoche” is that I indulged in what I felt to be an absolutely fantastic movie experience without having a clue why I thought so. I have my troubles following plot lines and chartacter interrelations under the best of circumstances, I am the worst possible audience for all those mafia setups where you have three generations of family links wrapped in an international drug trading plot – because I just do not remember the names and faces quickly enough to realise that the woman I see sleeping with the family doyen is the one I just five minutes ago saw getting married to the Japanese yakuza warrior… so imagine how helpless I am with all those overlapping time layers and doubling and tripling of caracters through bent time-space continua? In the words of the South Park experts: just AWESOME!

Who gives a damn where and when we are, whether it is reality we are observing, or reality’s replay as written into the script, or the reliving of the script reality by life itself? I don’t. I let the magnificence of the scenery and the richness of this life overwhelm me, trust the author-director not to mock me without need, and feel that I am somehow witnessing cinema at its largest.
Read somebody competent trying to explain the movie’s greatness here (Ebert) and here (NYT).

Michael Moore looks into the income and wealth gap that he believes is tearing the US apart. He visits families in Florida being evicted from their homes, sit-in strikers taking on the fight for their final wages and their pension payments after their factories were shut down, and Wall Street bankers to get back US taxpayers’ bailout money from the fat cats and make some citizens’ arrests along the way.

Just like “Sicko” before, the approach of the film is to take a very American perspective on a global topic. It is clear that you can point out the ruthlessness of a specific system most poignantly when being … well: specific. By using American fates and American scandals, making American politicians confess an American system failure, this makes a very impressive setup – if you happen to be American. Seen from the outside – again, just like in the case of “Sicko” – this is a very abstract tableau of situations. The way US households tend to lay their fate into the hands of mortgage banks or credit card companies is stunning, the sheer level of ignorance towards rational economising on household resources mind-boggling. I wished the links between for instance the Reagan system and the corporate sponsors would have received more elaboration instead, or other links into the Clinton and Obama administration that were merely hinted at.

Part of these deficts seem to stem from Moore having increasing trouble making his highly personalised films – wherever he goes, security staff alerts everybody that “that filmmaker Moore” is around, bankers he tries to stalk in front of their office buildings have learned their lesson from other Moore films and never engage in conversation (and here comes the proof: the one who does immediately makes a fool out of himself when advising Moore to “stop making movies”). So Moore needs to change style to something more like a visualised film essay, where most of the footage comes from the victim side, and most of the talk is being done by Moore himself. Having a Greenspan, Clinton, or one of the Bushes on record – that should have been the target!

So he falls back on some small-scale guerilla actions: coming with big money bags to collect the debt or rolling out Yellow “Crime Scene” tape all around the Wall Street banks. This makes good symbols, but the end of the film leaves him not much more than asking the viewers for help, because it is more than clear that the offenders will not pay for their crimes.

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