Quick Takes – 10.29.12

In Bruges, Quick Takes, Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson

I’m taking this week’s Quick Takes as an opportunity to correct some of my major blind spots, all by directors with new releases this fall.

In Bruges

Grade B | 1st Viewing

The first feature film from Irish playwright Martin McDonagh has achieved nearly cult-status devotion, and it’s easy to see why. Professional killers hiding out in the sleepy tourist-stricken Belgian town take in the sights like a retired bucket-lister and his petulant teenage son, trading decadently idiosyncratic barbs and cursing in brogue. It’s also easy to see that the writer/director McDonagh comes from the theatre, bringing a wordy sensibility attuned to the sound of language and paced with an appreciation for dialogue. The film capitalizes on the easy humor of the “sensitive hitman,” but follows through with necessary emotional weight on its characters’ struggles with guilt, loyalty, and mortality as they await their final judgment in the purgatorial Bruges.

McDonagh walks a puzzling line as he endows the film’s protagonist, Colin Farrell’s superbly twitchy and puerile Ray, with a penchant for racist, bigoted protestations and cheap jokes. Sometimes his humor fails to land, rightly positioning Ray’s outlandishness as absurd and pathetic, but in other moments I felt coerced to enjoy his reckless xenophobia and see his clueless belittling of a character with dwarfism as a sort of adorable flaw. There is a general feeling of delight in skewering sacred cows which works for and against the film, and I’m not sure how I should read its confrontations with race, sexuality, disability, and nationality. Ray’s ache for penance and salvation is nevertheless deeply affecting, and the slow build to its ethereal climax is as strangely satisfying and peppered with detail as a Hieronymus Bosch painting. Farrell returns in McDonagh’s new film Seven Psychopaths, which was Davin’s most anticipated film of the fall.

There Will Be Blood, Quick Takes, Daniel Day-Lewis, Dillon Freasier

There Will Be Blood

Grade A | 1st Viewing

I know. I’m ashamed. I’ve finally seen it, so haters can no longer be hating.

I have to admit I’m somewhat intimidated to reflect on Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood with only one viewing under my belt, given the considerable thought and analysis undertaken on this film in only a few years. I was captivated, disturbed, and sort of amused. It seemed complete in a way few contemporary films manage. Similar to my first experience with Magnolia, I felt in the presence of something great, and grand, although I didn’t feel emotionally ensnared. Also like Magnolia I was aware of an abundance of overt and covert thematic and symbolic imagery even if I couldn’t always name it. And I was so relieved to finally have context for the oft-quoted “I drink your milkshake!” (see Justin’s excellent breakdown of that scene here).

What first struck me as I watched this epic was the idiosyncratic and sometimes overwhelming soundtrack, starting with the quiet and wordless introduction, leading into the unnerving, anticipation-laden underscoring of the first act, and the cacophonous musical passages thereafter. I found myself really led through the film by its sound, which profoundly intensified the heartbreak of H.W.’s injury. Daniel Day-Lewis is, of course, stupefyingly good as oil man Daniel Plainview, adding a mellifluous and meticulously crafted voice to the aural landscape. I now feel ready for PTA’s newest character-driven opus The Master, which Alex raves about in his review.

Katie Jarvis, Fish Tank, Andrea ArnoldFish Tank

Grade: B- | 1st Viewing

Andrea Arnold’s coming-of-age film starring first-time actress Katie Jarvis as the tough, British teenager Mia, hits a lot of familiar notes, but stands out for its patience, realism, and heart. Mia wants to be a hip-hop dancer, and lives with her mother and her sister on an East London council estate when her mother’s new boyfriend comes into their lives. I really enjoyed this film’s attention to both those intoxicating and suffocating moments of youth, and its exploration of a fifteen-year-old girl’s sexuality without sensationalism or simplification. This is a hard, unsentimental film, and it respects its characters even as they disgust or shock us. I badly wanted certain expected actions not to come, wanted the charming Michael Fassbender to do good, wanted Mia to find uncomplicated validation. Fish Tank refused to give me what I wanted, serving up its painful and confusing turns without ever falling into bleakness or melodrama.

While the characters are harsh and often cold to one another, there are sustaining moments of warmth that carry the film through a sometimes-lagging narrative. Arnold’s story moves between small amplified moments, the camera lingering on electrified touches – bandaging a foot, a piggyback ride. One of the most stirring sequences is a scene toward the end of the film where Mia dances with her mother and her sister, a profound moment of connection and letting go. Arnold’s characters are tough to love but lovable nonetheless. I look forward to her latest directorial effort, Wuthering Heights, the first film she didn’t write (although she co-wrote the adapted screenplay). Read Duncan’s review here.


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  • Jose

    I only saw Cloud Atlas and Matilda.

    Matilda was one of those movies that I was forced to watch a lot as a kid because it was considered a “classic” that I did not enjoy. At all.

    It was on tv this weekend, so i decided to give it a shot. I turned it off less than halfway through it. Its incredibly mean spirited and I was appalled by the characters, the villains, and how Matilda is as rotten as the villains are.


    Cloud Atlas

    Honestly, I was equally frustrated and awed by what was going on on screen. And in the beginning, it doesn’t feel like its going anywhere, but when I saw how all the stories were connected, I thought it was an experience that was worth it. Granted I wish they’d gotten rid of the futuristic segment with Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, it was the one I was least interested in emotionally, and kind of painful to watch.

    Either way, I was thrilled watching the movie, despite its flaws.
    wonder how it would’ve worked as a miniseries.


  • – Nights of Cabiria (A)

    Second Fellini movie i watched after 8 1/2. First of all the performance by Giulietta Masina is outstanding. The movie itself is so beautiful, emotional, spiritual and so rich. It reminded me of Bicycle Thieves with the way the whole era is shown.

    – Fight Club (A) (5th+ Watch)

    My 2nd favorite Fincher movie.

    – Casablanca (A) (2nd Watch)

    While i don’t think it is as great as people say it is but it definitely is something. I thought it was entertaining melodramatic, romantic war movie with one of the most brilliant screen pair of all time.. Boghart and Bergman. They look so good together.

    – The X-Files: I Want to Believe (D+)

    So i finished watching The X-Files and decided to watch this movie and boy was i disappointed. Reminded me of one of those bad MOTW episodes the used to have time after time. Horrible though i still loved watching Duchovny and Anderson.

    – Once Upon a Time in West (A) (2nd Watch)

    My most favorite Western of all time (i still have to watch The Good, the Bad and the Ugly though). Stunning Cinematography and one of the best musical score of all time.

    On the TV front.. i have started Season 1 of Six Feet Under.

    • Jose

      I warned you about I Want to Believe.

  • To be honest, I agree with you opinion on “Fish Tank” entirely, except in the conclusion that I consider it a solid “A”. But to save my “Fish Tank” affinity for a day closer to when I’ve actually seen it, now for my Hurricane day shortlist:

    “Where the Wild Things Are”
    4+ Viewing | A

    One of those films that hits you where it hurts, and you couldn’t thank it more for that. What always sticks out to me about the film is how fresh it remains. No matter how many times I revisit it, it retains that sprightly exuberance of the new moment. The careful lighting and the constantly self-rectifying (NOT self-indulgent) dialogue are the perfect package for this tale of childhood confusion to reach audiences both young and old.

    4th Viewing | A-

    I finally got my brother to see it amongst the bewildering storm outside, and it really offered a sense of tranquility amongst the battered winds. The film never pushes things upon its characters or the audience, spending plenty time following Russell in his silent wanderings. Those moments are a joy in a different way from his conversations with Glenn, moments that spark with complex dynamic and piercing criticism. I endeavor to get as many people to experience it with me as possible, otherwise I worry they’ll just not care enough to sit down for it.

  • Saw a bunch of great films over the last couple of weeks, plus one that I liked but didn’t love and one really bad one.

    “Bande à part” (A): What could have been a compelling enough story on its own is turned into cinematic perfection, as Godard does one stunningly inventive thing after another. Unique and frequently thrilling to watch.

    “The Graduate” (B+): Great cinematography, great performances, and a script that’s frequently brilliant. Unfortunately, there’s a moderately lengthy stretch during the middle of the film where it isn’t. Still a very good movie, though.

    “Taxi Driver” (A): One of Scorsese’s finest films, behind only “Raging Bull” among those I’ve seen (though that’s a list which doesn’t include “Goodfellas” yet, so take that statement with a grain of salt). Brilliant lead performance from Robert De Niro.

    “Cabaret” (A): Second viewing. Beautifully staged numbers, a haunting atmosphere, and terrific performances from everyone in the cast (especially Minnelli and Grey). As good a movie musical as I’ve ever seen.

    “Dunia” (D): The guy who organized the classic films group at my university loves this film, and I’m not entirely sure why. The main characters are extremely uninteresting, and the narrative irritatingly fragmented and occasionally nonsensical. It’s visually striking in places (and contains one deeply unsettling scene that is brutally and powerfully portrayed), but on the whole I found it to be pretty awful.

  • My ratings for those movies would be an A for In Bruges, an A for Fish Tank, and a B- for There Will Be Blood. The last few movies I watched were:

    The Conspirator (3rd time watching) (B)
    Magic Mike (1st time watching) (B+)
    The Pirates! Band Of Misfits (1st time watching) (B+)
    Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans (1st time watching) (A-)

    @ Duncan: I watched Weekend for the second time a few weeks ago. It’s one of my favorite movies of last year, and one of my favorite romance movies in general. I wish more people would watch it, too.

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