Monday, August 08, 2005

'Balls and Flowers

Please, please, please do yourself a favor and go see Murderball at your earliest convenience. It is, simply, a phenomenal documentary. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you won't be disappointed, I promise.

I tend to agree with Jim Jarmusch's comment in last week's Entertainment Weekly about wanting to reach for a gun when people describe Broken Flowers as being more "commercial" than his other movies. It's about as commercial as a Nabokov novel is commercial. And I don't make that comparison lightly: this movie feels deeply influenced by Lolita in a lot of ways that I've been disappointed to find most reviewers haven't commented on. (I thought for sure Rosenbaum would have been all over it, but he really seems to be losing his touch these days. Or, more like he just doesn't give a damn anymore.) It's got the same aimless road trip, the same subtly taunting sexualization of all things female, the same futile attempt to recapture lost love from the past, the same lurking dread that the main character is being followed by his doppelganger (here, a son), the same slow descent into the trashiest regions of Americana, and, well, yes, a sublimely tacky yet lusciously nubile young tart named Lolita. Ahem. At any rate, it's always somewhat jolting to readjust to Jarmusch's rhythms when you settle down into the theater after running around in the bustle of the city. It's like forcing yourself to breathe in time with a body lying next to you. You're then rewarded for your effort with a kind of delicately opaque intimacy that seems maddening at first, yet becomes deeper and richer the longer you ponder it. I'm not anywhere close to wrapping my head around everything that's going on in the film, but I do know that Bill Murray has never done more with less (the scene where he sits, alone, on his leather couch, in his darkened living room, not drinking a flute of champagne, is perhaps the most riveting exercise in cinematic inactivity I've seen outside French film) and that the image of the burned CD that pal Winston (Jeffrey Wright, superb) gives him, emblazoned in black marker with the words DON—FROM WINSTON / GOOD LUCK, is every bit as sweetly funny as the Swiss army knife wrapped with the first inch of scotch tape from Rushmore.

I always kind of scoff at nerdy white boys' love for Johnny Cash (you know who you are!), but . . . OMG, the Walk the Line preview is un-freakin'-believable! The hipsters in the theater cheered, cheered, when a character asks Cash, "and what's with all the black? It looks like you're going to a funeral" and he drawls in response "well . . . maybe I am . . ." and exhales a huge, white puff of cigarette smoke. Awesome. Joaquin looks amazing.

Even though I wasn't one of those kids who stood in line, like, once a week to see Rent on stage, the preview for the forthcoming movie version still made me cry. "Seasons of Love" is cheesy as fucking hell, but goddamn if it doesn't hit you right where it aims to hit you.

RIP, Peter Jennings. I've had a fondness for him ever since 9/11, when his suave, calm cool throughout the day, and night, reminded me why professional news anchors exist in the first place. Even though I don't watch network television much anymore, and network news even less, I'll still miss his classy, avuncular growl.

More fodder for my current Flaming Lips renaissance: two reviews of their biographical documentary The Fearless Freaks. I didn't have any reason to care to see it when it was being screened in the city last fall, but now I'll have to keep it in mind for my hypothetical Kittenflix queue.


brendan said...

On the rare occasions I found myself watching a major event on networks news (election coverage or something along those lines) and I had a choice of networks, after some flipping around I always found myself settling on ABC and Peter Jennings. He was just better, more humane.

Also, I like Johnny Cash.

Anonymous said...


Did I see Broken Flowers in the same theater as you. Same previews and everything!


allison said...

I saw it 5 PM on Sunday at Pipers Alley.

Anonymous said...

Oh, no luck. I saw it Sunday at like 2pm at River East. Just a few miles and a few hours apart it seems!!


brendOn said...

Ditto on Jennings. For the most part I can't handle more than 30 seconds of TV news, but Jennings brought a sense of humanity and compassion to the table that made all the difference.

Dammit. I love me some Jarmusch - might have to sneak down to garden hills and see it. Thanks for the heads up. (FYI: if you ever feel compelled to see the commentary with Jarmusch + Wu Tang Man for Ghost Dog? Don't.)

Mike O'D said...

"[I]t's always somewhat jolting to readjust to Jarmusch's rhythms when you settle down into the theater after running around in the bustle of the city. It's like forcing yourself to breathe in time with a body lying next to you."

God bless you, Allison Felus, for setting the bar high. Aspiring writers, take note.