Sunday, September 16, 2007

Eastern Promises

Ah. Remember when Jude Law used to be a really interesting actor? Remind yourself of those bygone days and that squandered promise with Vincent Cassel's gloriously live-wire performance in Cronenberg's new one, Eastern Promises. He's charismatic and unlikable and almost offensively gorgeous in a completely skeeved out kind of way. Plus, I'm always a sucker for the hot-and-cold interplay he has going on as an actor with Viggo Mortensen (sex on wheels, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise). The more subdued and stoic and minimal Mortensen gets, the more dangerously high Cassel lets his flame rise, pacing like a rabid hyena, skidding out of control like a gorgeous European sportscar on an icy road in the middle of the night. He does spoiled and bratty and wrathful with a Russian accent just as well as he did it with one arm tied behind his back. Inspired casting. Mega bonus round extra credit points for all those awesomely homoerotic embraces. I didn't love the film as much as I did A History of Violence--though maybe it will grow on me with time--but, regardless, Cronenberg is maturing with such ease as a filmmaker that it's a delight simply to sit there and allow yourself to be taken where he wants you to go. There's an ever-so-slight archness in the tone of the performances that I'm not sure what to make of yet. It's not quite humor and it's not quite camp; "winking" is definitely not right, and even "aware" is wrong. It doesn't even seem pronounced enough to serve as some sort of commentary on the gangster movie genre. I think the closest it gets is to the deliberateness of a song, which would work well in the world of this movie where the violence and florid emotions swirling around stereotypical ideas of Russian masculinity and familial honor seem only matched by the power of music and food and other day-to-day rituals and ceremonies to unite an immigrant community almost irrationally sentimental for a mostly brutal homeland. Also, I'm totally done with Naomi Watts these days.

Michael Haneke is apparently remaking his own film Funny Games in English with Tim Roth, Naomi Watts, and Michael Pitt. Filmies, is there any word on the street yet if this is going to be awesome or unfortunate? The trailer made me roll my eyes until I saw Haneke's name attached to it. I'm cautiously curious.

Pitchfork Gives Music 6.8

"I have been listening to [Elvis Costello's] Trust over and over for two days. Why did people continue making albums after this was released? Emotionally, I get it, but really." --S/FJ

Work pal MS and I have decided that, based on the fact that we could do nothing but barf rainbows for hours after seeing this picture, the phrase "monkey hug" is now an appropriate and perfectly acceptable thing to say to people. Try it, for instance, when signing off an e-mail. I believe you'll find it a quite satisfactory substitute for "thank you" or "cheers."


Anonymous said...

though and i know you're totally done with naomi watts these days (what a shame!) but there is no reason for you to put her after tim roth for funny games of which she is the undisputed lead.

Nora Rocket said...

My excitement for Eastern Promises grows ever more. I think History of Violence might have been my favourite movie that year--I still think about it.

And yes, Viggo, mmmrrrowr.

Jonesalicious said...

I cannot STAND Naomi Watts! She aggravates the crap out of me.

Monkey hug,

Donovan said...

I'm a big Haneke head, and the original "Funny Games" has always been my asterisk: I absolutely hate it. It acts like an over-the-top parody of all the themes he would work so subtly and brilliantly in his masterpieces...which are basically all his films from "Code Unknown" on. So, I'm in a curious posish: will Hollywood-izing it make it, weirdly, more subversive?

Also, your "Superbad" review has left me miffed, then thoughtful, and now, finally, in agreement (as your opinions tend to do to me: see Bill, Kill). You have a way of teasing out uncomfortable messages from pop culture--which is high praise.

This is turning into an email. Maybe I'll get my act together and send one of those soon! I owe you.

michael o'd said...

You know you're jaded when you see in the cutest picture of all time two animal testing refugees stunned by the horror of it all. Too many Boca burgers.

Kasia said...

This is a bit late, sorry! But I completely agree with your review of Eastern Promises. The leads are great, so is the filming. Naomi Watts--blah.