Saturday, July 22, 2017

Three Films Make A Post: You are what they eat.

The Visit (2015): What fresh hell is this? As a rule I’m not generally getting terribly worked up over really shoddy films or undeservedly famous directors anymore (and if I do, I usually hold my peace), but after having suffered through this piece of deeply reactionary, plain stupid and generally not even funny (particularly not when it is trying to be) tripe that was clearly written by an extraterrestrial who has never met an actual human being (and certainly not a mentally ill one) in its life, I cannot help but ask myself the question: how is it possible that this thing’s “writer”/director M. Night Shyamalan is still getting regular work while guys like John Carpenter can’t scratch together enough money to make films, and many women and men with actual talent have to jump through all the worst hoops Hollywood has to offer?

Last Embrace (1979): But now to something completely different, namely Jonathan Demme’s big Hitchcock homage made in the phase of his career before Silence of the Lambs made him a big mainstream director; or as I call it “the brilliant phase”. Roy Scheider plays a spy who has just been released from a psychiatric hospital where he tried to recover from a complete breakdown he suffered through the death of his wife. But something’s not at all right with his world: is he getting paranoid or are his own people trying to get rid of him? And what about the series of murders he stumbles upon? Scheider was always particularly good at portraying a specific kind of 70s macho maleness with cracks, so he’s ideal casting for the role. Demme being Demme, every single character here is cast perfectly, of course. And this being a Hitchcock homage, Demme twists his general ability to suggest that every side character in his films has a full storyline of her or his own outside of the film to suggest that everyone has a dirty secret and nobody is who he says he is; otherwise, the film goes through the handbook of Hitchcock themes and techniques with verve, a degree of irony and wit.

Tracks (2013): I am rather fond of films about relatively solitary characters moving through a landscape while not terribly much plot or action happens, so I am rather predisposed to like John Curran’s film about Robyn Davidson’s (here portrayed by the typically brilliant Mia Wasikowska) trek through the West Australian outback and desert with some camels and her dog. But then, Curran’s film doesn’t make appreciating it terribly difficult. There’s not just Wasikowska’s ability to carry the movie, but also the beauty of the landscape (brilliantly photographed by Mandy Walker) and an idea of nature that never devolves into kitsch, as well as Curran’s way to anchor the film in its time and place. Now, you might argue that the film’s psychological side – adding the usual stuff about dead fathers to the book - is a bit too simple and on the nose but watching Tracks, I found myself thinking of it rather more as stripped down to the basics in a way that befits this trek through the desert.

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