This film made no sense. Absolutely none (unless, apparently, you had read the book it was based on). Much dialogue was unintelligible and the cinematography was dreary. It even managed to make an unclothed Scarlett Johansson unattractive. [Smoking -1, incidental crowd scenes]
Perhaps this was Canada’s version of Magic Realism, or perhaps it was cinema-by-collage. However it can be described, it certainly was bizarre. Start with the casting of Jake Gyllenhaal, who was convincing neither as a college history professor nor as his more financially successful doppelganger. Instead of an attempt at reality, I had the feeling I was watching an allusion to another movie – just as the opening scene, unconnected to anything, reminded me of Eyes Wide Shut, the helmeted motorcycle rider reminded me of David Cronenberg’s The Fly, the never-used key in the envelope reminded me of a Hitchcock McGuffin, and everything reminded me of David Lynch. The soundtrack score was so creepy and prominent, there was no need for the actors to convey or evoke emotions. I will say that I, like the entire Film Society audience, was riveted, in the expectation that all would be explained. Nothing was, but at least in searching for a possible explanation (of anything), we had been made to think. [Smoking – 2; early and extraneous]
The latest, and one of the best, from the modern movie Mannerist Wes Anderson – a totally stylized romp through pre-war Eastern Europe, if you can call a cross between the Marx Brothers and James Bond a style. Each shot begged you to look for little jokes in the background – like the Delta flight announcement – as much as you paid attention to the stilted dialogue. An old man tells the story of his youth to a young writer who tells it to us many years later, so a little exaggeration is to be expected. The best part of the convoluted tale is the many roles it offers to famously recognizable actors, who can mug to their heart’s content and still remain in character. (Bill Murray, alas, is wasted.) I have gone to every Wes Anderson film since the well liked Rushmore and consistently been disappointed – but not this time.
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