Category Archives: Movies

Do They All Die?: TELL NO ONE

Tell No One Poster

Here we are with another unnecessarily detailed lecture on a movie you probably will not see.  I love writing this blog.  As ever with DTAD?, we will not shy away from spoilers.

TELL NO ONE (France, 2006; USA in 2008).  Screenplay by Guillaume Canet, Phillip Lefebvre.  Directed by Guillaume Canet.  Based on novel by Harlan Coben.

Tell No One opens somewhere in the French countryside, as some friends enjoy each other’s company around a picnic table just by a rustic house.  Otis Redding’s For Your Precious Love rests loudly in the mix, unignorably in the foreground, setting the tone as peaceful and pleasant and warm.  Alex (Francois Cluzet) and Margot (Marie-Josee Croze), later, find themselves alone, at a lake, where they take a nude swim and lay, wet and comfortable, holding each other, on a raft near the middle of the lake.  Their exposure here is sexual only in part.  Primarily, their nudity explains an utter, mutual comfort with each other, and with their surroundings.  There is nothing naughty about what they’re doing.  Nothing mysterious.  No need to be quiet, or stay in the dark.  They are two people who are innocent as children, perfectly where they ought to be.

A spat breaks the placid evening, though, and Margot swims back to shore to be alone.  Moments after disappearing from the shore, she screams.  Alex stands up on the raft and calls for her.  He calls again, and, again, she screams his name.  He dives into the water, swimming desperately for the dock, and, reaching it, he climbs the ladder, where he is promptly clobbered and left unconscious in the water.

Eight years later, Margot is dead, her killer in prison, and Alex has a successful pediatric practice.  He still mourns his lost wife.  He is still alone.  And then the wheels start to turn.  He gets mysterious emails that appear to be from Margot.  The bodies of two men are found near where Margot was thought to be killed, and they appear connected to Margot’s murder–Alex is now a suspect, himself.  There is, of course, a long-standing question as to how Alex ended up on the dock after landing in the lake unconscious.  There are, eight years later, enough questions and loose ends to find suspicion.

And so, a chase begins.  The police are after Alex for apparently murdering Margot.  Alex is on the run from the police and toward, he hopes, the still-breathing Margot.  And a third group of people are going ’round killing people for information and torturing people by squeezing their organs while still in their chest. As put by Roger Ebert, the plot “is not merely airtight, it’s hermetically sealed”.

The movie is shot exquisitely.  For long sequences, the camera moves so slightly, so passively, that the entire movie seems safe and calm.  The camera rests on the hard-melting facial expressions of a kaleidoscope of family and friends, dealing with the trauma of recalling a murder.  And, finally, when things get rolling, when no facial contortions could possibly matter, the camera shakes with all the drama and terror of the scene it follows.

The shots are composed gorgeously.  During the long, blood-drainingly tense scene which (in fine film noir style) reveals the entire mystery to Alex, the lights are off in the house, and a brilliant afternoon sun shines through the white curtains, giving the house an eerie white and blue glow.  At one point, Margot’s father, tired and retired, with a blue shirt and white hair, stands before one window, explaining what happened eight years before to his daughter.  Opposite him, seated, before another blazing white window, in another blue shirt, but with dark hair, is the younger man, Alex, defeated and desperate, hearing the explanation.  The scene, and shot, are devastating.

The ending becomes obvious before it is given to the audience.  Its expectation makes it no less compelling, however.  Alex finds himself back at tree where he and Margot marked their anniversaries as children and adults–a place he hadn’t been to in eight years, and finds eight new marks slashed into the bark.  He falls to his knees–catharsis comes hard for Greeks and Frenchmen alike–and behind him, coming through the trees, is Margot.  She’s so pale and perfect and so out of focus, she seems as though a ghost.  She approaches Alex, who must know she is there, from behind, silently, and it isn’t until she finally touches him that the moment, the reunion, the resurrection from the dead, becomes real to Alex, and real to us.

This movie has a lot going on.  Confusion and conspiracy to rival The Big Sleep (though, thankfully, there is the aforementioned Reveal scene), but with every detail in place, every character accounted for and necessary.  But, if you let the movie take you where it intends to go, if you don’t waste precious moments dwelling on your absence of understanding, this is the most rewarding kind of movie there is.  Impressive on every level.

Oh, and, I mean, how sweet is the poster?

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Do They All Die?: PERSEPOLIS

dtat.jpgPersepolis is an autobiographical film (the second one reviewed on this site, after A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints) about Marji Satrapi, a girl who grew up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In French. For whatever reason, going into seeing the movie, I could not straighten “Iran”, “Islam”, and “Afghan” into the proper order. No idea what I was doing.

The film is based off four graphic novels of the same name by Satrapi, and, for obvious reasons, contains a great deal more detail and information on Satrapi’s experiences. Presumably, the illustrations in the book provide the format for the animation of the movie, which is mostly monochromatic, minimalistic visualizations with occasional flares of color that, upon a single viewing, appeared more random than directed. It’s possible that a reading of the book would have cleared away this, and some of my other problems with the film, but as the things stand, the movie has a few disgruntled vagaries for people such as myself to deal with.

As a very young child, Marji sees herself as a future prophet, talking to God, and finds herself enthusiastic about any topic her life intersects with. She is a budding revolutionary, fiery and temperamental. When the Islamic fundamentalists imprison thousands and force women to take the veil, Marji is bold and fearless in her challenges, walking a fine line between inquisitive child and prison-worthy revolutionary, a role held by her uncle, the communist.

Eventually, the oppressive rule of the fundamentalists takes its toll upon Marji, as she suffers the loss of friends and family members, and her once-defiant emotional directness sinks, becoming candid depression and cynicism.

The movie takes place over the course of roughly 10 years, each scene serving as a glimpse into Marjane’s world as it deteriorates and twists. While the portrait is vast, and in some ways, beautiful, Marji’s world on a personal level is left shallow by the technique. Marji’s mother and father are loving, but there is little else to say about them. We can see that much of Marji’s personality is derived from her sparkplug grandmother. We can see little else. Every character is a caricature, focused and distorted through Marji’s childhood memories. While the book may have provided enough depth for Marji’s uneasy clique of Vienna outcasts to come and engage the audience, the cinematic flyover in Persepolis left me wanting.

Persepolis’ is, in some ways, a fabulous film. To its own demerit, however, it grabs the audience, and lets it go, only to grab and release again, and again, and again. I would have preferred a smaller snapshot of Satrapi’s life, something that could grab hold and take me somewhere.

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Jack and Diane Movie Greater Than Eponymous Song

Let us begin with some basic information: John Mellancamp is kind’ve a hack, and Ellen Page is, I think, It. Or she’s got It. Or she’s next. Or she’s now. Hot? Everybody like Ellen Page right now, because this trailer for her film, Juno, is fabulous, and the movie has received what Metacritic calls “Universal Acclaim”.

Well, being a bored and curious fellow, I decided to see what else the title star is up to, and found, disappointingly, a movie on her schedule called “Jack and Diane”. Now, “Jack and Diane” is the title of the most popular song by the singer John Couger Mellancamp, who, lately, is mostly known for his work in Chevy commercials. Grudgingly, I went to the IMDB page for this movie, to see how somebody would flesh out a story about “two American kids growin’ up in the heartland”.

Well, here’s the plot, according to IMDB:

Jack and Diane, two teenage lesbians, meet in New York City and spend the night kissing ferociously. Diane’s charming innocence quickly begins to open Jack’s tough skinned heart. But, when Jack discovers that Diane is leaving the country in a week she tries to push her away. Diane must struggle to keep their love alive while hiding the secret that her newly awakened sexual desire occasionally turns her into a werewolf.

Yeah, I didn’t see that last sentence coming, either.  Let’s just analyze the basic stories we’ve got happening here, in a single movie:

  • Forbidden love (lesbian love).
  • Teenage love
  • Brief love
  • Lust
  • Werewolves

So, we’re working with elements from (at the very least), “An American Werewolf In London”, “Romeo and Juliet”, “Lost in Translation”, and “Brokeback Mountain”. Apparently, the plot is also “Ginger Snaps”, but in reverse. I’ve never seen that movie, so I can’t really comment on it, but, I mean, the rest of the movies were pretty good, right? Doesn’t this movie have every pubescent tease in it, somewhere? Werewolves, lesbians, adventure, drama, comedy, sex, and violence?

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Do They All Die?: NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

dtat.jpgLast week, we looked at Cormac McCarthy’s book, No Country for Old Men.  To start off this week, we take a look at the Coen brothers’ cinematic adaptation of the same book. 

As with the book, the movie focuses on the three characters of Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) who finds the money, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) who chases Llewelyn, and Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) who slowly and steadily paddles in the wake of their destruction.  All three leads are played outstandingly.  Jones is known for his frequent role as a law enforcement-type, but the personality of his role is not the brash, respected law officer he has been known for, but, rather, a reserved, contemplative small-town sheriff. 

Brolin plays Llewelyn Moss laconically, and Moss very clearly comes off as a man who understands that he is in immense danger, but doesn’t quite understand the extent of that danger.  Bardem’s Chigurh is as menacing as villains come, but his vaguely philosophical banter, and his remarkably restrained politeness give him an edge of black comedy. 

The movie, from what I noticed, features little to no music, which reflects Cormac McCarthy’s stark writing well.  It also features a great deal of his dialogue, nearly verbatim, and, most importantly, the movie reflects the odd non-climax of the book.  As I alluded to in the book review, the climax of No Country for Old Mentakes place off-screen.  The audience only arrives to the climax as Sheriff Bell does–that is, far too late.  We see the shocking aftermath, but we’re not sure quite how we got there. 

Chigurh, at two points, forces people to call a coin toss.  What each person stands to win or lose goes undefined, but powerfully implied, and this shows an element to Chigurh that is reflected in the movie.  Mostly, that we can make choices, like “heads or tails”, but the results of our choices are inevitable.  Every time “heads” is called, something shall occur, and there is no getting around it.  McCarthy elucidates that point fantastically in the narrative, and the Coens are masterful in their reflection of the theme.

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Streee-rike Two!

This post is only called “Stee-rike Two!” because on Friday, we did “Stree-rike!”, in which all your Curious Mechanism related fears involving the Writers’ Strike (which is no longer impending, but, in fact, “here”) were resolved.  It’s Monday.  Unionized writers who get paid to do their thing are watching soap operas, while we are at work, looking over our shoulders in case our bosses catch us writing for this blog.

Anyway, we’re offering to resolve, in a small and temporary way, the strike.  How, you ask? 

I’m offering my services as Scab Extraordinaire. 

I will boldly cross picket lines (I write on the Internets, so, really, the “boldness” is relative) to write for your show, to keep it on the air, and to keep the sponsors coming back.  TO KEEP THE MONEY FLOWING LIKE BOXED WINE AT A SORORITY PARTY. 

What I will not do, however, is write shit.  The LA Times has done a standup job of posting a grid with every show on TV that will or will not be affected by the strike.  You want me to write for your show, I’ll some demands, damnit.

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Steee-rike!

Apparently, the talks between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.  From what I can grift from this article, the writers want to get paid when their work goes to DVD, the way the producers get paid.  The producers say, “yeah, right”, and writers are all, “fuck off, we’re takin’ a walk”.  And that’s why Lost is going to debut season 4 sometime in 2011. 

That’s some bullshit right there, huh?

Luckily for you clowns, we have a very lucrative contract to write this here blog (read: no dollars), and we’ll happily continuing dumping hundreds of factually, grammatically, and spellingly erroneous words into the blogosphere at no charge to you, or benefit to us. 

I hope I’ve resolved all your fears. 

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Do They All Die? 14: LARS AND THE REAL GIRL

dtat.jpgLars and the Real Girl has, on the surface, almost nothing that would interest me.  It’s a movie directed by Craig Gillespie, who, according to IMDB has previously done nothing, although he also sat at the helm of Mr Woodcock, which I haven’t seen, but appeared to be your run of the mill bad dick-joke Billy Bob Thornton doing-it-for-the-paycheck kind of comedy.  The screenplay was written by Nancy Oliver, who also wrote for Six Feet Under, which was a television program on HBO or Showtime or some premium channel that I’ve never owned.  I’m sure it’s delightful, though.

The title character, Lars, is played by Ryan Gosling, who starred in The Notebook, which, again, I haven’t seen but it was based on a short novel too terrible to complete.  Mama Thursday–a sucker for the sappy stuff, God bless her–loves the book.  I can’t speak to whether she saw or enjoyed the film, however.  Otherwise, Gosling has been in The United States of Leland (which looked enjoyable) and Murder by Numbers (which looked intolerable).  I had no reason to expect much from Mr Gosling.  Co-starring are Emily Mortimer (British, but only vaguely familiar), Paul Schneider (totally unfamiliar), Kelli Garner (almost totally unfamiliar), and Patricia Clarkson (excellent in Good Night and Good Luck).  Oh, and a sex doll.

So, obviously, the only thing the movie had going for it, for me, was the excellent trailer.  A movie featuring a sex doll as girlfriend would, normally, seem to act as a vehicle for a bevy of bad dick-jokes, which, as indicated before in regards to Mr Woodcock, are not my thing.   The movie’s trailer had some heart, and humor, and character, and so to the theater we went to check it out.

Lars Lindstrom lives in his garage.  He and his brother Gus (Schneider) inherited their northern Wisconsin house from their father when he died.  Upon the inheritance, Gus and his wife Karin (Mortimer) move in, and Lars chooses to move into the garage, by himself.  He keeps to himself, constantly, despite the efforts of Karin to get him involved in the house–inviting him to meals whenever she can intercept him on the way from his car to the garage door.  Lars despises physical contact, and runs, literally runs, away from anyone who shows him any kind of warmth.  He leaves the house only to go to church, and to work.

One day, Lars, unexpectedly, comes to the front door of the house, and tells both Gus and Karin that he has a visitor, and that this visitor, a girl, does not speak much English and is confined to a wheelchair, so if they could try to be considerate of all that, he’d appreciate it.  Naturally, Gus and Karin, thinking that Lars had finally reached out to another human being, are stunned to find that a member of their family has entirely lost his mind.

Consulting the local doctor and psychologist, Dagmar (Clarkson), Gus and Karin learn that Lars has a delusion, and that he has this delusion as a way for his mind to work out some kind of problem.  The only thing they can really do for Lars, is to help him by going along with the delusion.  And so, they do so, and they get the entire town to help.

I really adored this movie.  There is definite drama and humor, but there are no villains, and no wacky Will Ferrell/Jack Black types popping up.  In that sense, the movie reminds me of real life.  However, the tightknit community that helps Lars out, that, to me, is less like the way the world really is, and more like the way the world should be.  And that’s what this movie is about.

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