I've seen four movies of late--none of them have been particularly enjoyable experiences, which is not to say that they are not good films, but with all of them I left the theatre with a singular unease, which must mean something.
I saw Gone Girl in London when my brother and I were trying to hide out from a rain storm. I didn't read the book, nor did I have any idea what the film was about. I liked it a little, it was a sad and sorry tale if you ask me, playing on cultural fears about secrets, abuse, and the games we play as humans taken to extremes.
Gone Girl is David Fincher's highest grossing movie to date. I like Fincher, he is always dark and stylish-things I enjoy. The film plays with American notions of gender roles and, by initiating this story of a murder/disappearance tale, kicks them off balance and plays with all our fears about the secret lives of those we live with.
It's dark and violent and a bit nuts. The book apparently teels the tale from each of the couple's perspectives, a trope the film avoids mostly, presenting it instead as a more traditional procedural drama, but one with unexpected twists and turns.
I didn't like it. Why? don't know, just didn't-i found it a little too slick and clinical for its own good.
I did like the music.
BIRDMAN: The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
Alejandro Innaritu's latest film catapaults Michael Keaton back into the cultural spotlight in this film about the vicissitudes of fame, celebrity and social media. Ketaon plays Riggan Thomson, an actor who has been stereotyped by the superhero role he played 22 years before and is now trying to break that perception and limitation by starring in a stage play of Raymond chandler's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Like many of Innaritu's films, there is a surreal feel to everything. Essentially a critique of celebrity-obsession, the film is witty, biting and dark--melancholy ooozes from everywhere, and Thomson's desperate efforts to break out of the box that fame has put him in is tragic. Keaton blazes, and deserves all the accolades he is receiving. But again, I left the theatre with a sadness wrapped around me--the world feels fucked when you step out of a film like this.
I lasted about 20 minutes. I shouldn't have gone, I never do well with war movies--Saving Private Ryan, Born on the 4th of July etc., all traumatize me a little. This focus on the human story, it feels so right, but I can't help but feel that deep down, it's actually a bit manipulative and has a kind of pornographic voyeuristic element to the human aspect of war and violence. Don't get me wrong, I doubt that the film over-estimates the graphic and horrific nature of conflict, it probably doesn't do enough, but something troubles me quite deeply about this 'realism' and I suspect that it is not 'real' but hyperreal in a sense--I have to think about it a little.
But as I said, I left after 20 minutes because I couldn't take the graphic nature of the onscreen stuff---wish I had a stronger stomach but it made me so nervous and agitated that I decided it was best for me to leave.
Weird, that's what I felt about this film from Dan Gilroy. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a man living on the fringes of society, who lucks into a job as an amateur cameraman using his eye and his nerve to create a niche for himslef with a local news station as the go-to guy for crime and violence. The tv station has low ratings and the night-producer, desperate to keep her job, becomes a willing accomplice to Blooms sadistic and callously artful capturing of human depravity. She is, in some way, his mirror--desperation and being on the edge mark them both. Gyllenhaal plays Bloom to full and complete strangeness--bug-eyed and seemingly devoid of any human feeling or emotion, he self-educates via the Internet and turns himself into a twisted sort of self-help psychopath, all the while pushing the limits of what is acceptable fare to be shown on the morning news.
There is a critique of news--that it creates and promotes fearfulness, particualrly among the rich white communities and ignores or uses everyone else. This is a relentless and exacting film-there are no wasted scenes or words or characters-everything is minimalized to play on the anxiety of both the central characters and we, the viewer. And again, I left the theatre with a deep sense of unease.
So what have I learned? Well, I think this unease, which all these films left me with, reflects a tone in cinema today, an expression of the inner-despair and concern many have about the state of affairs for all of us living in the early decades of the 21st century. whether it's technology, social media, the media and news services, crime, violence or war, we are continually and constantly being reminded that all is not well and we would do well not to forget that and to pay more attention. None of these films seem to offer up any alternative or any answer, and I am not saying they should, but the critique is seldom strong enough in my mind--if that is the intention of any of these films and filmmakers-I wonder about that, but I don't generally trust the remedies that cinema provides-the usually present a binary opposition which I think is very unhelpful.
I forgot to mention Denzel washington's latest, The equalizer, a remake of a UK TV series, violent, gory and forgettable.