"Seconds," "Deep Red," "Donnie Darko," "Funny Games," "Dementia 13"

Stuff I can only mention in passing:


John Frankenheimer's film has such a high rep actually watching it was something of a disappointment. The acting was great--both John Randolph as the man experiencing a middle-aged crisis and Rock Hudson as the improved version manage to convey his spiritual anguish; more, they manage to suggest it's the same man trying to cope with a different face, a different body (no easy feat, I think).

But the story itself feels clunky now; all that money, effort, surgery, and you still have a high percentage of failures? Maybe it needs a touch more of fantasy or science fiction to smooth it out (Death Becomes Her just attributed it all to a magic potion; Orson Scott Card's short story, "Fat Farm," spends a paragraph on the transformation, then the rest of the story on the consequences).

Deep Red

Plenty fun, if highly implausible (David Hemmings' character shows an insane amount of courage, breaking into deserted houses at night and letting his girlfriend wander a darkened high school building even when he knows a serial killer is out to get him); what saves it are Argento's seductive camera moves and incredible sense of color (even a construction vehicle--bright orange aganst the black asphalt--stands out). I do think I prefer his supernatural to his myster-thriller films, if only because it's easier to swallow improbables when the unearthly are involved, while you assume watertight logic when you see a mystery thriller.

Donnie Darko

Starts out nicely ominous, but diminishes the more you watch and the more you understand. Ultimately clever and entertaining but not much more--Lynch lite, with a need to resort to time travel to achieve its more surreal effects.

Funny Games

Thought Michael Hannake's Code Unknown was remarkable, this one less so--a hermetically sealed film that subjects its mice to a series of increasingly sadistic ordeals.

That said, Hannake's a master at the game--more severe, more convincing at it than Von Triers (who's so eager to begin torturing his protagonists you wonder if he left out a missing reel or two) or Gaspar Noe (who if you look at the details deals mainly in fantasy) or Miike (who's just plain cartoonish) or Park Chan Woo (who's just plain sloppy). Hannake has such confidence in his control he can even make jokes about his killers losing theirs overthe situation (and regaining it with the push of a button). Not a bad film--a masterpiece, if you enjoy watching mice in a maze with no cheese reward.

Dementia 13

Fun, in a low-budget way (it's Francis Coppola's debut film), with unusually well-written characters (unusual for films of this budget, anyway) and near-nonexistent special effects.

No comments: