Abras Los Ojos (Alejandro Amenabar), Night Moves (Arthur Penn), The Green Ray (Eric Rohmer)

One gripe I have about Alejandro Amenabar's Abras Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes, 1998) is that it's essentially Philip K. Dick's Ubik without the wit and with the intensity dialed down a few notches. Other than that, it's wondrously shot and performed, especially with Noriega in the lead; I even liked (and was moved by) Penelope Cruz's hapless, helpless Sofia.

Strangely enough, I think Amenabar's best film to date is The Others, his 2001 film with Tom Cruise's ex-beard, Nicole Kidman--there he had an elegantly simple concept that unfolded with a bouquet of unnerving little details, and a central performance that captured you, fascinated you, ultimately moved you.

In Arthur Penn's 1975 masterpiece Night Moves Gene Hackman's Harry Moseby, much like Elliot Gould's Marlowe in Altman's The Long Goodbye, is an artifact (Moseby's more aware of it, though, and thus more effective at surviving). Hackman's Moseby (arguably his finest performance in a career of fine performances) gets by on what seems like sheer force of will, bullying when he's in a hurry, charming when he wants to be low-key. Maybe his weak spot is a sneaking sympathy for wounded creatures (a weak spot that's promptly exploited)--that and his complacency concerning his wife (who seems to know all about his weak spot--even loves him for it).

The ending is a startlingly violent (a pontoon ramming a diving mask; a pair of exhausted old men ramming fists into each other) and beautiful (blood on a bright blue sea; slow movement of a crashed plane sinking into the deep, taking its helpless, soundless occupant with it) demonstration of reality spinning beyond everyone's control, plans, wishes. The final image--of the boat running about in circles--is about as Sisyphean an image as one can wish for from the pessimistic '70s.

I'll have to agree with many others that Eric Rohmer's Le Rayon Vert (The Green Ray, 1986) is probably his finest work and my favorite of his films, with a great character in Delphine (Marie Rivere, in a bravely unsympathetic performance) walking around petulantly unsatisfied with the world around her (She's like a walking rebuke towards all those French films featuring sunny landscapes, countryside food, bright-red wines, rustic houses, young men and women with slim, casually erotic bodies). She asks the question wedare not ask: "Why should we enjoy these things anyway? Isn't there, well, more?" With perhaps one of the most thrilling finales--all the more remarkable considering it involves no chases, explosions, violence or even the threat of violence--in all of cinema.

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