Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Landmark

If you don't already know, my job this summer is working in a movie theatre. But not just any movie theatre-- Landmark Theatres, the only one still spelling it the British way (theatRE not theatER), just the way I do. Landmark is currently the only movie theatre chain playing only foreign and independent films, which means that it is largely due to the landmark that people see movies like "La Vie en Rose," "Inconvenient Truth," or "Paprika." Basically, I am a landmark theatres tool. I upsell and cross-sell like no other, and actually (lo and behold!) want the company to benefit as much as possible. Plus I get free pop, nachos, and popcorn. And I haven't had the time to write that many film reviews, but let's just say I've seen 5 of the 7 movies currently showing. I will describe 4, since I've already mentioned "the Fall."

Here they are, with snippets of short reviews:

The Last Mistress

Asia Argento stars in this "bodice-ripper," as my friend Alex called it. A period piece, the film is set in 19th century France, which means costume details, lace, and fans galore. No female in this movie is overwhelmingly attractive, and the lead male is more feminine than either of the women, but the sheer sexuality of the movie is worth a peek. The plot is minimal: a man is set to marry a noble woman, but the man has been sleeping with another woman-- Spanish, wild, and somewhat crazy-- for 10 years. During the movie he attempts to rid himself of his dependency on the wildwoman. As a film, something doesn't quite work. The ending is abrupt. Much of it, though serious, seems comical, and I think this is done on purpose. Unlike many period pieces, shot with virtually no creativity, "The Last Mistress" uses less respectful but more emotional and exciting cinematography. Most importantly, this is the first movie I have ever seen that continuously focuses on the female orgasm, and does it pretty well. On the whole, the movie is ambigous and difficult.

Tell No One

French thriller about a man set up for the murder of his wife 8 years ago, then wakes up one morning to find an email from her sitting in his inbox. Cue general thriller activities-- car chases, foot chases, guns, murder, red herrings, plot twists-- and insert amazing camerawork, good American rock music, gorgeous actors and actresses, and the French language (sexy in and of itself), and you have Tell No One. Many have described it as the perfect thriller, and I'd have to agree. This one's just too much fun. Who doesn't like those oh-so-European close-ups of women walking in high heeled shoes?

Gonzo: the Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Fans of the Doctor Thompson will attest that this documentary about the inventor of Gonzo journalism is exactly what they expected. And they'd be right. But I see this in a more positive light: the movie gave me exactly what I wanted. It looked like it jumped right out of Rolling Stone magazine (one of my favorite publications) and onto a movie projector. It was cool, and sizzling, full of pop culture references, politics, and hatred of authority figures. You expect, when watching the movie, a glorification of the '60s and '70s, and boy did this film deliver. You expect Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Jefferson Airplane, the Rolling Stones. In these terms, it was great, if a bit too long. My only criticism is that the film doesn't accomplish as many modern-day comparisons as the trailer suggested. They only offhandedly mention that Hunter Thompson committed suicide partially due to the Bush Administration, and his enormous hatred of it. Only in the last five minutes do they compare Iraq to Vietnam. But it's still well worth a viewing, whether you've read/seen Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas multiple times or not. Plus, Johnny Depp narrates it, and his voice alone is well worth the price of the movie ticket.

The Visitor

I've already written a review of this movie, so here's all you need to know: it's the best-reviewed movie we have at the Landmark so far (over 90% on!) but it's simply not very memorable. It's sweet, the acting is solid, but it's relatively uninteresting, and a little cliche. There are two sides to the story. On one hand, we see a story of midlife re-awakening. A middle-aged economics professor is a living zombie: emotionally numb, entirely ambitionless, and largely apathetic. Thin-lipped and dry, always with a glass of red wine in his hand, Walter reminds us of our least favored professors. To put it bluntly, he isn’t a very likeable character. One afternoon he finds a Syrian twenty-something with his Senegalese girlfriend sharing his well-kept apartment in NYC. Initially, Walter politely asks the squatters to leave, but then asks them to stay out of guilt. Tarek brings a much-needed spark into the academic’s life, even teaching him the art of the African drum. But it's also a story of immigration post-9/11, and the troubles honest people have in an age of constant fear. It's a well-meaning story, done well, with little enthusiasm.

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