Saturday, December 04, 2004

Short Cuts: December '04

Crimson Gold
d. Jafar Panahi, 2003

Much like Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring in that it transcends its culture to delve into the universal. Hussein is an overweight pizza delivery man/petty criminal with a heart of gold. Constantly battered about because of his weight and financial standing (which could be aptly described pictorially by a three-legged, nearly diaphanous mutt), Hussein rolls with the punches and, eventually, has enough. I could reduce it to the pithy "Triumph of the Spirit" line, but Crimson Gold is more than that. Hussein is man trapped by his country, his body, and his social standing. He does everything he can to break though, but without success. Heartbreaking and hilarious in the same way that Beckett is.

d. Joel Coen, 1996

As much as I've liked Fargo, there's always been something missing. I don't know what exactly - possibly sympathy for the characters - but, on my...fifth viewing or so, it was there. It's there in Frances McDormand's car ride soliloquy. It's there in the whole film actually. The austere landscapes that seem to envelope the people are no longer suffocating, they're more like familiar blanket. The accents, while garish, aren't poking fun at the Yoopers, just endearingly replicating their oral gait. The point is: no longer do I see this as just another great Coen Bros. film, but now I see it, alongside The Man Who Wasn't There, as their masterpiece.

d. Jules Dassin, 1955

A good film with a very good heist sequence that has been (unfortunately for itself) diminished in the wake of the superior sequence in Melville's Le Cercle Rouge. The directing is good. The cinematography is good. The acting is good. The story is good. None of it is great. Add to this mixture of 'good' a dollop of 'great praise' and a smattering of 'slow spells' and you got yourself the much reviled Overpraised Pie. I'm glad I saw it (and, dammit, everyone should) but my final verdict is thus: meh.

Straw Dogs
d. Sam Peckinpah, 1971

Not a meditation on violence, as was The Wild Bunch (and as some of the misguided believe.) No no, Straw Dogs is much worse. Probably the most uncomfortable film for me to watch, as I recognize myself so terribly in it. David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman, in a role not entirely unlike his turn as Willy Loman) is the pathetic everyman: timorous, pithy, spiteful, and full of untimely gallantry. The editing is deftly creative, guiding the viewer along, walking the fine line between astute and obvious. Peckinpah's finest hour, and one of the finer hours in the whole of film.