October 4th, 2012

breaking bad

Three films

I have seen three films recently, but because I am working literally seven days a week right now, I haven't had time to post here about them. In case you are trying to decide whether to see them, here is a quick blast of opinion. No spoilers.

Anna Karenina: starring Keira Knightley, script by Tom Stoppard, and directed by Joe Wright (also directed Keira Knightley in Pride and Prejudice, and Atonement). Some people are irritated by Keira Knightley. If you are, this will irritate you, as her mannerisms are on full strength. Not a problem for me, I think she is doing pretty well & maturing as an actress. This is an extremely stylised non-realistic production, more like an opera than a normal film. It's very lush with fantastic dresses and so on. The story happens in and around a series of theatrical sets, some of which kind of open up into real life rooms or landscapes, and others close down into backstage walkways. It reminded me a bit of Kenneth Branagh's Magic Flute. It's very girly, very pretty, and a bit shallow.

Killing Them Softly: is a philosophical gangster film - there are a few of those aren't there. Like the Hit or something, but this one is American. The philosophical theme is entropy and the inevitability of decay. It is grimy and oppressive in atmosphere but very cleverly designed. Brad Pitt is a competent hitman, no appetite for emotional scenes, just does the job. He is operating in a milieu which is dominated by incompetent men with massive emotional issues that they express through greed and violence. Meanwhile the banking crisis and the McCain/Obama presidential campaign are playing out in the background, on every radio and TV in every room. As Pitt contends 'This is capitalism, now give me my fucking money'.

Looper: This is a time travel film set in the near future USA, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a hitman and Bruce Willis as his older self back from the future. A big deal for me is that this was directed by a Breaking Bad alumnus - Rian Johnson who directed my favourite episode 'Fly'. It is also the best SF film we have seen for a while, though it is quite flawed. I feel it was perhaps pulled in many directions as it was made, and the emotional punch was somehow lost. You can read a full review by Abigail here: I really recommend that, and there's no point in me repeating any of that analysis. I disagree with Abigail in one respect - I think the way that the paradoxes of time travel were handled, though no doubt ridiculous, was satisfying in narrative terms, and internally consistent - like for example Terminator, where the time travel doesn't annoy the viewer, regardless of whether it makes sense.

For me the best scene hands down - and it is interesting Abigail also mentions it - was a Breaking Bad scene. Aging dangerous (bald) man browbeats and ridicules younger man in a diner, calls him a child, and they end up hurting each other. That's like in every episode, but it never gets old. I would say that Bruce Willis is - he's probably a more straightforward kind of guy than Bryan Cranston, less in touch with - erm - the problematic things inside. His delivery of the same lines is less complicit and disturbing, but nevertheless fascinating to see a different favourite actor approach the same material.
breaking bad

Sube conmigo amor Americano

For national poetry day, here is my own translation of part of The Heights of Macchu Picchu by Pablo Neruda. Oh Wilkamayu, oh you loom of sound.

Sube conmigo amor Americano

Rise up with me, American beloved
Oh, kiss with me these undiscovered rocks.
The silver torrent of the Urubamba
Drives out the pollen from its golden cup.
Everything is flying: the emptiness within the vines
The solid ground, the stony garlanding,
Above the silent canyon through the peaks.
Come, little one, between these wings
Emerging from the ground - crystal and freezing air -
Beating back, fighting the emeralds,
The savage waters at the base of snow.

Love me, love me, until the night forces
Sound from the Andean flint,
Until the rosy knees of dawn
Part to reveal the blind son of the snow.

Oh Wilkamayu, oh you loom of sound
When you break your perfect line
In white spume, like a wound in snow
When your plunging tempest sings
Punishing heaven, calling the sky to wake,
What language is this, wrenched from the Andean foam,
That gushes into my open ears?