Thursday, November 09, 2006

Perfume and a Death of a President

I. Love. Tom Tykwer!!!

"Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" (dir. Tom Tykwer, Germany, 2006, 147 mins.) is another glorious addition to Tom ("Run Lola Run") Tykwer's canon! The man continues to combine visual flair, ecstatic editing, haunting music and a solid screenplay to create emotionally unforgettable moments. Though the novel by Suskind has as many detractors as it does fans, this film version should bring both camps into its fantastical world. I felt a bit of a lag around the two hour mark, however I may have been in the minority on that. Not to mention, that Tykwer is such a master of pacing, what might have felt a bit slow, only brought my energy in tune to what is one of the most visually and emotionally striking cinematic climaxes in my recent memory. The man borders on Cecil B. DeMille-like spectacle during the final 10 minutes!

Tykwer has a strong visual aesthetic, without resorting to 'stunt shots'. There is a fly-over that feels a bit gratuitous, but it is easily forgiven and nearly forgotten as the rest of the film maintains it's grim (if not Grimm's Fairy tale-like) and antique atmosphere.
Ben Whishaw
keeps up in his portrayal, in the unrewarding lead role of the nearly soulless psychopath. Since the character is such a cypher, it is all too easy for Dustin Hoffman, in a supporting role, to steal the scenes he is in. Alan Rickman uncharacteristically underplays his role, which adds just the appropriate balance during his sequence. Less fortunate are the women, who are all merely objects to Whishaw, which is true to the novel and the subject of most of the disdain that the book has been subject to.

Mr. Tykwer was present at the screening tonight for a Q&A, which featured the usual fawning and mindless questioning. NOT to say that I came up with an enlightened question, however my subtle faux pas afterwards (in which I asked about his short subject with Parker Posey, when I MEANT Natalie Portman, and he looked at me like I had NO idea what I was talking about!), was minuscule to the awkward and embarrassing spectacle that Laura Albert, aka J.T. Leroy, made of herself as she cornered Mr. Tykwer to complain about how 'used' she felt by Gus Van Sant. What a bore!!

And speaking of hoaxes and lies...

"Death of a President" (dir. Gabriel Range, UK, 2006, 90 mins.) is a 'documentary' about the assassination of President Bush, which occurs in October of 2007, and the government's anxious and misleading attempt at finding the assassin and scapegoat with the help of the media. By using archive film mixed with manufactured footage, Range has concocted an extraordinary examination of the media, politics and the emotional fallout of the war in Iraq. The cinematic virtuosity of the first hour almost overshadows the points the film would like to make. The events leading up to and including the assassination are so brilliantly created, that I could not distinguish what was real and what was fiction. What is truly remarkable, however, is that the performances are so solid and true, they actually overcome the technical wizardry they are framed in and are unexpectedly quite moving! It is this awkward combination of absolutely thrilling technique and sordid subject matter (well, for SOME politicos!) that has created its own controversy. I finished the film NOT feeling angry at the system which the film would indict, but ecstatic at the virtuosity of the film making itself.

Due to what is considered its 'tasteless' subject matter, this marvelously conceived and stunningly executed little film is probably NOT going to be seen outside of the hard core 'Blue Cities', much less receive even an art-house distribution. Pity.

2 comments:

Maxxxxx said...

re "Perfume": "Sweet, sweet eye juice!"

re "Death of a President": "Woooo!"

Maya said...

Jay, it was fun to see you at last night's screening. I wish I'd stuck around to see you embarrass yourself. Heh. You're always so charming when you splutter and fret.

I'm interviewing Tykwer this morning. He's so handsome!! And well-spoken, I thought. I found the film a fascinating dark fairytale.