21 October 2007

Review: The Darjeeling Limited

Genre: Drama

I feel the urgent, 2:30am kind of pressing to post finally about this film, Mr. Anderson's latest work and probably his best. Why do I feel this urgency, you ask? I feel it, my dear friend, because there are many supposed "critics" out there who have completely missed the mark, the very finite, very clear mark set by Mr. Anderson by this film; a film that does not for lack of their animadversions lack in itself complexity, intelligence, or resonance of screenplay, a film that is not just a "visual stunner" without substance, and a film that does not slough but does chug along merrily, as though it were the exotic best friend of a certain other little engine who had also realized a possibility. Indeed, Mr. Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited presents a simple thesis, indeed that thesis' progression so condign, but it also presents that thesis in a finely hewn eloquence that builds upon itself in a rolling, advancing but never bulking fashion that never ceases to lose its balancing humor.
Truly the wit of Mr. Anderson, the kind of trademark that one is never ashamed to call one's own, or should not be, bubbles out the probably otherwise slagging roller-y of the plotline into an effervescent solution one is forever extremely pleased to quaff. And this wit extends, not only from the pentip - or the keyboard - but also from the lens as well; for just one glance at the dangling and limp hand of Mr. Brody, whose character sleeps on the top half of a bunk bed, or at the persistently unshod Mr. Schwartzman is enough to set any perspicacious and comprehensive film-goer a-chuckle. Smart beauty, yes, smart beauty is most likely the best description one could come up with of the intentions behind the camera. Imbuing in shot after shot flat parallel lines, smooth edges that do not dissever life from limb , and sapphire and deep gemstone colors that flow tidally in the tradition (of the beliefs) of Kandinsky, the cinematography of Darjeeling is exceptionally well handled, both reflective and supportive of the direction, action, and play.
The screenplay also sparkles in a way that hearkens to real artistry in the incredible amount of care spent crafting the details that sculpt out the world of the brothers from the meagre consensus. The brothers are, not only outfitted with accessories and set dressings that elaborate the natures of their relationships and their pasts and personalities, but are also written with a level of intimacy and real, working complexity rarely seen in films that must by convention stretch whole supposed people and their dramatic archs into the average span of ~1hr45min. It is a definite credit to the scripting abilities of all three of the writers that such deep characters can be so smoothly rendered in combination and other complication with one another.
Furthermore, I must mention that the actors were all incredibly fine and endearing in their portrayals of the three nuanced travelling brothers and their en-route ensemble. Mr. Wilson constructs what I think is likely his best performance to date, and Mr. Brody was in film general particularly fine.
My one complaint against this film is that it lacks the incisive quality I would so have loved to see in an introspective drama. A. O. Scott at the Times said it best, when he wrote that some scenes, which in any other film would have merited the highest ambition toward delivering the most compelling emotions, (e. g., the funeral scene) in Mr. Anderson's world tend toward delivering the most compelling aesthetics rather than dramatics. This comment, for me at least, is not to say that the dramatics are entirely absent or oft forgotten in these aesthetic explorations, but rather just that the dramatics are sublimated and subordinated by the aim the provide the consistency of a visual text, which is not a shameful aim in the least. Visual consistency, a promise so lacking in the world of film today, is to this film-goer a welcome surprise regardless of the stringencies it engenders in delivering a unhampered, still solid film.
Congratulations, Mr. Anderson and Co. Ignore the bleary-eyed professions of the masses and keep doing what you do so well.

Grade: A-/B+

04 October 2007

My Most Excitedly Anticipated of 2007

So, as I mentioned in my review of Across the Universe, I do have a list of films that I like to call my most excitedly anticipated of the year. Now, it's not a real list, one written down and enumerated, ordered and carefully thought out; it's more of a collection of the titles of films whose previews for one reason or another stood out to me as presaging either a film that I think I'd really personally enjoy or a film that I think I'd find very well done - a collection that I just happen to be writing down and enumerating now...yea...:

1) Across the Universe
Before: All previews point to a beautifully crafted, if spontaneous, piece by the talented filmmaker/artist Julie Taymor, whose previous film Frida was a wonderful example of what film can be. Evan Rachel Wood is a plus.

After: All reviews point to disappointment. Ms. Wood was just OK, but it wasn't her fault.

Grade: C-

2) Control
Before: All previews point to an interesting, beautifully shot inspection into the life of Ian Curtis, enigmatic lead singer of the early 80s post-punk band Joy Division (a personal musical favorite). Samantha Morton is a plus.

Release Date: October 10

3) Dan in Real Life
Before: All previews point to a fun, quaint (in the best sense) comedy-drama by Peter Hedges, a director whose forte and inclination are such films. Juliette Binoche, John Mahoney, and a score by Norwegian singer/songwriter/rock star Sondre Lerche are all plusses.

Release Date: October 26

4) The Darjeeling Limited
Before: All previews point to a "smart," "edgy," and fun(ny) exploration of family so well done by acclaimed writer/director Wes Anderson in the past. Plusses for pairing Adrien Brody with Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman, for the consistent cinematography, and for Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray, and Wes-Anderson newbie Natalie Portman.

Release Date: September 29 (but I haven't yet been able to go into Manhattan to see it. Hopefully I will this weekend.)

5) Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Before: All previews point to a gorgeously decorated, well acted, if a bit unbalanced, epic that should do justice to the otherwise somewhat hackneyed institution "the sequel." Plusses for all returning cast members, the additions of Samantha Morton and Clive Owen, and the exquisite looking costumes (and art direction).

Release Date: October 12

6) Lust, Caution
Before: All previews point to another meditative, questioning triumph for brilliant director Ang Lee, who has this time wisely paired himself with the extremely adept Tony Leung and wisely chosen Alexandre Desplat to compose the score. Plusses for Mr. Lee's refusal to kowtow to the MPAA's silly and prudish regulations and for the backing by Focus Features.

Release Date: September 29

7) Margot at the Wedding
Before: All previews point to a ripe, heady little piece by Wes-Anderson protege Noah Baumbach, whose The Squid and the Whale simply wowed me. Plus for Nicole Kidman in the lead.

Release Date: November 16

8) My Blueberry Nights
Before: All previews point to an intriguingly mysterious new piece by acclaimed director Wong Kar Wai, whose In the Mood for Love is exquisite. Major plusses for the incredible cast with the quirky inclusion of Norah Jones and for both the contemporary setting and the English language, both new territories for the director that I prefer to see as willful challenges he has set up for himself.

Release Date: TBD 2007

9) The Savages
Before: All previews point to a well shot, strongly and tightly written film that hopefully will have avoided the silly pitfalls of Mr. Payne and Mr. Taylor's Sideways script. Plusses for Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney as siblings, for Fox Searchlight, and for a trailer that made me laugh more than twice.

Release Date: November 30

10) Atonement
Before: All previews point to that sweeping-historical-romance--drama-with-a-twist-that-is-sure-to-be-an-Oscar-favorite kind of film. Plusses for the talented and upcoming James MacAvoy, the beautiful and brilliant Keira Knightley, the inimitable Vanessa Redgrave and Brenda Blethyn, the smooth cinematography, the period costumes, and the reunion of Joe Wright and Dario Marionelli.

Release Date: December 7