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May 28, 2013

We can't come up with a better name than Berberian Sound Studio?

Berberian Sound Studio

There's a fun new trailer for a movie coming out in a few weeks that I'm really excited about. Here's the story: an English sound engineer arrives in 1976 Rome to produce the sound for an Italian horror film. The Italian movie looks like a lovingly blood-soaked homage to the great Italian giallo movies of the 70's: it's called The Equestrian Vortex, and it's set at an all-girls riding school and involves witches and lots of graphic murder. Anyway, strange things start to happen at the recording sessions (featuring screaming voice actors and shots of Foley artists brutalizing heads of lettuce and large melons) that blur the line between movie and reality. The reel-to-reel editing scenes actually look tense and creepy, and I think the whole thing will be stylish, pulpy fun. Plus, Broadcast did the soundtrack, which is out on Warp. Cool!

But somehow, this gory romp ended up with the title Berberian Sound Studio, as though the Armenian-inflected name of a production facility in which scary things happen would somehow get audiences excited to see the movie. Dario Argento would be dismayed, especially since this movie sounds like a combination of his classics Suspiria (murderous witches at all-girls ballet school) and Deep Red (Englishman in Italy witnesses horrors).

Here's the trailer:

The actor playing the English sound engineer is Toby Jones, who's had the misfortune of playing Truman Capote immediately after Philip Seymour Hoffman, and then playing Alfred Hitchcock immediately after Anthony Hopkins. But this time Toby Jones is going to OWN the role of freaked-out English sound engineer.

May 17, 2013

Terrence Malick out-Malicks himself

To The Wonder

I'm a fan of Terrence Malick's movies. I love the dreamy, impressionistic, heart-achingly beautiful non-linear flow, the extended shots of the natural world, and the emotion in his stories and characters, even when they hardly say anything and nothing much happens. I love the whispered voice-overs and lazily swaying fields of wild grass that someone always seems to be lightly brushing with their hand.

And I'm totally OK with Malick taking 8-20 years to produce these movies. Which is why it was such a shock when To the Wonder came out recently, a mere two years after The Tree of Life. Is it possible to make a movie in his unhurriedly gorgeous style so quickly, and have it be good?

No! I was so disappointed by To the Wonder that I'm a little upset about it. The biggest problem with this movie is the story, which is this: the world's most annoying couple falls in love, then breaks up, twice. In the process, they move from a spectacularly Malickian Paris to a hideous sub-division in Oklahoma (that Malick still manages to infuse with incredible natural beauty) which is probably a big part of what goes wrong. But actually, we really have no idea why they're in love, or what goes wrong with their relationship, either time. "Love" acts as an external force that bestows itself upon them for a while, then goes somewhere else, probably to find a couple that isn't so insufferably irritating to be around.

Which brings us to the characters and actors. If you want to create emotional resonance and depth of feeling in your main characters, you probably shouldn't cast Ben Affleck and a Bond girl. Ben Affleck spends the movie brooding silently, and Olga Kurylenko mostly twirls around in blowsy outfits, probably going for "adorably free-spirited girlish imp", but coming across as "immature clingy woman-child who wants to be a pretty princess ballerina". These are not people I want to spend time with, and we're given no understanding about the workings of their relationship, so I found it impossible to care about them. I think this might be what people who don't like Malick's movies complain about--there's nothing to latch onto.

What's most upsetting is that Malick still uses his (and Emmanuel Lubezki's) cinematographic chops to create moments that are so quietly, perfectly gorgeous that they seem to take on spiritual meaning. There's a scene at the beach near Mont St. Michel and some magic hour scenes with Rachel McAdams in a field that are as beautiful as anything he's ever done. But when they're part of a movie with utterly hollow characters and the sketchiest of plots, they feel a little cheap. Yeah, yeah, nature is holy and beautiful, now can we maybe get a couple lines of dialogue, or one minute without Olga Kurylenko twirling?

Roger Ebert wrote his very last review about To the Wonder, and luckily, he liked it. Whatever he saw, I didn't see it.

May 6, 2013

Trance movie math

I'm a little behind on this one, but I thought I'd share some thoughts on Danny Boyle's new movie, Trance. Somehow I've seen every single one of Danny Boyle's movies, even the outright horrible ones like The Beach and that inexplicable one with angels in it. As an inadvertent completist, I think his movies are almost always a good time, fun to watch and really stylish, but ultimately, they're pretty fluffy. Don't think too hard about them and you'll enjoy the ride, but if you subject them to any real scrutiny you might start thinking that maybe this is a shallow, fatuous look at poverty and systemic oppression, and isn't that whole space freakout sequence a lesser rip-off of 2001?

Anyway, Trance has a lot of good things about it, and many themes he's explored in his other movies: non-criminals getting in over their heads when they attempt a major crime, secret psychosis, the allure and danger of altered mental states, and a really outstanding electronic soundtrack by Rick Smith from Underworld. It's also the only movie I have ever seen that has to feature a full-frontal shot of shaved genitals because it's actually required by the story.

So here's my equation:


Trance =

Shallow Grave

Shallow Grave +

The Thomas Crown Affair

The Thomas Crown Affair +

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind poster

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Crime gone wrong, sexy art thieves, and erasing emotionally painful relationships from your mind. Trance is a little less than the sum of its parts, but still a fun movie.

About May 2013

This page contains all entries posted to Amy's Robot in May 2013. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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