INVESTIGATING P.O.V. SHOTS IN CLASSIC SCENE FROM 'THE UNTOUCHABLES'
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a la Mod:
"The tragedy that divides Woody and Terri echoes, of course, the loss of Jim’s wife Maggie, whom we see only once, in a video (played, touchingly, by Kim Delaney) their friends prepared when they were chosen to helm the Mars mission. Jim watches it on a monitor in the ship when he winds up traveling there without her. It’s a double-time frame sequence – the video contains images from this joyous time interspersed with earlier ones from the McConnells’ wedding. I might not have made this connection had I not just rewatched The Fury, but the visual dynamic of an image embedded within another image and two sets of observers recalls the scenes in that movie where Amy Irving is caught in a psychic link with a besieged Andrew Stevens while someone else – who can’t see what she sees – tries to communicate with her. This is a visual notion with amazing emotional resonance for these stories of loss. In The Fury, Irving’s Gillian longs to meet the boy who shares her freakish psychic gifts; her separation from him, except in these imperiled visions she has no power to alter, underscores her isolation from the rest of the world, from the people she loves who don’t share her abilities. And when she finally does get close to him, it’s too late: he’s already destroyed. The video that brings Jim’s wife back to him, if only for a few minutes, is a trick of technology that is finally just a reminder of the uncrossable distance between them. He can replay this moment of happiness and relive not only his loss but also his bafflement: here they are at the peak of their lives together, anticipating a future that, though neither knows it, will never come to pass. In the video Maggie makes a toast to them standing at the threshold of a new world, but mere months later she was sick and he stood on the threshold of life and death, watching the most important person in his life fading away from him. De Palma gets at this idea in another way, too. The transmissions the first Mars crew sends back to earth have a twenty-minute delay. Back at home, Jim and the others watch as Luke and his companions, full of good humor and optimism, light a candle in a slab of cake to honor Jim’s birthday before setting out across the sand to explore the structure. The NASA observers have no way of knowing that even while they’re watching this transmission, twenty minutes after Luke sends it, his crew is being torn apart."
(Thanks to Hugh!)
Wayne Kramer, who directed Walker in the excellent Running Scared, as well as this year's Pawn Shop Chronicles, mentioned in a Facebook post Sunday that De Palma had offered Walker a film project some years ago. "It always pained me when critics and internet talkbackers slammed him as an actor," Kramer wrote, "because I knew the truth about the guy: he was fucking awesome in every way. And he was just coming into his own as a strong leading man. I always told Paul that his most exciting years were going to be his 40s and 50s, and even beyond, as a masculine American tough guy in the vein of Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin. We talked about how Paul was going to be my Lee Marvin and we were hungry to make those kind of films that could show Paul in that light. In some alternate reality somewhere, he’s still on that career trajectory and I’d love to be there to see the work because it would be something to experience indeed. For every anonymous internet hater who bagged on him, there were great actors and directors who made a point of letting him know how amazing he was. Kevin Costner was a fan and wanted to do a western with Paul. Vincent D’Onofrio (whom I recently worked with) made a point of telling me how much he dug Paul as an actor. Quentin Tarantino called Paul after seeing Running Scared to tell him how much he loved Paul’s performance. Sylvester Stallone was a fan of Paul in Running Scared. Walter Hill and Brian De Palma offered him projects a few years back. Paul was very discriminating with the films he picked. He chose to make them for personal reasons, regardless of the quality of the finished film or the reputation of the director. And once he signed on, he was there one thousand percent for his directors. We shared the same taste in material. Usually dark and extreme, but with a lot of soul. Closer to the films of the 70s and 80s that they no longer make anymore."
At its wooziest, Lee's direction reminded me of Brian DePalma or John Carpenter in nightmare reverie mode, or Alfred Hitchcock when he seemed possessed by whatever horrible muses drove him. It's purely intuitive, at times musical, direction. The lack of a political dimension seems to have freed Lee to be looser and more (cruelly) playful than usual. There's news footage on Joe's hotel room TV, but when we see, for instance, scenes from 9/11 or the Iraq war, it's not meant to drive home anything but the passage of time and its effect on Joe's psyche. The performances are all over the map, in what struck me as a DePalma-like way. Some actors give fairly naturalistic performances (Brolin and Olsen) while others (Jackson and Copley) chew the scenery into fine shreds and then pluck them from their shiny teeth. Lee presides over the madness with a droll serenity that says, "This is the movie; deal with it."
The big problem with Lee's "Oldboy" is that for all its dark confidence, it doesn't reimagine the original boldly enough. This isn't like Martin Scorsese's "Cape Fear," David Cronenberg's "The Fly" or Jonathan Demme's "The Manchurian Candidate"—or the recent superhero-inflected version of "Carrie," which I liked better than most critics—all of which drastically rethought their inspirations. Lee's "Oldboy," in contrast, is more like "Point of No Return," the American remake of "La Femme Nikita." It's so close to its predecessor in so many ways that I can't see much reason for it to exist, except to give xenophobic viewers an experience similar to the original, but minus the subtitled Korean and the octopus-eating scene—and with a more ostentatiously cartoonish bad guy, and lot more monologuing to explain the convoluted plot.
That's not a bad thing, though, when you consider the current climate for mainstream American films. For people who haven't seen the original "Oldboy" or anything like it, this will be a rare studio release that feels shocking and abrasive and perverse and in some way new. I'd love to sit through Lee's movie again in a theater with newbies who came to see a straightforward revenge picture starring a guy who's been locked up for a long time and have no idea what they're actually in for: a swan-dive into the toxic id. Few American auteurs are making mainstream studio movies in the vein of Spike Lee's "Oldboy": unabashedly hardcore genre pictures that aren't afraid to treat sex and violence as colors on a palette, and get nasty and raw, in that seventies-movie way. Park's "Oldboy" was no skip through the daisy field, but this one is even harder to watch, sometimes indulging in savagery that blurs the line between Old Testament morality play and straight-up exploitation.The filmmakers seem obsessed with making everything as extreme as possible, replacing, for example, a bruising bit of hammer torture with a prolonged sequence in which the hero uses an X-acto knife to slice a dotted-line-shaped pattern into a former jailer's throat.
Roger Ebert's four-star review of the original praised it as "the kind of movie that can no longer easily be made in the United States" thanks to content restrictions imposed by "a puritanical minority." The same sentiments apply here, but even more so, because Park's film came out ten years ago, and things have only gotten more restrictive since then. Plenty of international filmmakers are working in this mode—Park, Takashi Miike, Nicolas Winding Refn and Lars von Trier spring immediately to mind—but not too many English-language directors, aside from Quentin Tarantino and sometimes Oliver Stone ("Savages"). Martin Scorsese and David Cronenberg used to make this sort of picture all the time, but haven't in a while, perhaps because it's just too much for some people, and "just too much" movies tend not to get made at a major studio level because the financial stakes are too grave. I don't like or approve of everything in "Oldboy," but I'm glad it exists. The multiplexes are filled with PG-13 movies that should have been R-rated movies, released by studios that don't make adults-only genre films anymore. This is one such film, starring a real actor, directed by a real director. It deserves to be seen and argued about.
Peary then asks Olsen, "What is it that makes some dark films fail while others become classics?"
Olsen replies, "I think it has to do with it being something new. You can remake Carrie, for instance, but the reason why [Brian de Palma's] Carrie was Carrie was because it was groundbreaking. It could still be a great new story to tell people who haven’t seen it, with great actors and actresses, but the reason the original was a classic was because there was nothing like it before."
In the series description, Seid explains what will be discussed:
Contemporary films originate on a digital platform, making digital cinema the native exhibition standard. A prickly issue arises when an older film, born photochemical, is transferred to digital for projection. Suddenly, the “film” finds itself occupying the screen in absolute stability, the subliminal flicker gone, the light values subtly altered, the contrast and depth redefined. Does this misrepresent the experience of film history? Perhaps. Or does it resurrect a history that might otherwise be lost to us? Again, perhaps.
“I don’t know, maybe there’s a mis-fuckin’ understanding here, I don’t know man. Maybe you don’t remember me. My name is Benny Blanco…”
“Maybe I don’t give a shit. Maybe I don’t remember the last time I blew my nose either.”
I chuckle at those moments but the language feels real, has slang and street color that’s both dangerous and funny. No surprise at their mixed effectiveness given that writer [Edwin] Torres walked those streets, he lived them, and channelled through screenwriter David Koepp (“Panic Room”) the dialogue seems honest. Nothing as iconic as, “Say hello to my little friend!” but “Here come da pain!” has a special place in many hearts, I’m sure. The cast is solid. From the majors to supporting players Viggo Mortensen and Luiz Guzmán as Pachanga, there’s not a loose brick in the wall. Leguizamo plays Benny like a knife with a slimy handle; if he can’t schmooze you with one end, he’ll stick you with the other. [Sean] Penn, not surprisingly, is a wonder as Kleinfeld, nothing less than mutated into the frizzy haired, deliciously corrupted lawyer that earned him Golden Globe and Chicago Film Critics Association acting nominations. Of course, in the hands of Brian De Palma, presentation is personality.
Like Spielberg and his often-assumed mentor, Hitchcock, the New Jersey born director De Palma (“Sisters,” “Mission Impossible”) is known for his visual style. Canted angles, 360-degree pans, extended takes ~ they’re ever present in “Carlito’s Way,” along with an Odessa Steps sequence that rivals his “Potemkin” shootout in “The Untouchables,” this time on the escalators of Grand Central Station. It’s here, in the club, and in the excellent (kick ass) pool-hall scene that you know exactly who is calling the shots. De Palma has a singular stamp. Given his earlier Pacino vehicle, “Scarface,” the director no doubt has experience delivering this world, of mansions and period style, of lives fueled by booze, drugs, narcissism and dreams. His technique is immersive and operatic, completely suited for these bold characters.