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Based on the 1985 novel by Don Delillo, White Noise is a far more ambitious film than director Noah Baumbach’s last effort, the popular 2019 drama Marriage Story. His influences, such as the American disaster movies of the 70s and 80s, the rom-com of that era, the family on vacation movies, as well as the high-octane thrillers of directors such as Brian De Palma, are all evident here in the tonal shifts, the technically assured and stylish look of the film, the flashy action scenes, the looming disaster of a toxic, chemical cloud, the large family bundled into a car and the verbal back and forth of the central married couple.
If the first act of “White Noise” feels like a work of expert-level pantomime, the similarly faithful second act somehow creates an energy all its own. Baumbach knows that DeLillo anticipated the likes of “The Matrix,” “The Truman Show,” and scads of other stories in which reality becomes a simulation of itself, but those aren’t the movies he wants to remind you of here. A crucial difference between the “White Noise” of 2022 and the “White Noise” of 1985 is that Baumbach has already seen the movies that DeLillo’s book helped to inspire, and that frees him to have some fun with this one.
As Jack, Babette, and the four younger members of their blended brood (a terrific group that also includes Raffey Cassidy and May Nivola) attempt to flee the airborne toxic effect, trying to suss out how safe they should feel amid the traffic jam of other families trying to do the same thing, Baumbach switches to a register that we’ve never seen from him before. Suddenly we’re in “War of the Worlds” territory, complete with oodles of Spielberg Face and a menacing awe so artful and evocative that it feels more like the real thing than a commentary on it. Something I never thought I’d write about a Baumbach film: The CGI is fantastic.
The evacuation sequences viscerally convey the appeal of disaster movies by clinging to a character who refuses to accept that he’s in one (at least at first), or to acknowledge that death can still find him in a large crowd. Baumbach’s visual language ensures that we have no such trouble. We’ve seen “Independence Day,” “Deep Impact,” and enough films of its ilk to recognize what a massive disaster supposedly looks like, but Jack — living in 1985 — doesn’t have the same frame of reference. To him, his situation doesn’t feel like a movie, and so he’s slow to recognize it as a disaster (a phenomenon illustrated in the brilliant shot of a black cloud swallowing the glow of a Shell logo just above Jack’s shoulder). We have the opposite problem, and it epitomizes why “White Noise” may be even more relevant today than it was 37 years ago: When we reckon with a disaster that seems too much like a movie, we struggle to accept that it’s real. As a character puts it in the book, and possibly also in this film: “For most people there are only two places in the world: Where they live and their TV set.”
Baumbach has an absolute field day with this dissonance; the closer his characters veer towards danger, the more that Baumbach exaggerates the movie-ness of their existence. A dramatic car chase is shot like a scene from an ’80s road trip comedy like “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” complete with a slow-motion shot of the family station flying through the air. A climactic showdown in a seedy motel — the end of the Dylar affair — drips with De Palma, all the way down to an unmissable split-diopter shot.
It’s a good thing the movie’s semiotic pleasures are so pronounced, because the book’s more basic charms don’t quite survive the trip to the big screen (let alone the ride home to Netflix). That third act gunplay is typical of an adaptation that’s always smart and on edge, but seldom involving enough beyond that. DeLillo’s writing gives readers the space to see their own existential terror reflected back at them in the funhouse mirror of Jack’s absurd circumstances, but Baumbach’s “White Noise” — more externalized by default — proves too arch for our emotions to penetrate.
Baumbach’s film is so determined to feel like “White Noise” that it ends up wearing the novel like a costume, a sensation epitomized by its lead performance. Driver is far too young to play the 51-year-old Jack (even if 38 was the 51 of 1985), though his middle-aged cosplay contributes to the general air of simulacra. More difficult to excuse is the actor’s struggle to sell the journey of Jack’s epiphanies. Driver is so naturally wild with life that he never quite musters the latent fear needed to fuel his character through the first act; it’s the same reason why the self-possession Jack finds in the third act feels less earned than it does inevitable. It’s a fitting anchor for an adaptation that gets everything so right that you might yearn for the friction that comes with getting it wrong, or at least the tension that comes from pulling away.
It’s no coincidence that the film’s most ecstatic moments — the first scene, the last scene, and the Spielbergian chaos that runs down the middle — are also the ones that most deviate from the book. Baumbach is ultimately too in sync with DeLillo for “White Noise” to escape from the shadow of its monolithic source material, as movie struggles to escape the hat on a hat sensation of that match between filmmaker and novelist, and often feels like the work of a third party who’s trying to imitate them both at once. All the same, you can still hear something almost subliminally divine under that uncanniness whenever Baumbach cranks up the volume. The sound of a beeping smoke alarm, perhaps.
CBR: YA material can be a tough sell, yet Chucky perfectly balances young adult and horror. Why does it work for the series?
Don Mancini: There's a couple of different answers to that question. YA is an inherently good fit for the Chucky franchise because aesthetically and dramatically, we have always been about making everything stylized. One of the things that we found out with the movies over the years is that Chucky himself operates best in a stylized setting, where everything is a little heightened. As I often say, we don't want to go full Tim Burton... and I say that as a huge Tim Burton fan...
We always want to keep one foot on the ground. A lot of what we do with Chucky, we have always done it in the movies, but even more so in the TV show is this tonal balancing act of going from the utter sincerity and naturalistic acting that comes from the sincerity of these teenage kids, and then bridging the gap to the over-the-top campiness of Chucky and Tiffany themselves, and the character we refer to as Nica Chucky. All of that is deliberately at 11. One of the things I love doing is just the challenge of making that mix of tones work.
I think because teenagers' emotions are heightened when you are at that age, it's operatic. That's why I loved Brian De Palma's movies from the '70s, like Carrie and The Fury, because I felt that these stories about telepathy and telekinesis -- and how they are used as metaphors for puberty and unexpressed teenage feelings -- there is something effective about that. I thought the YA was constantly a good fit for Chucky. We also have a number of very talented young writers working on the show. They help me a lot, writing believable young people. At my age, I am further away from that. My method is just writing people. I don't write down to them. I don't write kids particularly differently.
They were archaic visionaries. They raised the need to start "from scratch" after the horror of World War II. They wanted to break with expressionism and the gestures of post-war art, work in groups and use the technologies of the moment, light, optical effects, scientific research, turn painting upside down, as can be seen in the exhibition Far from the void . ZERO and post-war art in Europe.
Organized by the Institut Valencià d'Art Modern (IVAM), the exhibition exhibits works by artists such as Yves Klein, Jean Tinguely, Piero Manzoni, Equipo 57 or Lucio Fontana, the spiritual father of most of them. And it also includes a rarity that reveals the influence exerted by these creators gathered in cities like Düsseldorf, Milan, Amsterdam, Paris or Zagreb.
This is the documentary directed in 1966 at the age of 25 by a then unknown filmmaker, Brian de Palma, about the exhibition The responsive eye that the MoMA in New York mounted a year earlier. It exhibited works by these European creators and their referents, as well as other North American artists who had followed in the footsteps of the first, exploring the world of illusions and optical effects, of advances in science, in the production of movement in the painting. The director of films as popular as Carrie, who stopped studying science to dedicate himself to cinema, where he stood out for his visual ability, interviews the protagonists with a camera in hand and shows examples of these abstract works, encouraged by the precedents of the avant-garde of between the wars, Moholy-Nagy's experimentation with light and engineering, or the geometric forms and composition of the Russian constructivists.
The documentary can be seen in the last room of the exhibition which, curated by Bartomeu Marí, reviews some of these movements that took place in Europe between 1957 and 1966, taking as a reference the ZERO group, made up of Heinz Mack, Otto Piene and Gunter Uecker , whose ideas spread through the magazine of the same name. It brings together a total of 175 works, including paintings, sculptures, documents and films, from the IVAM collection, the Zero Foundation and numerous museums and galleries. The exhibition opens this Thursday and runs until February 12.
“The exhibition allows us to understand the hinge position that these groups exercised between the historical avant-gardes and subsequent relational art, while bringing us closer to the long 1960s, with critical episodes such as the Cold War, capitalist developmentalism and so many other utopias. and dystopias that end up shifting the focus towards other forms of art such as pop or minimal”, explained this Wednesday Nuria Enguita, director of the IVAM.
Organized around five rooms, the exhibition shows the aesthetic proposals of this generation of artists, far removed from the prevailing expressionism. "In the first introduction room we remember the veneration that the young artists of the moment had for Lucio Fontana", according to the curator. The Italian-Argentinean Lucio Fontana (1899-1968) was the founder in 1946 of spatialism, which sought to eradicate the art of the easel in painting and try to capture movement and time.
A second room contrasts the scenes of Düsseldorf, where the ZERO magazine is published, and that of Milan, where the Azimuth Gallery and the magazine of the same name animated the European scene for a short year. The following gallery contrasts the Dutch scene with influential artists like Yves Klein and Jean Tinguely.
The exhibition continues with the group of younger Italian artists "who investigate movement, optical effects and the first experiments with the cyber world, the interactivity between viewer and work, before it was called digital," said Marí. The exhibition concludes with installations that include light and movement.
There is also a room dedicated to the works of the Spanish artists from Team 57 (Luis Aguilera, Ángel Duarte, José Duarte, Juan Serrano and Agustín Ibarrola), who participated in various exhibitions related to the new trend with proposals that matched the debates of the moment, just as young Italian artists did who created what we now call immersive installations.
Marí pointed out that the experimentation with light, mirrors and movement in the work of those artists was later applied in recreational and festive activities, in nightlife, in the discos that were experiencing their golden age.
“They were a generation that, having lived through the war as children, wanted to move away from the void to propose a new art, in the spirit of the purest avant-garde, an art that, far from the idea of genius, already proposed an art accessible to all”, affirmed Nuria Enguita.
Embracing a cheeky tone and a beautiful Technicolor palette that has something to do with “The Wizard of Oz” for some reason, West openly encourages us to root for Pearl cracking up. He’s entirely, unapologetically on Pearl’s wavelength, and he builds a pedestal for Goth in the process. West’s awe of Goth, which is justified, is unusually courtly for a horror movie director. Courtlier, in fact, than Dominik’s trivializing of Marilyn Monroe.
It may sound unbelievable to people who haven’t seen these movies yet, especially given their respective levels of prestige, but West and Goth build a better tormented artist than Dominik. West understands that miserable people can sometimes have fun anyway, and that there is a difference between what people show to society and how they are when they are alone.
Pearl’s restless creative spirit is accorded a surprising amount of weight, but West isn’t sentimental. Pearl’s imagination, horniness, and madness are all wrapped up together, emitting wild creative sparks. Ruth is a routine harridan mother, think Piper Laurie’s crazed mother in Brian De Palma’s “Carrie” without the theatricality, and while that characterization is a disappointment it allows us to subversively cheer Pearl on.
“Pearl” is less violent than “X” but more twisted. It’s a celebration of an artist’s selfishness, and its wild tonal swings mark a new path for West, who is often devoted to rigid set-ups and slow burns. Pearl frees not only herself, but West.
Fans of West’s previous work have no idea what they are in store for with “Pearl.” His previous films evoked the tonal qualities of genre-specific horror movies, but his approach here is much more playful and exuberant. This is a horror film that doesn’t rely on moody lighting or other aesthetic signifiers to telegraph its scares, often avoiding the common editing tendencies of traditional horror set pieces. In place of creepy set dressing and serious music stings, West presents us with the type of technicolor fantasia of idyllic Americana and countryside décor that one might associate with a stage production of “Oklahoma.”
Bright red barns, blue skies, and green pastoral fields splash across the imagery in bold primary simplicity. When this is then juxtaposed with sudden acts of violence, dismemberment, and southern gothic melodrama, Pearl’s psychological duality stabs with sharper satire.
Mia Goth is credited as a co-writer on this project, and for all the movie’s genre-bending and broad displays of visual flourish, the story always serves to showcase the emotional reality of the character and her demented transition. Goth straddles the role between child-like innocence and the darker nuanced just below Pearl’s repressed surface, all while remaining in harmony with the film’s arch tone and intentional artifice. We see her dance, we see her cry, and we watch the dissociated torment that’s left when she believes that she doesn’t have any dignity worth protecting. This role will likely remain a touchstone for Goth in what is hopefully a long and varied career going forward.
I could spend all day talking about the film’s “Wizard of Oz” references, the traces of David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet,” Brian De Palma’s similarly gauzy suburban fairytale “Carrie,” and the subtle nodes of John Water’s grotesque use of Hollywood camp as a means of social critique. What unifies these influences is the precision of an authorial vision and the confidence of a narratively driven style. “Pearl” serves as both a celebration of cinema as a means of escape, as well as a warning about losing your identity in the romance of that illusion.
In the article, Milner interviews King On Screen director Daphné Baiwir, who discusses the challenges involved in adapting King's work for the screen:
As with many fans, Baiwir’s own exposure to Stephen King began at an early age. “I discovered Stephen King by reading “The Shining” for the first time when I was ten,” she recounts. “I’ve read absolutely everything he wrote; seen all the movies; because I started early. So I’ve had time to see everything.”
Naturally, there are quite a few featurettes and documentaries about King’s books and the films based upon them to be found across DVD bonus discs and streaming services. But it goes without saying that there’s a lot of ground to cover; more than a lot of these features are able to touch upon.
“I saw a couple of documentaries about his work,” Baiwir explains, “but they were quite short. I wanted to know a little bit more, and I felt it could be interesting to have the directors’ point of view, because we don’t hear them a lot. It could be great to know a little bit more about what happens behind the scenes and how they managed to work with the author.”
With so many adaptations to date – more than eighty, across film and television – there are bound to be a mixture of masterpieces, decent attempts and some outright stinkers. So what exactly is central to the adaptations that do work?
“I think it depends on how the directors work,” Baiwir explains. “For example, we had the chance to meet Taylor Hackford (“Dolores Claiborne”) and he was telling us about working with the screenwriter. The screenwriter sometimes took a different direction in the process of writing the script, and it was interesting, because he did that to have a story that would translate well to the screen. It’s not always easy to do.”
Compromise is often the key to finding that balance between faithfulness to the original text and an effective cinematic experience, and Baiwir reflected on the risk of a certain spark being lost in the transition from page to screen. “I think about stories that Agatha Christie wrote that are so great when you read them; it’s something very special. But if you want to put it on the screen, it won’t have that same thing. You really have to adapt.”
One of the major subjects of the documentary is Frank Darabont, who helmed the acclaimed and award-winning King adaptations “The Shawshank Redemption,” “The Green Mile,” and “The Mist”. Darabont is arguably the most consistently successful filmmaker to adapt Stephen King’s work for the big screen.
After a very long and painful legal conflict with AMC over his involvement in their television series of “The Walking Dead” (for which he wrote, directed and produced in its early seasons,) Darabont hasn’t returned to Hollywood since departing 2016’s “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” during that film’s production. But it appears he was more than happy to discuss his past work with Baiwir.
“It was amazing, because he made three movies that are – to me – masterpieces. “The Green Mile” is my favorite, but “Shawshank” is amazing. “The Mist” is so great as well, with the ending that he came up with.” (The infamous ending, of course, that even King himself agreed was superior to that of the original short story.) “Talking with someone that is so passionate about cinema and movie-making, it’s like you are literally having a master class,” she laughs. “It was such an incredible experience.”
Genius of Love is a psychological drama that follows a young woman caught in a cycle of abandonment. It takes place over the course of one rainy car ride that begins when she gets picked up from a party by her boyfriend. When he confesses that he wants to break up with her, this sets off a sequence of interchanging drivers, bringing her face to face with men from past relationships. Although the drivers change, the conversation remains the same: “I’m leaving you.”
As the young woman's emotions build, the men interchange more and more rapidly until they reach their final destination, a train station. There, she must confront a third driver and, in turn, the source of her fears.
A sly reimagining of classic noir cinema, Femme Fatale finds De Palma at his most playful and seductive. Opening with one of the all time great set pieces—taking place at the Cannes Film Festival—the film spins a twisty, lurid yarn about a thief (Rebeca Romijn) who double crosses her partners after a successful diamond heist and goes on the run. From there it's anything goes as De Palma dives deep into dream logic and eroticism to set an otherworldly tone that falls somewhere between Double Indemnity and Mulholland Drive.
With a spectacular lead performance, stunning European locations, and boundary-pushing sexuality, Femme Fatale is equal parts classy and trashy. And you better believe it knows it. Come see the maestro's late-career masterpiece the way it demands to be experienced—on the big screen! - BRENDAN ROSS