MIFF2010 Day 11: German Robbers, Zany Hitmen, Corrupt Politicians and Killer Tyres
The final countdown runs through my head as we enter the final week of MIFF (yes, the song, I’m sorry, it’s out of my control).
One starts to load up their schedule to cram as much in as possible (that goat herding film looks interesting).
Word of mouth begins to flow about festival highlights (and lowlights). Coughs and sneezing in films increases as burnout occurs.
Sales of cold and flu tablets go through the roof.
Today was a mixed day of indifference, disappointment and expectations met.
The Robber is an artfully made but ultimately unremarkable film. It tells the story of Johann, a recently paroled ex-con with a penchant for marathon running and armed robbery. Predictably he follows both his passions after he gets released resulting in a predictably by-the-numbers story.
It is unfortunate because this film has a lot going for it. Director Benjamin Heisenberg is not an amateur filmmaker and he constructs this film with a lot of craftsmanship. A chase sequence is particularly well done and he uses score music efficiently and powerfully giving his film a nice feel of kinetic movement that contrasts with the static nature of the central character.
Overall the film becomes pretty uninteresting though. Johann is a frustratingly distant central character and we are rarely given enough information to understand him. In the end I really didn't care about him and the conclusion was annoyingly predictable. We've seen this film many times before and despite the level of filmmaking prowess it still ended up being a bit of a waste of time.
Wild Target isn't truly awful but it is pretty damn close. If it wasn't due to the most jaw-dropping and bizarrely confused love triangle I have seen in years, this would've been a complete disaster. The sheer laziness of this film makes it actually rather entertaining, that is if it hasn't offended your intelligence so much that you had already walked out.
Bill Nighy (in a long overdue comedic starring role) is Victor. Victor is the best hitman working in the business and is commissioned to assassinate Rose (Emily Blunt using every ounce of charm to make us ignore the stupidity of her character). Of course Bill doesn't kill Rose, he can't (for no other reason than to propel the plot) and ends up protecting her from other hitmen hired to off both off them. Oh and Rupert Grint from the Harry Potter films shows up as a pot smoking character called Tony and hangs out with them too, you know, just because.
As the 3 of them hide out at Victor's family home in the country the film completely loses its shit. Lucinda Coxon's screenplay (based on a French film from 1993 that I am unfamiliar with) shifts the dynamic between the three from scene to scene in ways that make no sense, simply for the sake of unfunny jokes. One moment Victor is the father figure scolding the other two who are acting like immature children. Moments later Victor struggles with his confused sexuality, wondering if he is gay and attracted to Tony. He confronts Tony in a particularly cringeworthy scene in a bathroom. Then moments later Victor and Rose are cuddling tenderly, love growing between them and Tony is now their de-facto son in this odd family unit.
This is lazy filmmaking and director Jonathan Lynn (My Cousin Vinny, The Distinguished Gentleman, The Whole Nine Yards) can do so much better than this. The whole film has the look of a cheap rip-off; from the canned "zany" music accompanying a picture postcard car chase through London to the climax which is so undercooked you not only want to send it back but feel like spitting in the chef's face!
A disappointing, lazy mess of a film that squanders a decent cast and a tolerable concept. Only for the completely undiscerning.
THE GHOST WRITER
Roman Polanski still can create a sense of menace like very few filmmakers working today. He is without a doubt a master of the medium. The Ghost Writer just didn't get there for me unfortunately. It was always incredibly watchable and at times highly gripping but it felt like a bit of a mechanical exercise with some hot button political issues thrown in to give it an artificial resonance.
The story is classic political thriller material, harking back to the 70s, when these types of films reigned (for the record I will state that The Parallax View is one of my favorite films of all time). The politics are updated in a reasonably interesting way, incorporating current world events with fictional political figures who are pretty clearly analogues for current (and recently retired) leaders. There even is a shady corporation with political links called Hatherton (if I need to make that one clear for you then you need to do your own research). It's all very mysterious and edgy.
Polanski and co-writer Robert Harris (whose own book this film is based on) throw a bit too much dense story information into the final act when they really should've spread the mystery out a bit over the films leisurely 2 hour running time. It is a joy to see Polanski in this thriller mode but it only made me yearn for more. It all felt very adult and restrained and respectable. I know Polanski can step it up and while The Ghost Writer is a very well-made film it just comes across as a bit too slight in the end.
Hopefully its the beginning of a set of kick ass Polanski thrillers rather than the swan-song of a great filmmaker.
I was always looking forward to Rubber but I can't exactly say what kind of expectations I had of it. After all, what can you expect from a killer psycho-kinetic tyre movie? I do know that I didn't expect something as sharp and fun as this. Quentin Dupieux has made an amazing little one-of-a-kind film that doesn't deserve to be as good as it is.
Rubber is quite a small little film and it's enjoyment can easily be spoilt by too much information being given (after all there really isn't that much to it). It's brilliantly meta conceit is to have a proxy audience in the film itself actually watching what we are watching. This Greek chorus comments on the action, pointing out plot problems, rating nudity etc, except the story of this audience watching with us becomes just as interesting as the film itself.
It's an amazingly deconstructive move from Dupieux and it pays off in spades as the film itself constantly reiterates its own meaningless nature. Rubber is truly the most Dadaist film I have seen in years. Artistically relevant yet existentially meaningless. A very satisfying combination. One almost feels like the film was made on a dare and again I restate that it's a miracle that a film about a killer tyre is this good.
Dupieux relishes in the absurdity of his concept and even enjoys alienating some of his audience. Long montages of a tyre rolling through the desert, occasionally makes one stop and ask what the hell they are watching? This is without a doubt the point and the point is that there is no point. Sure this kind of post-modern wank is not going to please everyone but it sure as hell pleased me!
Rubber never outstays its welcome and concludes in a surprisingly satisfying way. Believe it or not but this in one of my favorite films of the festival so far. Truly brilliant post-modern filmmaking. I loved it!