8.24.2007

Top 50 - 21 through 25

21. My Own Private Idaho (Gus van Sant, 1991)

Exhibit A in the case that Keanu Reeves can act, albeit within a rather narrow range, even if the film of course belongs to the gorgeous and sorely missed River Phoenix. This film is an odd mixture of the revered and the profane. It's a film about rent boys AND a loose adaptation of Shakespeare's Henry IV, it's a road movie and a catalogue of perversities. Gus van Sant uses a wonderful way to show sex scenes with still frames. It's funny and it's tragic, and impossible to dismiss as just a clever experiment: just when it starts feeling like that, a "I really want to kiss you, man" happens and breaks your heart.

22. The Long Goodbye (Altman, 1973)

How do you update noir? Well, apparent, one solution is to show just how ill-at-ease your character is in modern surroundings. Altman's digressive style and Chandler's clipped, hard-boiled prose are an odd fit, but somehow it fits perfectly: Elliott Gould here is Marlowe, but he isn't the smartest guy in the room, not any more, in any case. All this aside, the thing that makes this movie for me is the first 20, 30 minutes, which involve Marlowe hunting for...food for his cat. It's a sequence that establishes the mood and the character so perfectly it makes the whole film.

23. Blowup (Antonioni, 1966)

My love for Antonioni is by now well documented on this blog. This is the film I saw first, prompted by my father. I'll admit I didn't quite get it the first time: I was too busy looking for the plot to notice all the wonderful images and scenes, and I thought the film was laughably dated. I was, luckily, intrigued enough to watch it again, and that's when I started loving it. It's similar to the books of Paul Auster, in a way, playing off our conditioned search for clues and meaning, our need for stories to be more clearly delineated and logical than real life.

24. Chinatown (Polanski, 1974)

Our need for patterns, as well: for instance, I never meant for this, but it seems little threesomes show up in every post of 5 movies. In this case, three detective movies in a row. Chinatown, made one year after The Long Goodbye, doesn't displace its protagonist but chooses to place its story in a time where noir still fits. I'm still unsure on where I stand on Faye Dunaways maybe overly dramatic performance, but Nicholson is perfect as the cynical PI. In true noir fashion, there's no good ending here. Just an immortal line. "Forget it Jake. It's Chinatown"

25. Mulholland Drive (Lynch, 2001)

This, in turn, fits well with Blowup: a mystery without a solution, a puzzle that can never, in any configuration, fit exactly together, with too many connections to make sense of. Naomi Watts has never been better than in her dual role as the wide-eyes ingenue and the bitterly disappointed spurned woman later, but in my eyes, it's Laura Harring who steals the show: I didn't know they still made femme fatales like her. She's mesmerizing, and I have no idea why her career didn't take off like Watts' did after this film. After seeing it 5 or 6 times it still doesn't make sense to me, and you can see some threads were abandoned due to circumstance (I would love to know what the plan was for Robert Forster's detective), but I am fascinated by its intricate beauty every time I watch it.

Coming up next: some more noir and some more Faye.

1 comment:

Justine said...

Happy to see The Long Goodbye so high, one of my all time favourites as well. Gould is Marlowe for me, and even though it may be the furthest from the time period that Chandler's books are set it's the closest to his vision.