The Darjeeling Limited

It might have been by virtue of lowered expectations, but I kind of loved Anderson's latest. Oh, I understand all the criticisms, even agree with most, but I don't really care: I like spending time in Andersonland, and he does, here, try a few new things. His frames are still filled to the brim with knick-knacks and his compositions are sometimes overly precious, but this film is quite a bit shaggier than his previous ones, and true emotion manages to wiggle itself into those unfinished spaces.

I don't think anyone has ever used Adrian Brody's awkward, gangly body so effectively. When he runs past Bill Murray to catch the train, it's a moment of pure comedy, almost a cartoon. But the relationship between the brothers is anything but cartoonish. Owen Wilson is more vulnerable here than he's ever been, without an ounce of smugness, and Schwartzman proves yet again that he's the ultimate Andersonlander, and most importantly you can believe them as brothers. Their dynamic is what keeps this film together.

Of course, I should probably address what happens after the brothers get kicked off the train. Quite a few critics felt the moment was undeserved. I'm not sure, also because (darn my addiction to review-reading) I knew what was coming. It certainly was a break with the rest of the film, but it didn't feel jarring, like the ending of the Life Aquatic did to me, and the flashback it leads to is probably the most mature thing Anderson's ever done.

So, yes, ok, when they got rid of their metaphorical luggage, I did think: "but there's one of those really cool Bose iPod speakers in there!", and it would be interesting to see what Anderson would do back on planet earth. But -while this film isn't quite a return to form- I enjoyed it immensely. Call me a hipster. I'd move to Andersonland anytime.

And really, how can you not walk out with a smile when over the credits, a long shot from an Indian train, you hear "Oh, Champs-Elysées"?


Rio Bravo

My, but do I love, love, love this movie! It took me by surprise, since my two previous forays into the realm of western classics (as you may recall, with The Searchers and Red River) left me a little disappointed. Oh, I enjoyed them. But they didn't fill me with glee like this one did. In Hollywood terms, it simply has everything: action, romance, humor, even character development.

This film was also the first time I understood the Duke's charm, and it's all thanks to Angie Dickinson. I mean, usually you talk about actors having chemistry. Here, she just sparks so much I think Wayne had no choice but to spark back. And I loved how here, the comedy stems from the characters and from the tension. In the Searchers, the comical interludes were in too sharp contrast with the grim reality of the search and the grimness of the characters, but here, it all fit.

Isn't this Tarantino's 'test movie'? If it is, I think I'd pass.



Larry tells me that it's ten years ago today that Titanic sailed into theaters. Why does that mean anything to me? Well, I'm almost certain it was the first non-Disney film I ever saw in the cinema. It was while we were living in Casablanca, and we had to buy black-market tickets, as I recall: even in Morocco, this movie was an incredible hit.

What a film to discover the cinema experience with. It was simply overwhelming. The odd thing is, I can't remember exactly what I thought of it. Oh, I liked it, but I don't know if I loved it as much as everyone did. I did, of course, fall head over heels for Leo. What twelve-year-old wouldn't have? And I remember arguing with a boy in my class who, I believe, called Rose a "triple salope" and had quite an elaborate justification for that. I kicked him in the shins for it - at the time, this was my preferred flirting method.

Ten years. It's seems like a long time, but it really is quite short. I never watched the film again, and I don't feel the need to. But I suppose you could say that day, my cinephilia must've been born.


Inland Empire

WARNING: overuse of metaphors ahead.

After seeing Mulholland Drive, I declared myself a David Lynch fan. I might have been overly hasty.

Let me explain. Mulholland Drive, like for instance Donnie Darko and to a lesser extent No Country For Old Men, is all about playing with our narrative expectations. From scene to scene the Hollywood style of continuity is obeyed: weird things may happen, but every scene leads to the next one and there seems to be an underlying "sense". However, in the end, they pull out the rug from under us: there is no "sense", there is no solution that will tie up the narrative strands in one neat bow.

(As an aside, this aspect is exactly what I hated about the celebrated Dutch book "the Darkroom of Damocles" by W.F. Hermans, which plays with our expectations in a similar way, but that was five or six years ago. I should reread it)

Inland Empire, in contrast, doesn't even try to fool you that there is any cohesion. It has a certain dream logic between scenes sometimes, true. But in dreams, everything seems logical, doesn't reveal its absurdity until you wake up and look back. In this film, everything is absurd from the get-go. Luckily, since this is Lynch, it's not like listening to someone recounting their dream -which is universally acknowledged to be dreadfully dull - but like being right inside of someone else's dream.

And a strange dream it is. I counted at least three, probably four different representations of Laura Dern's character. The one that fascinated me most is the cursing, crass one who tells her story to the private investigator, but all throughout the film it's great to see Lynch use her face as a canvas, doing anything he can think of with it, using make-up, distortions, and her great performance.

I enjoyed watching Inside Empire, not so much as a film but as an experience. In the end, though, I prefer the more ordered, more formally constructed puzzles. There are scenes featuring rabbits in this film, but I didn't even bother thinking about what they might mean, because I'm almost sure the answer is "nothing": they're probably just there as an idea, an image conceived of in a dream, without any significance. I like thinking of what Chigurh represents because there are so many possible answers, each of which can be defended. In that film, you can try to find the answer that fits the puzzle best, even if you know the puzzle is at best a Möbius strip with missing pieces. However, Inland Empire is like having a handful of pieces from half a dozen puzzles, and even the most dedicated puzzle fanatic wouldn't attempt that. I won't, in any case.

Lynch's subconscious is an intriguing place to dwell for a few hours, and I certainly don't regret my visit. Ultimately, though, this kind of film is too vague for me, too 'floaty', to translate a Dutch term literally, and my logical mind bristles.