Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Movie Jag

The last few weeks I've been exploring new movies, the kind of offbeat indie fare that doesn't make it to the nearby cineplexes in Jersey City and Hoboken. It means seeking out the titles that intrigued me but I couldn't find locally, checking time and venue in the city, and organizing myself to take the PATH train to New York in time to catch the most available ones on my list. I saw three excellent little films, two of which I recommend to all, and one which made me queasy but ultimately I am coming to appreciate. I'll restrain myself from spoilers in these little mini-reviews.

The first was a French number called Intouchable, a title which baffles me, but I'm sure it means something in French that is not quite translatable so the producers just decided to retain in the original language. They probably don't know that it is not only untranslatable to English, it is also pretty much unpronounceable and most Americans will just say it as it looks--which renders it really much less accessible than the movie is. Unlike A.O. Scott I don't see this as a movie about class differences or the concept of the Noble Savage. It is a movie about men who come to love and depend on each other in the most improbable circumstances. Scott described the protagonist as an uptight rich guy--that's amusing because he's not uptight psychologically. He is physically paralyzed, which is a different thing altogether. He had once been a bit of a free spirit, but is broken by a terrible accident in which he lost the love of his life. He would never have hired such a clearly marginal rebel as a caregiver had he been an uptight personality.
The acting by both Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy is superb; the story has a few twists; the soundtrack is perfect, and throughout the movie the viewer hopes all will end well. I won't even give the ending, but will say that these characters buoy the audience throughout the process. There is an actor here, M. Sy, I hope to see again in many films. Highly recommended.

Then I saw a little gem called Beasts of the Southern Wild. This is a unique, homemade-looking movie, introducing us to a way of life we never dreamed of. The people are living so far below the poverty line they have descended into a magical underworld, a nether place we could not have imagined and yet almost hope exists. They are outside the realm of our minds, living on an island so flood prone it is known as The Bathtub.

There is a father and his six-year-old daughter he calls Hushpuppy, the two of them facing life and death and drifting in ignorance and myth, and calling on the magic within them to ward off the demons and dilemmas they struggle against. The director used non-actors in all the roles, and it pays off here in bringing a gritty, unpretty reality to a bold and unexpected mythology. Little Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry, if they become movie stars and act in hundreds of films in their lives, will never be better than they were as Hushpuppy and Wink.

Killer Joe was not what I expected. I mean, that's a killer title, and Matthew McConaghey is my kind of guy, usually. I like his swagger, his nasal voice, his native diffidence and poise. Okay, he's playing a gun for hire, a hit man, we've seen a lot of them in the movies and sometimes they're kind of cute. Not so here.
McConaghey is pure menace, as evil a sadist as Robert Mitchum in Cape Fear--a rattlesnake who will bite anything, and does. Thomas Haden Church is excellent at appearing to be dumber than dirt, and he stretches that ability to its outer limits here. There are laughs in Killer Joe, not a lot of them and they aren't warm fuzzy laughs, they are just carefully placed in the script to relieve some of the tension that underscores this dark, violent film. There was nobody to like in this movie, but the actors, including Gina Gershon, Emile Hirsch, and Juno Temple, made us believe, for a few moments anyway, that this crew of reprobates were almost worth saving. If you have a strong stomach and don't mind blood, gore, rape, molestation and murder, it's a pretty good movie.


Laurie Lawler said...

Putting 'Beast' on my Netflix queue...sounds really good.

Steve said...

Hmmm. I'll have to check out that Killer Joe thing.

Mary Lois said...

Might be right down your alley, Steve.