Monday, December 29, 2008

I Am Curious Too

December 29, 2008
You won't find a stranger movie this year than The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. After all, you only have a couple of days left.

Some years ago I read a little book of F. Scott Fitzgerald's called Stories from the Jazz Age, and all I remember about it is the title of the book--which coined a term often used to describe the 1920s--and a strange story about a man who was born old, literally, and aged backward for the rest of his life. A decidedly curious tale, I didn't particularly like it, but I never got the concept out of my mind. Here it has turned up, revamped into a luscious film and enhanced by plot additions, elegant art direction, costumes, authentically mystical New Orleans settings, and irresistibly attractive actors.

I met my 14-year-old grandson Elias at Port Authority yesterday with the idea in mind that we might catch a flick (actually anticipating seeing Valkyrie. He told me he wasn't interested in that one--his current prejudice is against the Scientologist bent of the leading man--and I couldn't persuade him to try Frost/Nixon or Doubt, so we settled on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and settled in for a long afternoon of escape.)

The New Orleans backdrop is appropriate for the mythical quality of the movie. Without giving you any more of the plot, I will say that the beauty of the the film is in its quiet seduction into a world where odd things happen and time moves backward as it advances. The picture above shows the protagonist at the moment he is in his prime and catches the lady when she is at the same place in time. We've seen him looking wizened and ancient when we know he is really an adolescent, and we've experienced the sensations of life running in reverse to the point where we accept the alternate reality and anticipate it. So romantic, the film caused me to wonder whether it could be classified as a chick flick, but with its complex story and inevitably unsettling ending, I decided not. It has much more range than that. It will appeal to a segment of the vast viewing audience, male and female, who are capable of suspending disbelief and entering a world of true mystery and beauty--in spite of the strangeness of that world.

One last note. Brad Pitt narrates with the perfect cadence of New Orleans. His accent has that trace of southern-U.S combined with the quirk of some port cities, especially New Orleans. You may wonder why he says "uh-athe" for earth, something like "wake" for work, and "chache" for church. It only tells us that he's spent enough time listening to people in New Orleans to know how they sound.


Benedict S. said...

OK. I took the dare. So try on the surrealist film, "The Delicate Art of the Rifle." Forget all the elegancies of set, costimes, and attractive people, and judge this one simply for the curve balls it throws. You may get a whiff of the film's strangeness by a straight reading of the Cast of Characters.

Not only do the stage names throw whiffle balls but if you recognize any of the actors and crew by name, you're more into this stuff than I am.

Mary Lois said...

I gave it a look, and Wikipedia says this one is not available for home viewing. Maybe that's an old posting. According to the info, though, the movie was made in 1996 in North Carolina (probably with a local cast), which accounts for the unknowns listed in the cast. It's inspired by a true event (Benjamin Button certainly is not) and got interesting reviews in its day, which was long before the Colombine shootings.

Benedict S. said...

But long after the shootings from the Texas Tower, which provide the horror backdrop for the film's fulcrum.

The shooter in the flick is named Walt Whitman and is depicted as being brilliant in all things, a virtual Renaisance man. The real shooter was also named Whitman, but not Walt, and was also supposed to be an accomplished young fellow, an Eagle Scout as it were.

But the film is weirder than a mere historical contraption. Maybe it'll return to the IFC, where I saw it last week.

And yes, it was a produuction of one of North Carolina State's departments of higher learning.

Nan said...

What an excellent review! I don't think it is for me, but I sure loved reading your words. What did Elias think of it?

Mary Lois said...

Nan, Elias thought it too long. He didn't like Brad Pitt as much as I did, but he liked Cate Blanchett more. He was able to explain to me how they aged Pitt ("That was all digital!), and I was able to explain to him the beauty and mystery of the New Orleans locations.

Bellezza said...

I just saw the film last night, and posted my thoughts today. I enjoyed reading yours very much (especially compelling is the fact that you went with your grandson!). I, too, enjoyed Brad Pitt's performance. Perhaps the most significant aspect of the movie to me was when Benjamin takes his father, who's abandoned him, to view the sunrise. He says something like, "You just have to get over these things (i.e. abandonment)." My 18 year old son nudged me, then hugged me, as we've both suffered the loss of his father seven years ago. I think there was a lot to mull over in this movie, things to thing about that aren't evidently apparent on the surface but pop up in later contemplation.

Steve said...

I am curious (yellow.)


Mary Lois said...


SOMEBODY GOT IT! Thanks for noticing my rather weak little joke here.

For those too young to remember, there was a marginally pornographic movie in the 1960s (or at least it was considered so then) called I Am Curious (Yellow) followed by what I assume was a sequel called I Am Curious (Blue) which I tried to suggest in my title to this post. At least it wasn't lost on Steve. Did anyone else get it, and just consider it not worth mentioning?