Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Monday (and a little of Tuesday)

Ali reporting from the Toronto International Film Festival

Sorry for the lack of updates lately, boys and girls. Yes, I haven't updated since Saturday (aside from posting grades on my blog), but I do have a good excuse. Several, actually. I didn't have any screenings scheduled for Sunday, and I began classes again yesterday. I'm slowly understanding my limits, and trying to write a full-length review for every film seems a little too ambitious. Even with a smaller portion on my plate this year (twenty as opposed to my usual thirty-plus), it's getting difficult to keep up. Hopefully I'll be able to write capsules on every film in the coming weeks (I take copious notes on every film, to make sure I never forget my main points.)

Here is my review of Cristi Mungiu's 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. I don't have time to edit it right now (have to run off for my next film), so apologies for errors and likely rambly-ness. Perhaps most of you will want to avoid reading it in full, seeing that the film is best viewed with virgin eyes/ears. Still, I've pointed out which sections of the post contain spoilers so you can skim over some of my praise and general thoughts. I can't wait to see it again, and that's saying a lot since the picture is grim beyond imagination. Don't forget to check out Steve's rave here, either.

As a major fan of American Beauty and "Six Feet Under", it is my sad, sad duty to inform you all that Nothing is Private is, quite frankly, a waste of celluloid. We are better off without a boisterous and obnoxious social commentary like this, which can be best described as this year's Running with Scissors. But worse. Leave it to the lovely and personable Toni Collette to save this one from an outright "F" (she's the only one to emerge relatively unblemished.) Alan Ball's work on those aforementioned projects is hardly subtle, but at least they are genuine in spirit and feature moments of undeniable writing genius. Conversely, there are few redeeming features at play here, despite the alluring talent in front of the camera, as well as behind it. Based on the novel Towelhead by Alicia Erian, the film explores racial tensions, stifling suburbia and subversive sexuality in Gulf-War-era Texas (where else?) through the innocent perspective of the main character (named Jasira, what else?) She is played newcomer Summer Bishil, who suffers endless humiliations oh-so-beatifically (there is a lot of promise here though.) Jasira is a young girl who has been sent packing by her selfish mother (Maria Bello, utterly wasted) to live with her hypocritical, violent father. Her budding sexuality becomes the great interest of redneck racist next-door, Mr. Vuoso (Aaron Eckhart), as well as other selfish men in her life. Moments of tragedy, hilarity and epiphany follow in typical Alan Ball fashion. I have not read the book, but if Ball's adaptation offers an accurate picture of its spirit and tone, it's probably as useless.

I will surely write a fuller critique so I can exorcise the unpleasant feeling that this film has left me with. But for now, just know that this story doesn't take place in any America that I know of; I am surely not denying that rape and abuse take place, but not under circumstances and situations like these. The film is more slapstick than elevated satire/farce, each charac- er, caricature laying out their demons from the get-go (Macdissi's take on a conflicted Lebanese-American is particularly embarrassing to watch.) Everything is surface observation here, the scenes of abuse bordering on exploitative and hyper-sexualized themselves. Overall, it's thuddingly literal, connecting all the dots and leaving us nothing to infer on our own terms. It's not totally ineffective (one scene of rivaling neighbours "performing" patriotism is illuminating), but... most of it is. More to come. I have pages and pages, people. D-

Celebrity sightings so far: Only Alan Ball for the Nothing is Private intro/Q&A, who was a pleasure to see in person despite hatred of said film. Perhaps today will offer a more numerous lot, with Sleuth and Margot at the Wedding? I know that Branagh/Law/Caine attended the red carpet premiere last night.

2 comments:

NATHANIEL R said...

So can we officially declare Toni Collette an international treasure? How many more films does she have to singlehandedly rescue / be the best thing about before she gets more mainstream praise?

but i'm curious... alan ball's past projects have been divisive. did you talk to anyone afterwards who felt differently?

do share if so...

Kamikaze Camel said...

I was really looking forward to Nothing is Private. Damn.