screenshots from the 20th minute and 7th second of a movie
I can't guarantee the same results at home (different players/timing) I use WinDVD
Kamikaze Intervention: So named because the dashing and charismatic Kamikaze Camel and I both have a vested interest in getting Nathanieland everyoneto see this movie, so that we don't spend the entire Best of the Year and FilmBitch seasons going, "But what about...???"
Claire (Laura Linney) and Jude (Deborra-Lee Furness) return from school, where Claire's son and Jude's granddaughter have just been arraigned for murdering a guinea pig, the class pet, as an improvised sacrifice. Claire is ashamed of her son's behavior, upset with him, and embarrassed not to have realized that her child brought a fishing knife to school. Jude, who frankly dislikes her own granddaughtera stance critiqued but also justified by the film's portrayal of this wounded but histrionic girlis all but ready to hand the girl over permanently to someone else. As usual, Jude's tempestuous expressions of attitude, which Furness serves up without ever over-playing, threaten to violate the local parameters of repression and avoidance.
But as so often, and in such a rich and subtle diversity of ways, Jindabynenamed after a drowned city in Australiacaps the bottle on its own incipient uprisings of unregulated emotion. As Jude calls out to her husband Carl (John Howard), "Your granddaughter's just done her first murder!", the film responds at 20:07 with a triply repressive agenda: a long, flat, distancing shot of Sam entering their house, which drains the intensity and intimacy of the preceding two-shot of Jude and Claire; Sam's metaphorically apt line "Toilet's plugged up again," evoking stoppage just as Jude's annoyance and impatience are threatening to overflow; and the editing choice to hold the shot on the house for a beat or two after Carl has already disappeared into it, shutting the door behind him, which tips the sequence into a concluding stress on sealing off instead of opening up, impenetrability instead of communication.
Jindabyne is full, certainly from scene to scene and virtually from shot to shot, of these understated but articulate edits, camera angles, and ironic juxtapositions that lend extraordinary depth and density to its story. Its narrative is derived from the same Raymond Carver short story ("So Much Water, So Close to Home," itself a corker) that inspired the plotline in Short Cuts where three men go fishing and somehow decide not to report the naked girl's body they find in the river until they've had their weekend of fun. It's been so long since I've seen Short Cuts that I can't comment too broadly on Altman's handling of the same material, but I do remember him hammering home some of the moral implications pretty bluntlyHuey Lewis, wasn't it, peeing in the river just upstream from the floating corpse? Jindabyne writer-director Ray Lawrence isn't innocent of his own clunky literalisms from time to time, and in this film as in his earlier Lantana, his penchants for interlocking coincidence and inchoate conclusions occasionally lead him to engineer too much and say too little. But Jindabyne is nonetheless an extraordinary and expansive drama, easily one of the year's best movies and exemplary in its editing, writing, acting, and cinematography.
Lawrence and director of photography David Williamson, who was the camera operator on Lantana, stick with natural lighting throughout the movie, but their super-widescreen framings are so rich and elegant that the film's casual grace at catching "natural" images and rhythms stands perpetually in the context of a clear, strong sense of how to focus the audience's attention and how to dissect the layers of implication embedded at every moment. The contrasts of imposing shadow and blinding overexposure are resonant and lifelike without feeling offhand, although they don't come across as strongly on DVD as they do in theater projection. The editing, meanwhile, is so supple and disciplined that entire backstories and psychological turns are often compressed into scenes of one or two shots, with incisive lines of dialogue that reduce the need for long speeches or extended conversations. Which isn't to say that the verbal showdowns and group conversations aren't among the year's best, thrilling in their precision and cutting emotional clarity: between Claire and her husband Stewart (Gabriel Byrne), or at the outset of a ladies' night shared by Claire, Jude, and their children's teacher Carmel (Leah Purcell), or between Claire and her manipulative but possibly well-meaning mother-in-law Vanessa (Betty Lucas), or at a restaurant party interrupted by incongruous guests, or between the whole community and the rising tide of furious critics after the men's callousness is exposed.
One of the many things Jindabyne is about is holding yourself publicly accountable, to lovers and friends and children and neighbors and even strangers, for the things you have done and the people you have been; at the same time, it's also about the narcissism and danger that can arise from making a public crisis into a personal cause. (I love the movie's sense of ironic reversal, and I love the serendipitous fact that the 20:07 image is all about denial and the 70:02 image, above, is all about gruesome revelation.) Australian movies, especially those with the kind of diverse cast and fascination with landscape that we see here, often work as allegories about the nation's geographic tension between the metropolitan and the barely explored, and also about the guilty history of anti-aboriginal racism. Jindabyne touches this raw nerve with forthrightness but also with delicacy, putting most American dramas about race and national consciousness to shame. Beyond the intricacy of the acting and the writingand Laura Linney really must be singled out for her ornery, out-of-place, but nonetheless inviting ClaireI think Jindabyne's formal sense is largely to thank for its force and coherence. It's one of very few movies about repression that isn't itself overly repressed (again, with the possible exception of the ending), and it's one of very few multi-character dramas that has a genuine story to tell about the interrelations of people and communities, instead of just Babel-ing onward into platitudes and implausibility. The movie is held together with dreamlike dissolves, creepy zooms and digital push-ins, suspense sequences both great (the opening) and small (two lakeside scenes involving Claire's son), and well-judged shock effects of image and sound within the wider field of tact, patience, even-handedness, and keen observation. The film is morally complex without being obtuse about what constitutes good and bad behavior. And the very last shot is excitingly oblique: echoes of Psycho and worrisome implications about uncontained threats, but what exactly does that swat mean?
...And so, with this extended For Your Film Bitch Consideration ad, I sign off from my week of guest-blogging. Thanks to everyone for reading, and stop by my house, or my other house, whenever the mood strikes you!