Saturday, November 04, 2006

Neo Portraiture

I am generally opposed to the biopic, the shapeless and bloated dramaticization of true lives. But what is this new and unusual development? Biopics have been busting out that have no regard for the undramatic principles that have always bound them?

You mean I don't have to watch the person as a child experience an [event, tragedy, talent, accident] that forever shapes (and simplifies) them ? And then I don't have to watch them become famous/infamous/important ? And then I don't have to watch them struggle with addiction, fame, self sabotage, or some "ism"/"phobia" only to (path A) triumph, fade, and then die? (path B) succumb and die? Instead I get to watch characters based on true life characters that feel like fully rounded fictional characters. You mean they're letting writers and auteurs actually write and direct rather than reenact?!?

I'm so confused. Where are my Rays and Gandhis? Where have Frances, Frida, Evita and Kinsey gone? Please stick to the formula, Hollywood! [/sarcasm]

I'm calling this new breed of biopic "neo portraiture" because they just don't feel like the generic biopics that buzz around each year uselessly hogging awards with lazy self importance. The ones who scream "I'm about someone famous. They did something important. They mean something to you. Therefore, so do I!"

Even if the individual films in this new subgenre are far from perfect, even if they aren't fully formed, I love them for trying to find a new way. Here's to the artists painting fresh portraits.


Glenn Dunks said...

So, I'm thinking a B or higher for Fur?

And I too am glad that at least some biopics are trying to be different. I wasn't that big of a fan of Capote (i find it impossible to love it. it doesn't want to be loved, and I've said that before) but I was oh-so glad we didn't see all about his childhood (a scene where his imaginary friend went out the back door and he went out the front? lol).

Still can't wait for Marie and Diane.

Nat, would you consider The Queen in the same set? I haven't seen that either (out the same day as Marie... Boxing Day. ugh) but that certainly doesn't seem like a typical one. Is it even claiming to be a biopic in any sense of the word though?

StinkyLulu said...

I just saw The Queen last night & turned to MrStinky and said something to the effect of "I want all biopics to do this. Focus on an interest, transforming, defining episode in a famous life."

So as much as I will always love the broad biographical bloatedness of -- say -- Coal Miner's Daughter, I do love this idea of the "portraiture" pic.

Glenn Dunks said...

The thing with some of those sorts is that by the time the character dies of a drug overdose (the usual case) I too feel like injecting something into me just to keep myself interested (HI RAY CHARLES! Your life was so hard. But here we have a bad Powerpoint Presentation to sum it all up in incase the people at home forgot. Bleh.)

Anonymous said...

I'm hoping you liked Fur Nat. I saw it at a screening here a couple of weeks ago and although I had a few problems with the ending, I just love where it went and that it had the courage to go there. And I thought the performances were amazing.

I also saw Marie the weekend it opened and loved it as well. I find it so funny that 2 films that in a way somewhat spit in the face of the normal biopic are most likely going to end up in my top ten this year. Maybe Hollywood should listen???

Nah, I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

Nat, have you seen Infamous? I'm very curious to see it. I've heard mixed things, mostly favorable with the immanent: damn poor timing. Duh.

Yaseen Ali said...

PSH's Capote < Toby Jones's Capote

adam k. said...

The Queen is absolutely claiming to be a biopic in how it's selling itself through its famous main character. But like Capote, it focuses on a defining period/incident in the subject's life and only dramatizes that. I like this idea, too.

What did the Infamous people think would happen when they released a Capote film a year after the other one??? Were they filming at the same time? Was it a race, like with the Alexander films?

I agree though that it's hard to love Capote cause it doesn't seem to want to be loved. That is a good way of putting it.

adam k. said...

Also, I'm nervous about the grades for Volver and Babel. Those films are supposed to redeem the year.

Plus, is it just me or is Jack smokin' hot in that picture on the main page? I've never found him so sexy.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Thank you, Nat!

I'm not against conventional bio-pics by any means. In fact, I'll argue that conventions are there to be transcended.

But it bugs me 'til no end whenever someone just scoffs at an unconventional biopic as "pretentious".

So the latest word on FUR is that it's not perfect and Nicole won't clinch a Best Actress nod. Big whoop... even if it is, indeed, a failure of sorts, at least the director's taking a chance.

adam k. said...

Nicole is getting a globe nod, though. You know it's happening.

Glenn Dunks said...

It warms the cockles of my heart remembering that she got nominated for Birth by the HFPA. Yes, it may be just because they love her, but they didn't HAVE to nominate her. It's not like ANYBODY else was giving her awards (I'm talking actual institutions).

But, so what. It's not like it wasn't deserved.

Amy said...

Nat, I find it odd you have problems with biopics that "dramataize" true lives, but like "Fur" and "Marie Antoinette" which fictionalaize almost entirely but attempt to make it look real (okay, maybe not really with "Fur"...but you can hardly call it a bio-pic).

Glenn Dunks said...

Well, to be honest, not even the people behind Fur are calling it a biopic, but instead "an imaginary portrait".

Obviously though, many detractors of the film will fault it for being exactly what makes it stand out from the back - a non-typical biopic.

Anonymous said...

Almodovar leads European Film Award Nominations announced yesterday! Cruz nominated as Best Actress, Two nominations for Cillian Murphy.


directed by Neil Jordan
produced by Parallel Film Productions Ltd./Number 9 Films

GRBAVICA; Austria/Bosnia-Herzegovina/Germany/Croatia
directed by Jasmila Zbanic
produced by coop99 filmproduktion GmbH/Deblokada/Noirfilm/Jadran Film

DAS LEBEN DER ANDEREN (The Lives of Others); Germany
directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
produced by Wiedemann & Berg Filmproduktion/Bayerischer Rundfunk/ARTE/Creado Film

directed by Michael Winterbottom & Mat Whitecross
produced by Revolution Films Ltd.

directed by Pedro Almodóvar
produced by El Deseo D.A., S.L.U.

directed by Ken Loach
produced by Sixteen Films/Matador Pictures/Regent Capital/UK Film Council/Bord Scannán Na Héireann/The Irish Film Board/Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen/Element Films/Bim Distribuzione/EMC Produktion/Tornasol Films/Diaphana Distribution/Pathé Distribution/Cinéart/TV3 Ireland/Film Coopi


Pedro Almodóvar for VOLVER
Susanne Bier for EFTER BRYLLUPPET (After The Wedding)
Emanuele Crialese for NUOVOMONDO (Golden Door)
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck for DAS LEBEN DER ANDEREN (The Lives of Others)
Michael Winterbottom & Mat Whitecross for THE ROAD TO GUANTANAMO

Penélope Cruz in VOLVER
Martina Gedeck in DAS LEBEN DER ANDEREN (The Lives Of Others)
Sandra Hüller in REQUIEM
Mirjana Karanovic in GRBAVICA
Sarah Polley in LA VIDA SECRETA DE LAS PALABRAS (The Secret Life Of Words)

Patrick Chesnais in JE NE SUIS PAS LÀ POUR ÊTRE AIMÉ (Not Here to Be Loved)
Jesper Christensen in DRABET (Manslaughter)
Mads Mikkelsen in EFTER BRYLLUPPET (After The Wedding)
Ulrich Mühe in DAS LEBEN DER ANDEREN (The Lives Of Others)
Silvio Orlando in IL CAIMANO (The Caiman)

José Luis Alcaine for VOLVER
Timo Salminen for LAITAKAUPUNGIN VALOT (Lights In The Dusk)

Pedro Almodóvar for VOLVER
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck for DAS LEBEN DER ANDEREN (The Lives Of Others)
Corneliu Porumboiu for A FOST SAU N-A FOST (12:08 East Of Bucharest)

Alberto Iglesias for VOLVER
Tuomas Kantelinen for ÄIDEISTÄ PARHAIN (Mother of Mine)
Dario Marianelli for PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Gabriel Yared & Stéphane Moucha for DAS LEBEN DER ANDEREN (The Lives of Others)

That's all.

Anonymous said...

You didn't mention Last Days.

cal roth


amy --the problem isn't the dramatization but the dramatization of the whole -- the reenactment from crib to coffin. it's antidramatic. there's no literary structure, no arc, just a series of highlights in that traditional approach.

like 'the greatest hits of... (insert famous person)'

so i'm enjoying the current narrowed or fictionalized approach

Anonymous said...

If Nicole Kidman keeps on doing her Births, Furs, Dogvilles, I will be happy even if she doesn't get another award coming her way. I don't know what it is but these movies are what she is born to do. Whether they fail or succeed, she very much just serves the vision of the director. As Shainberg said in an interview, the one question she asked him was "what do you want?" I just want her to keep this up. She really needs to find an auteur director to stick with. I want to see more of the quiet, subtle, whispery characters she has been giving since Dogville and yet making them all different.

I don't think she will feature at all in this award season regarding Fur, not even at the GGs but she will be at the Oscars one way or another with Happy Feet, her narration of God Grew Tired of us and perhaps another narration, I have not Forgotten You (on Simon Weisenthal).

As for Hollywood listening, I doubt it. They look to critics to feed them what to do and serve their audience, the critics have panned Marie and will definitely pan Fur, both Variety and Hollywood Reporter have simply called it bad for not showing Arbus's hardship and pain and making her a happy Arbus instead, this will continue I am sure but damn, I will take Fur over Ray and its ilk any day.

Anonymous said...

Nat, have you seen Fur?

Anonymous said...

Nat, please write a review of Fur. Pleeeeaaaase!

adam k. said...

Nicole will get a globe nod for Fur. They nominated her for Birth. They love her. They want her babies. They'll nominate her any way they can.

Anonymous said...

no, they won't! they nominated her for Birth because despite the many pans it got, it was one of the most discussed that year, especially her performance, they didn't nom her for Dogville did they, despite the year long acclaim?

Fur will go the way of Dogville or Portrait of a Lady. No nominations at all unless the Italian go whoop-arse on them then perhaps they will, lol.

The award season will find her again and they will want to award her their aunts, lol, when she does another generic or traditional role because despite her back to back noms, including a win, the award season never really features her.

Anonymous said...

You want a review of FUR? Here's one:

Timid Jewish housewife who looks like a WASP meets hirsutically challenged freak with plummy voice and decides to become a REAL photographer. Marital stress and general life chaos ensues. Housewife-cum-artist learns life lessons, albeit quite racy lessons, and reaches epiphany through use of a razor.

FUR is a LOT more like those dreaded traditional biopics than you think. It's in its naive development of the Woman Artist Breaking Free From Kitchen Duties (or in this case, holding the flash bag duties), in its creepy attitude to the way in which women come to "assert" themselves, and most strongly in its depiction of Arbus's sexuality, it makes Farah Fawcett Major's THE BURNING BED look wildly progressive.

There are more ways to be Just the Same Old Thing than by aping the chronology of a life. FUR manages to find most of them.

Anonymous said...

Duh, Arbus looked like a WASP. She barely had ANY meat on her save her skin. Talk about bones!


ooh, yeah. Fur is likely to stir up disparate responses. it did even in me. I had my own thumbs up thumbs down war.

more later.