SOUND OF METAL (2020)

November 19, 2020

 Greetings again from the darkness. Many of us have attended concerts and experienced a ringing in our ears for a while afterwards. Have you ever thought about the musicians who are playing that music night after night? It’s a risk requiring precautions … and even then, disaster can occur. The first narrative feature from writer-director Darius Marder uses the hearing loss of a heavy metal drummer to explore what happens when the life we know is suddenly snatched away.

Riz Ahmed (TV mini-series “The Night Of”) stars as Ruben, the aforementioned drummer. The film opens with Ruben drumming on stage as his lead singer/girlfriend Lou (underrated Olivia Cooke, THOROUGHBREDS, “Bates Motel”) screams out the lyrics punk-style for their band, Blackgammon. We witness Ruben’s euphoria in the moment, with his “Please Kill Me” tattoo visible across his chest. Afterwards, we see the couple in their RV living a happy life of veggie juice, yoga, and slow dancing between gigs. The first crack in the armor is Lou’s scratching her arm from anxiety, and the next is devastating for Ruben and the couple.

Ahmed is terrific in the most important moments, and he’s assisted by top notch sound design from Nicolas Becker (GRAVITY, 2013). This allows us to feel and experience the moment Ruben realizes he has a problem, and how he begins to process this. Director Marder utilizes subtitles/closed captioning throughout, both for the deaf community and to make Ruben’s situation visceral for viewers. When the doctor explains hearing loss, frustration and defiance kick in for Ruben. He becomes focused on the $40-80,000 cochlear implant option, and views it as a way to maintain his normal life.

Lou becomes worried for Ruben’s well-being, and we learn he’s a recovering heroin addict. He reluctantly agrees to a remote deaf community/rehab facility run by Joe (Paul Raci). It’s here that Ruben learns sign language and begins to adjust to his new reality. Joe is a very patient and sage advisor, and preaches that being deaf is not a handicap – it’s not viewed as something to fix. Implants are considered an affront to the deaf culture, and the film neither shies away from this conflict, nor magnifies it.

The clash between Joe’s patience and guidance, and Ruben’s desire to get his normal life back comprise much of the film. The final scene between the two is gut-wrenching thanks to extraordinary acting from Ahmed and especially Raci. Supporting work in the film is provided by Lauren Ridloff (a hearing-impaired actor) and Mathieu Amalric as Lou’s dad. The final act is quite something to watch. The director says the film is about the finality of life changes, and letting go of what we can’t fix. Joe urges Ruben to appreciate the stillness, and we also see a love story that served its purpose and run its course. Will the distortion lead Ruben to find peace in the stillness? Depending on your stance in regards to the debate within the deaf community, the ending either works for you or it doesn’t. Either way, it’s well done and well-acted.

Amazon Studios will release this in theaters November 20, 2020 and on Prime Video December 4, 2020

watch the trailer


THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (2014)

March 16, 2014

grand budapest Greetings again from the darkness. Some of the finer things in life are an acquired taste. The exception to that is the film canon of writer/director Wes Anderson. You either “get” it or you don’t. Which side of the line you fall is much more a matter of style and taste than intellect.

This latest from Anderson may be his most visually distinct and stylistic presentation yet. He even tosses in a bit of a plot so that we have more reason to follow the outlandish antics of master concierge (and murder suspect) M Gustave – played with comic verve by Ralph Fiennes. Yes, the Ralph Fiennes known for such comedy classics as Schindler’s List, The English Patient and The Hurt Locker. Admit it, when you need a laugh, you fire up the Ralph Fiennes stand-up routine. OK, so he did have a role in the terrific dark comedy In Bruges, but nothing has prepared us for seeing him in this witty, fast-talking role at the center of Anderson’s wildest ride yet.

As any follower of Anderson films will tell you, there is always fun to be had in picking out the members of his supporting cast. Assisting Mr. Fiennes with this one are Edward Norton, Jude Law, F Murray Abraham, Tilda Swinton (oddly cast after Angela Lansbury dropped out), Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Tom Wilkinson, Saoirse Ronan, Lea Seydoux, Mathieu Amalric, Jason Schwartzman, and Owen Wilson. Of course, there is also Bill Murray, in his seventh collaboration with Anderson. The most impressive new face is that of Tony Revolori, who plays the teenage Lobby Boy in-training … a role that turns vital when he is befriended by Gustave, and is invaluable in the telling of the story.

None of that really matters though, as the best description I give this is “spectacle”. It’s a whimsical romp with nostalgic tributes throughout. It’s a movie for movie lovers from a true movie lover. You will notice the three distinct aspect ratios used to depict the different time periods, and the music is perfect … from Vivaldi’s Concerto for Lute and Plucked Strings to Alexandre Desplat’s fantastic composition over the closing credits. If you are up for some hyper-stylistic eye candy, this one is tough to beat (especially this time of year).

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: colorful costumes and wild set design combined with oddly humorous deadpan dialogue delivery from the mind of Wes Anderson is something you “get” OR you never miss a Ralph Fiennes comedy!

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: traditional story telling is your preference for movies

Below you will find two links … one for the trailer and one for the Desplat’s closing credit song.

the closing credit song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skpyDiCrMZs

the trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Fg5iWmQjwk

 

 

 


COSMOPOLIS (2012)

September 3, 2012

 Greetings again from the darkness. David Cronenberg is a brilliant filmmaker. Brilliance doesn’t necessarily translate into popular or even accessible. He tends to make movies that force a level of discomfort while viewing, while also stretching our intellect as we attempt to follow. Even his films that come closest to mainstream (A History of Violence, The Fly) refuse to allow us to just sit and be entertained. His more esoteric films (Naked Lunch, Crash) will cause your thoughts to swim and your gut to churn.

This latest is based on the Don DeLillo novel and there is no known group of film lovers for whom this can be recommended, save Cronenberg fans. Even that doesn’t reduce its brilliance. Robert Pattinson plays Eric Packer, the ultimate example of the 1% that is receiving such notice these days. Packer is a young, billionaire, who rides around in his mobile high tech ivory tower (you might call it a white stretch limo), taking meetings while on his mission to get a haircut. The meetings are vignettes designed to grow increasingly abstract and dialogue heavy as the film progresses.

The meetings feature Jay Baruchel as his Chief of Technology, Philip Nozuka as an Analyst, Emily Hampshire as his Chief of Finance, Samantha Morton as his Chief of Theory … oh, and a special meeting with his mistress Juliette Binoche. He also manages to continually run into his new wife played by Sarah Gadon, and work in his daily doctor’s exam which is extremely thorough. All of these occur while he is being protected by his security chief played by Kevin Durand.

 This film is not plot driven, but rather ideal and theory driven. From the discussions we can tell that the financial systems are collapsing and Packer is losing millions by the minute. His fortune is vanishing and there are threats on his life. The most interesting threat comes from his true polar opposite in life – Benno Levin played by Paul Giamatti. This sequence is the film’s longest and most dialogue heavy. Understanding every sentence is not necessary to realize it’s a comment on the faceless many vs the evil privileged. The paranoia has boiled over to the point where anarchy and violence somehow make sense.

Twilight fans will not be pleased with Pattinson’s performance, but he is absolutely perfect as Packer. His cold, arrogant nature and monotone voice are anything but emotionless. He apparently realizes his path is leading to the Village of the Damned, and he seems to have designed his own purgatory. One of the funniest, yet still odd, moments arrives in the form of Mathieu Amalric, who will generate recollections of a Rupert Murdoch incident.

Howard Shore provides an extremely subtle score that fits with the mood changes a the film progresses. Again, this is a bit like watching a philosophical laboratory experiment and certainly won’t appeal to a wide audience. If you are a Cronenberg fan, have at it. If not … the risk is yours.

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you are a big time Cronenberg fan (I can’t think of another reason)

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you are a Twilight fan expecting Robert Pattinson’s bedroom eyes to steal your heart

watch the trailer:


MESRINE: PUBLIC ENEMY #1 (pt 2, 2008)

September 6, 2010

 Greetings again from the darkness. This is part two of director Jean-Francois Richet‘s tale of famed criminal Jacques Mesrine. As in part one, Vincent Cassel delivers a frightening portrayal of this psychopath who is addicted to the spotlight, danger, women and little else.

This second film drives home the point that Mesrine was little more than an ultra-aggressive hoodlum. What I mean by that is that he was no criminal mastermind. No real strategist. He just steals when he needs money and then quickly helps the press fill in the blanks on his escapades. Watching him swell with pride as he is pronounced France’s Public Enemy Number One is just plain creepy.

Ludivine Sagnier (so great in Swimming Pool) plays Sophie, his last girlfriend. Watching her reaction to her dog being shot in the final shootout tells you all you need know about her and her relationship with Mesrine.

Much of this part is based on the police chases and the efforts put into “catching” Mesrine and his accomplice. His new partner in crime is played by the terrific Mathieu Amalric (Quantum of Solace, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly). Amalric has the steely eyed stare and the acting chops to hang with Cassell.

While I truly admire Cassell’s performance in these two films and I find both extremely well made, I still feel a bit empty about the subject matter. Mesrine was a brutally violent criminal who managed 3 daring prison escapes, numerous bank robberies, kidnappings and killings. However, there is just not much depth to the man. Maybe it’s true … some people just want to see the world burn. No matter what, these two films should be seen as close together as possible. This is ONE STORY cut into two pieces. Set aside 4 hours and see the entire thing.

For my comments on part 1, please click on this link:

https://moviereviewsfromthedark.wordpress.com/2010/08/29/mesrine-killer-instinct-pt-1/