« The state | Main | Obviously they've mistaken me for a much shorter man »

October 21, 2009


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Dan Coyle

"I laughed more at Tarkovsky's Stalker"

That made me laugh so hard...


Yikes, this just makes me sad. Won't be able to judge myself until January when it gets released in my country.


I don't see what's so damning about laughing more at Stalker than at this. Stalker is Tarkovsky's second funniest movie.

Glenn Kenny

@JF: Just an observation, not a "damn." @ Dan: Like they say, it's funny because it's true. The biggest laughs in the Tarkovsky are the business with the hat in the beginning, and of course the phone ringing in the room.

Robert Merk

“which seems to direct a very specific message at single mothers, that message being, if you even try to carve out a minute corner of life for yourself, your little boy is going to turn on you, and then you'll be sorry, so best not to even go there."

Another reading…

Max was simply behaving like any little boy who felt his mother wasn’t giving him the attention he wanted at that moment and (like Carol) threw a tantrum. Little children do this all the time (be it a single mother or a two parent home). Max’s motivation wasn’t to punish his mother (can young children even grab that concept?) he just wanted and would go to lengths to get her attention.

It is this selfishness Max experiences first hand when confronting Carol towards the end of the film.

All readings aside, I found the picture beautiful. One of the year’s finest.


For whatever it's worth, the line "I took my lucky break and I broke it in two" is from the song "Worried Shoes," originally written by singer/songwriter/Beatles enthusiast/troubled individual Daniel Johnston. So maybe we can cut Karen O. a bit of slack in not giving Macca proper cred.

A very interesting piece, Glenn. Giving me a lot to think about.

Josh L.

Good smackdown of a movie I still feel ambivalent about.

"He is right, but then again, there's the rub—the film is very much concerned that you understand that it knows about confusion and reality and sadness, it's constantly tugging at your sleeve like a fidgety child to make sure of this."

Perhaps that's why none of the wild rumpus scenes were truly wild. The specter of emotional pain haunted every scene.

Glenn Kenny

Aaaargh! I saw the Daniel J. song listed in the credits and didn't put two and two together. Figures—it's not a big secret how big a Beatles fan Johnston was/is.

That changes things a hair. But certainly not the circumstances of O's too-sweet ranking in the opening credits!

James Keepnews

Glenn -- Per _Stalker_/laughs, don't forget the pratfall by the great Anatoly S. as he walks into the bar after the hat trick. Tarkovskyan slapstick (that'll be the title of my fifth album)! And JF, I'm dying to know what the third funniest Tarkovsky flick is...OK, the first funniest, too. My vote's for _Tempo di Viaggio_, which only half-counts, but damned if Tonino G.'s "Wanna hear a poem I wrote?" as soon as AT arrives didn't put me in the mind of _Straight to Hell_...

As for Mr. Sendak's indelible masterpiece gone Sid & Twee-mo Krofft, thank you, no.


+1 for the reference, but it's The Go! Team, not Go Team!. Having Karen O. splashed across the credits does feel like a cash grab, with the aforementioned Go! Team, Los Campesinos! (exclamation points in band names FTW!) and other bands cranking out way livelier tunes that would've benefited the somewhat bland soundtrack.

Is it possible to parse the picture from the source material? Probably not, but if this pic existed in a vacuum, would some of the praise be tempered, would some of the criticisms be assuaged? A pointless query, I reckon, but one I've been pondering after seeing the pic and scouring the reviews.


@James Keepnews: Rublev is first. Or at least it seemed that way when I caught it at the Walter Reade this past summer. I don't know if there is a third.


I disagree profoundly. That said, thank you for giving it a second chance.


@maximillian- I've been thinking the same things re: parsing film from source. Allow me to offer a moment when the comparison caused me to start to lose faith in the film: Max's journey to Wild Thing land. I don't know of a more magical moment in any book than the page where Max's room begins to turn into a jungle. I stared at that for hours as a kid. The fact that the events of the book took place in a space that was Max's- his home, his room, his head- after he was sent there with no dinner- an experience to which I could relate- seemed completely central to me. The way it was handled in the film was so histrionic and removed from that sense of fantasy seeping into reality that I immediately felt on guard.

I think the real problem with the film is the Wild Things. I sat in the theater as they were introduced with my heart sinking in my chest. All I could think was "Am I really going to have to listen to THESE conversations? Watch THESE social dynamics get laboriously played out? Among the goddam WILD THINGS?" I agree with Josh L- nothing ever felt truly wild because everyone seemed there to, like, really work through some stuff. There was no room for joyous anarchy. Bonus Play At Home Game: match each Wild Thing to a denizen of Dave Eggers imagined circle of friends/old neighborhood. Example: Ira and Julie (?) clearly run the organic food store/raw bar around the corner, Alexander is the quiet guy always organizing the vinyl in the indie record store, KW is the cute girl at the local coffee shop who seems kinda smart and maybe even well-read oh if I could just talk to her, etc, etc.

For those who have seen the film- can we talk about the oh so subtle (re)birth metaphor toward the end? Cuz speaking of on-the-nose...

All that said- the film is gorgeous to look at. And may this sorry world always find a place for the glorious people at the Henson Creature Shop.

jim emerson

I think I laughed more at "Nostalghia." That darn candle!

But your piece made me laugh most of all. It's funny 'cause it's true.


Speaking of giving movies second chances, did you ever see Nostalghia again? Your pan of it made me avoid it the first time around. Glad I finally saw it.

Tom Carson

So now I've dutifully shlepped off to WTWTA myself, partly to see what got my critical confreres and soeurs in such a pro/con lather, and am not sure what's prompting either the rants or the gushes. Lots of it, I've got no problems with. I purely love the way it looks, think nearly all the choices about where to go with the material were astute if not inspired, and was charmed by many of the incidental lines and/or line readings. But narrative drive it doesn't have (I got very restless during the long middle chunk, which is one reason I salute you for sitting through it twice), and if the ultimate comparison here is to The Wizard of Oz, which it unavoidably is, then -- well, as Bert Lahr used to say, "You do it first and then somebody else does it pretty."

jim emerson

Ignatz (Trudy thinks that's your first name) -- I'd never tell anybody not to go see a movie. No, I haven't revisited "Nostalghia." I'm not nostalgic for the experience I had the first time. But if GK can drag himself back to "WTWTA" after his initial impression, maybe I should do due Tarkovsky diligence. (Which reminds me -- going way off-topic: Can anybody explain why Lars von Trier dedicated "Antichrist" to Tarkovsky? Was that just to piss people off?)

Ti Alan Chase

@otherbill - I have to agree that where Jonze really missed the point was it taking the whole adventure out of Max's house. I didn't think too much about it at first, but my 7 year old kept insisting that the movie wasn't like the book because in the book Max's room turned into a forest (which she understands as pretend), while in the book Max fled his house, entered an actual forest (which she understood as being "real").

And she's absolutely right, the difference is enormous.

Oh, and the giant dog was a poor substitute for the sea serpent.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Tip Jar

Tip Jar
Blog powered by Typepad