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April 05, 2011


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Also, Joe Wright is quickly becoming obnoxious. I'm still very curious about HANNA, though. I guess I'll go check out your review and see what's what.


"All the while, though, director Wright continues to command the sort of formidable cinematic apparatus that certain people have been raving about since the Dunkirk scenes in 'Atonement'..."

The truth is, I kind of liked ATONEMENT, but that long-take in Dunkirk was like a parody of long-takes. I can't believe anyone could have shot that with a straight face.


Fish Tank?

Glenn Kenny

Yes, Bryan, "Fish Tank." This is why I love my readers!

I like "Somewhere," too...but hell, Bill, that's practically in 'Scope! Check your display settings, maybe?


Heck, I haven't even seen it yet. I just thought the gender and time frame matched up well enough for a guess. Am I ashamed now? Sure, a little bit.

Mr. Peel

As I'm sure we all know, Michelle Williams was particularly good in LAND OF PLENTY.

Phil Freeman

Ha, I saw "Fish Tank" last night and registered the following Twitter review: "'Fish Tank' makes England almost as depressing as actually going to England. Also, there is no fish tank in the movie." Re "Hanna," I'll check it out eventually - if not in theaters, then on DVD for sure.


I really liked Wright's PRIDE AMPERSAND PREJUDICE. I liked ATONEMENT, too, but it seems to have been too "meta" for the masses and too sweepingly romantic for the eggheads. I felt this duality was the whole point of the thing and appreciated it, even if the conceit keeps it from being as emotionally wrenching as more traditional examples of the "great tragic love story." Haven't seen THE SOLOIST, though I've seen a couple of interesting appreciations of it amid the dismissals.


Something about Joe Wright rubs me the wrong way. I was at a Q&A he attended for a screening of ATONEMENT, and when somebody asked the question of how he set about adapting a book many felt was "unadaptable", he answered (quite sniffily, if I recall) that people who felt the book couldn't be adapted had the wrong notion that cinema couldn't be about ideas. Does anybody, even among the film's partisans, really think that ATONEMENT contains a single, solitary idea?

I lump Wright in with someone like Tom Hooper; guys who seem to have auteur aspirations, but settle for gussying up their films with a bunch of arty affectations, in the hope that no one will notice how familiar and middle-of-the-road they are. (And, judging by the critical/awards success for P&P, ATONEMENT and THE KING'S SPEECH, a lot of people didn't!) Apparently, Wright hired the SteadiCam operator on Sokurov’s RUSSIAN ARK for the one-take shots in HANNA. Aspirational, indeed! That said, I've heard enough positive things about the film to give it a shot, and it does at least look entertaining. However, I shudder to think what Wright will do with the film he's making next, an adaptation of ANNA KARENINA, with his muse, the spectacularly unsuitable Keira Knightley, in the title role. I predict a lot of tracking shots and pouting.

Victor Morton


You think "come up with a single solitary idea in ATONEMENT" is that difficult? (FTR, I had it #3 for the year it came out, so I guess one could call me a partisan.)

Here's the overriding one: there is no atonement, particularly if death is all there is. Here is another: Discourse is unreliable, particularly in the hands of outsiders and the self-interested. Combine the two and you have the model of a post-modern discourse tragedy of irredeemable wrongs and a life spent trying futilely to undo them.


"I kind of liked ATONEMENT, but that long-take in Dunkirk was like a parody of long-takes."

In much the same way that 'The Soloist' was like a parody of shamelessly Oscar-whoring, button-pushing, adversity-triumphing movies, then.


Wright RULES ALL-- KEIRA POWER-- but what's with making the SMOKING PIPING HOT Saoirse Ronan look like a frizz-haired albino banshee???? Put her in some fetish heels and let her be a Snyder Movie bombshell. This better not be some feminist bullshit.


Chemical Brothers Power.

Fuck a bonnet. (TM Wells)

Account Deleted

Wright and Hooper are TV directors. Amazing that Hooper got the Director Oscar this year (not that it matters in the slightest though). Those reaction shots when Firth does his stammering speech to the crowd are priceless and ripe for parody. Just when you think they can't get any worse Jacobi appears and trumps everybody.


Joe Wright is NOT a TV director. You're INSANE. He's the logical extension of the Lyne/Hugh Hudson/(sometimes Parker) end of the New Wave Brit invasion of the early 80s, more upmarket and less fun than Ridley, Tony or Adrian, but definitely in that tradition.


...yes, in the tradition of 'Revolution'!


To me, the most interesting British director to come along last decade was Jonathan Glazer, but after SEXY BEAST (2000) and BIRTH (2004), nada. His next announced project according to imdb is UNDER THE SKIN, slated for 2014. Two-thousand-fricking-fourteen? What's this guy up to?


Don't complain. I would start a Leos Carax fundraiser right now if I was sure it would help him to get another film done in the next... seven years.

James Keepnews

Been psyched for MEEK'S release for a few minutes and glad it appears to continue the development of Ms. Reichardt into one of the finest living directors anywhere. Not all the weed and Palace Brothers-fetishism in the world would make me want to sit through OLD JOY again but, dear G-d, WENDY AND LUCY...that has to be one of the saddest films ever made, as ineluctable and shattering as losing everything and taking to the rails.

It's interesting you mention the cross it bears in your review and, though I'll always cop to my leftist blinders, it's interesting that I never think about that scene/character when I think about WENDY. I think about being two figures away from debtor's prison, and detailing whatever late-capitalist sociocultural manifestation of the latter we have in this country today seems to be no small part of Reichardt's aim with the film -- heavy, yes, but by way of a hand that's invisible. Likewise, I think about the three dollars and change the security guard gives Wendy and all that exchange reveals. I think about that awful phone call to her sister and her brother-in-law kind of getting it but still offering no help. I think about Michelle Williams' extraordinary restraint, making you feel every indignity and slip down a slope with a hushed, un-histrionic, accumulated devastation. I think about her humming on the soundtrack from beginning to end. And Lucy. And that dolt Neumaier in the NY Daily News giving WENDY AND LUCY one star.

Pete Segall

James, I sadly have to disagree. I still think Wendy is fantastic but when I think about it the cross comes very quickly to mind. I think you're spot on with everything else, especially the security guard's gift, but the cross is screeching clunk. I think because it's delivered in such a pandering way - doesn't the kid lean over a bit to let the cross dangle midscreen? however it is, the camera holds on to it - whereas the rest of the movie is so restrained. But whatever, I still love it and am very excited for Meek's. On plot description alone there seem to be some parallels but I guess I'll just have to see. (And, wow, that's a really awesome poster: http://imdb.to/gWpKLF)

On the subject of Olivia Williams, she was staying at the same place my family and I went over the holidays. I'm fairly certain it was her. She looked unnerved by an awful lot of things.

James Keepnews

Pete, it's true when I think about that scene/character, its comparative lack of subtlety with all that precedes and follows it feels jarring. And yet, it's true I really don't think about it when we talk about WENDY.

In re: the generally superb Olivia W.: "She looked unnerved by an awful lot of things." And here I always thought she was acting...


Regarding Reichardt, I'm always surprised at how little discussion there is of her first movie, "River of Grass." Her short film "Ode" (it's almost an hour long, if I remember correctly) is also very good.


I feel dumb now, but for whatever reason the cross in W&L never stood out to me. Maybe because I just assumed that character would be wearing one. I still haven't caught up to RIVER OF GRASS, but on the basis of her last two films, I think Reichardt's absolutely working in the top tier of American filmmakers right now. Excited to be catching MEEK'S in Minneapolis in a few weeks (with Reichardt and Todd Haynes doing a Q&A)!

Also, for any L.A. folks, the Aero is screening OLD JOY and WENDY & LUCY on 4/17 with the director present for a discussion: http://www.americancinemathequecalendar.com/content/wendy-and-lucy-old-joy

Noam Sane

I was gonna guess that new Jodie Foster flick with Mel Gibson and his hand puppet. THAT trailer went over well at the multiplex last weekend (heh.)

@JBryant, Under the Skin is due this year.


jbryant, my own vote for most interesting British director of last decade (and hopefully this, though his last film "Spread" was a complete disaster) would be David Mackenzie. "Young Adam" (preceded by his very good first feature "The Last Great Wilderness"), "Asylum," and "Hallum Foe" are all great.


jbryant - thought you would go with Lynne Ramsay for sure (though a Scot technically I think) - looks like she's finally got a new film in the pipeline

Tom Block

Not that it actually matters, but there is too a fish tank in Fish Tank, only it's got a hamster inside it. (I love Andrea Arnold but it's official now: the woman needs a visit from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Metaphors.)

Pete Segall

I tried looking online to see if anyone had posted a clip of the cross scene - I'm curious now to see if it's as prominent as I remember or if memory has magnified the thing. But let me reiterate, the scene doesn't diminish how much I enjoy and admire the movie, and certainly doesn't make it any less a deserving Palme Dog movie.

Re Mrs. Williams: This was unusually unnerved, beyond Ghost Writer unnerved. Like, bad news from Pyongyang unnerved.

Re Lynne Ramsay: Didn't she adapt Lioner Shriver's We Need to Talk about Kevin?

Victor Morton


Scots are British. There is no "technically" qualifier or disqualifier about it.

(and passing up a very funny and obvious joke that is neither funny nor obvious to anyone else reading this, I suspect.)


skelly: The technicality that takes the great Ramsay out of the running is my phrasing of "most interesting...to come along last decade." RATCATCHER was 1999 (in festivals at least), and she had several shorts before that. Furthermore, I forgot her. :) Not like I actually did any research before making my pronouncement.

Noam: Hope you (and Wikipedia) are right about UNDER THE SKIN, and imdb is wrong. I'm a bit surprised though, that a supposed 2011 release has no tech credits listed there and only one cast member (Scarlett Johansson).


Victor Morton: Respectfully, I can't really line up my viewing of ATONEMENT with yours. I probably shouldn't have been so glibly dismissive, but I ultimately think that Wright gives himself way too much credit. Any intellectual heft the film achieves, to me, is a residual effect of McEwan's great book. But, even then, it's carried across so bluntly. Wright seemed quite proud of the way he and screenwriter Christopher Hampton "figured out" how to transpose the surprise ending, but old Briony on a television program, revealing everything in a five-minute monologue? Really? That's his eureka cinematic redering? In the novel, the final part is arguably the most important section, but in the film, it's almost an afterthought.

I also disagree with the reading that "there is no atonement in the face of death", which I feel is a little too strong. In my view, McEwan's point is a bit more self-reflexive. I'd say, rather, that the atonement Briony attempts, by immortalizing and reuniting the doomed lovers through literature, is futile because she is using the same powers of invention that doomed them in the first place. He seems to be reflecting on the fact that the talents that make a good writer (the ability to shape and manipulate events, an overactive imagination) are also things that create dubious behavior when applied to real life. The detachment, the critical evaluation of its own storytelling methods, that pervades the book (every section is a kind of pastiche -- of Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Bowen, wartime reportage -- with only the coda significantly in the first person) is completely absent in the film, which seems much more invested in the "epic love story" and "unreliable narrator" element, which I find kind of simplistic and almost missing the point.

Now, I realize that all my arguments could be boiled down to: "It's not as good as the book." Which is, admittedly, a pretty common, easy and not terribly fair criticism. But, in this case, I think it's legitimate, since Wright seems to believe that he's successfully translated the novel's (inherently literary) concerns and made them cinematic, which I don't feel is the case. (Apparently, McEwan himself wasn't thrilled with the adaptation.) Anyway, sorry for going on and on!

jbryant: I'm a big fan of Jonathan Glazer too. I liked SEXY BEAST, and I adored BIRTH, which is such a rich, ambiguous movie. Now there's a film that bursts with style (with its long close-ups and zooms and Kubrickian menace), but it never feels superfluous or arbitrary. It's really quite beautiful and strange, with a metaphysical suggestiveness that goes far beyond its literal premise. And, among other things, it has a severely underrated performance by Anne Heche, who is really startling as a woman whose grief and bitterness has made her, in a way, even more brittle and deranged than Nicole Kidman's character. (That scene in the bathroom when she orders the kid to dry her hands? Soooo creepy!) I also can't wait for UNDER THE SKIN.

Incidentally, a lot of notable British filmmakers are coming out with long-awaited new features soon: Lynne Ramsay's KEVIN (which I'm looking forward to, though I hated that book), Pawel Pawlikowski's THE WOMAN IN THE FIFTH and Terence Davies' THE DEEP BLUE SEA.

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