Posted by: fireweaver | January 26, 2008

character studies

i’ve been watching some really odd and interesting movies lately, by some odd and interesting people.

a few nights ago, netflix brought me Terry Gilliam’s latest (ok from late ’05), ‘tideland‘. based on a sort-of fantasy novel that was supposed to be utterly surreal yet magical, we end up with a very very dark yet childlike story of not quite growing up. in the first 10 minutes, we have a 8ish year old girl, cute as a button in her hippie clothes, cooking up some heroin on the stove for her junkie dad. and that’s not even the part where it gets weird. it’s not really a narrative sort of story – basically, all that happens is a move to grandma’s old house, and meeting the grotesques that live across the field – but instead, it’s a tale about how people in general and little kids in specific react with and respond to the world. Gilliam felt the need to add an explanation to the front of his movie, and you can debate whether or not it takes away from the viewing experience, but it’s utterly true: it is indeed shocking because all of the insanity is presented through the eyes of a remarkably innocent child. i remember feeling the same unhinged sense of confusion the first time i saw ‘brazil’, and i wonder if this movie will likewise find its own rabid cult audience 10 years from now.

last night, Alesha & i met up with Chris after he was done with work to see ‘there will be blood‘. it’s a long, slow (~3 hrs), sprawling story about an early 1900s oil man purchasing land leases and drilling some wells. even more so than ‘tideland’, this is a character-driven story rather than a plot-driven one: drilling wells is pretty much all that happens in the movie. ah, but how it happens is the fascinating part. daniel day-lewis turns in yet another stellar performance as the singularly driven oilman, who we gradually learn is an utter psychopath. not a serial-killer sort of crazy, but a completely self-involved sort, this man has as much contempt for humanity as he has drive to succeed. i had a friend ask me if it was a gory movie, and no, it’s not. the title refers to blood money, or that which we’re willing to pay for what we want most in the world, or else the blood bond of family, and how easily it can get thrown aside. PT anderson has a habit of making movies like this, where the story is almost scanty but the people are beyond rich, and leaving the theater i felt a lot like i had after ‘magnolia’: that i’d been hit upside the head with a 2×4, and it’d take me a while to assimilate it all.

nb: as said above, these are both odd, and both certainly interesting. that’s not a recommendation, if this sort of thing isn’t your cup of tea. during a particularly bizarre scene in the last few minutes of ‘magnolia’, i remember a guy standing up in the theater and saying, “oh, what the fuck?!” most people prefer their movies to make sense, and to have a linear plot, and if that’s the case, these aren’t your flicks. if you’re ok with meandering people-rich surreality, though, by all means go find them.

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