Sunday, October 02, 2005

Weekend Flix

Some films are like watching paint dry, but not in a bad way. Andrei Tarkovsky has made a few of them. Characters move around beautiful landscapes, there's a bit of mystery, perhaps some poignancy--but not much happens. The requisite audience agitation, the restless curiosity to see what happens next, never achieves more than a slow simmer.

L'Avventura is my first Antonioni film and it falls firmly into this category. Languid, dreamy, at times intensely empty--were I to describe it you'd yawn. But it's somehow not boring, and not only because of the masterful technique and striking imagery; the characters are lost, disconnected from self and others, inhabiting a landscape of glorious beauty yet tinged with the pathos of a greatness long past.

I also saw A History of Violence, and I'm a bit torn. This is Cronenberg's least subtle, most mainstream effort, and I admit to finding it more shallow than his other work. But this is an auteur of the highest order, and anything he does is worth a look. I'll say only this out of respect for those who've yet to see it: the Buddha had a close disciple named Angulimala who was a depraved robber and mass murderer. Angulimala nevertheless was able to resolve his karmic debt and achieve Enlightenment. The message here is similar to the villains crucified with Christ, one of whom is Saved after a life of infamy.

Liberals may find A History of Violence troubling to their sensibilities: can violent offenders really be reformed? What is justice? Is it nothing more than revenge? Viggo is great, William Hurt serves to amplify the cartoonish, and Maria Bello is hot. Perhaps the best conflation/deconstruction of hero/villain since Unforgiven.