Monday, September 6, 2010

Watching paint dry....

          Ground-breaking. Visionary. Visually stunning.

          Oh please.
           I am probably the only one not blown away by the Michelangelo Antinioni film The Passenger. It stars Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider of Last Tango in Paris fame. To listen to the trite accolades you'd think the director invented the wheel. I do agree that many camera shots are artistic, daring and ahead of their time. The last scene, a very long panoramic shot, something like eight minutes, is masterful. There are no cut or jump shots. It's one long 180-degree camera turn from inside the window bars to looking outside the window to looking back in. But that's the work of the cameraman, Luciano Tovoli.

       Otherwise the plot is predictable and common. The pacing is akin to watching paint dry. It's not a movie where one has to make many leaps to figure out what's going on. The main character David Locke is frazzled with his life. When a fellow guest at his motel dies, he swaps identities. Within the next five minutes into the film, you also know exactly how it will end. 

      I got razzed for my failure to fawn over Antinioni for his indy- cinema verite - attitude of his own pacing (a snail's). This is not true art or departure in meaningful ways. It is a lack of knowing what else to do but show the tick-tick-tick of the character's life as it progresses to the end. Well yeah Europeans are more tolerant of self-indulgent directors and there is a lot less flash and boom than in American movies. I love foreign movies mostly because they do tend to be about people and situations, and a lot less flash and boom. Actors are much less over the top. But fresh look at storytelling? Nah.

     Someone said it was -- get this -- visually stunning. Please. Other movies released in Europe blow this away and are indeed visually stunning.
That movie was a feast for the eyes, the score was gorgeous and the actors in their beautiful prime. The story was riveting. Of course it was also based on a true story and on a book by a compelling writer, Joseph Conrad. 

     I understand the final shot took a heck of a lot of work. My YouTube upload is only one quarter of the shot, but trust me you do not miss much more watching the full eight minutes, other than the amazement of a very brilliant cameraman one shot. See my My YouTube channel for two great scenes from the Duellists (among others). To find both, check this out