Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Recently Seen...

Quick capsules for some Hollywood movies I recently watched:  Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Moonrise Kingdom, and an old charmer, Simone Simon’s first Hollywood feature, Girls’ Dormitory (1936).

I can’t understand the hype surrounding Argo. A middling thriller where the politics is superficial and the triumphant Americanism predictable. More mumbling for dialog and the picture is half-over by the time you figure out who’s who. Fancy camera work, and taught editing make for a gripping climax, but nothing more. No real intelligence and the bathos of the superhero figurines coda is risible.

Stripping Zero Dark Thirty of its wider dimensions I found it overlong and disjointed. Politically it is propaganda and seems to have no sense of how fine is the line separating terrorism from the barbarism of torture, which is taken as a given and never held up to scrutiny. I found I had a lot of sympathy with the views expressed here Enlightened Barbarism: On Zero Dark Thirty and the Torture Debate. Technically, the attack on the compound is impressive, but again the slaughter of unarmed people woken from their sleep does not seem to interest Bigelow.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Silver Linings Playbook are both forgettable, the same old rehash of familiar themes, and far from any semblance of reality. Any poor bastard with a mental illness or a shy teenager would be plunged even further into despair when returning to the reality of their own lives after seeing this pap.

Moonrise Kingdom was surprisingly charming, and its nostalgic quirkiness embraces your heart. Great cameos. The girl Suzzy is a brilliant deadpan, nicely capturing the 60s vibe perfectly. Brilliant idea to have Francoise Hardy as her favorite singer. Great camera work and melding of Benjamin's Britten’s music.

Girl’s Dormitory (1936) has the old Hollywood magic. So elegantly made, and Simone Simon is lovely and utterly beguiling as a schoolgirl in a finishing school in the Austrian alps on the cusp of womanhood, and with a crush on her teacher, Herbert Marshall, who fits his role like a glove. Director Cumming & DP Gerstad do a great job, and deliver a brave ending for the period with on an screen kiss – but after graduation.