Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Bruce Reid

2000 Eyes: The Ninth Gate

[Written for The Stranger]

Johnny Depp, seedier and more aged than he’s ever played before, stars as a dealer in antique books. When one of his wealthier clients wants him to track down the three remaining copies of a book that, legend has it, was co-written by Lucifer, he has every reason to be suspicious (not the least being that the client is played by Frank Langella). But the paycheck is large enough to overcome his concerns, so Depp flies off to Europe, and the body count starts to rise.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Bruce Reid, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Madadayo

[Written for The Stranger]

We (and by we I mean all of us, not just those people) succumb so easily to the extremes when contemplating our demise: apocalypse or enfeebled withering. A bang or a whimper were the only options Eliot gave for the world’s end; burn out or fade away, as rock and roll fans rewrote the line. In truth, however, most of us do not die in either flames or impenetrable shadow. We stumble along, perhaps weaker, and needing a cane for support, but also hopefully wiser and more patient, and at one point in the midst of our going on comes neither of the drastic poles, but merely a cessation. I do not know what Akira Kurosawa’s final days or hours were like, I do not know how peaceably he met his fate. But I am certain he reached it with a greater serenity than most of us, for in his final film he’d given himself a marvelous reminder of the nobility of carrying on.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Bruce Reid

2000 Eyes: Time Regained

[Written for The Stranger]

Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past (or In Search of Lost Time, if you prefer the more accurate but, to me, less seductively euphonious title that’s been gaining currency of late) would certainly seem to stand out at the head of that notorious literary genre known as the “unfilmable novel.” It’s already defeated, in whole or part, two fine artists: Volker Schlöndorff, who made Swann’s Way,an admittedly well-acted but tepid and overly respectful chamber film; and Harold Pinter, whose clever but attenuated Proust Screenplay only made me grateful that funding never came through to realize the project.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Bruce Reid, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: West Beirut

[Written for The Stranger]

There is a special category of war film that chooses not to merely restate the obvious lesson that war is a nightmare, but instead tries to capture the joy and riotous freedom that conflict can bring about, and trusts the audience to supply the rest of the story. This is the anarchy that John Boorman celebrated in Hope and Glory — the world turned upside down with children running gleefully through the rubble — and it motivates West Beirut as well. An autobiographical first feature by cameraman Ziad Doueiri, West Beirut collapses almost a decade of Lebanon’s brutal civil war into what, through the eyes of his youthful protagonists, seems like one delirious summer.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Bruce Reid, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: 8 1/2 Women

[Written for The Stranger]

All of Peter Greenaway’s films depend less on human emotion than they do on a particularly fierce adherence to preordained patterns. Because of this insistence, they are curiously immune to criticism. Call them callous, misanthropic, inhuman (all of which they certainly are), whatever you like; for the Greenaway fan, such objections have simply missed the point. Depending on your belief — is art about people, or simply a way of ordering an incoherent universe? — he is either a fraud or one of the greatest filmmakers currently working. 8 1/2 Women, his latest film, is no exception. For his fans, it may well be the finest thing he’s done; the rest of us will find it as grotesque and unwatchable as the rest of the director’s output.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Bruce Reid, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Following

[Written for The Stranger]

An unnamed, unemployed young man (Jeremy Theobald) fills up his empty days stalking random people, following them from a distance as they go about their daily routine. He justifies this pathetic habit by telling himself that he’s a writer, and this will be good research for his fiction, even though his output to date consists only of staring at his typewriter, the one object in his dingy, unpainted flat that appears not to have been plucked out of a garbage bin.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Bruce Reid, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Quills

[Written for The Stranger]

The Marquis de Sade has been many things to many people, but the fact remains that he wrote for one person only: himself. It’s this very monomania that gives his works their coldly granitic fascination, page after page of mechanized sexual debasement hewn out like so many identical slabs of stone, and it’s also why he can disturb the most open-minded reader. Quills, the new movie loosely (very loosely) based upon the latter years of de Sade’s life, seeks to rehabilitate his image into that of Brave Soldier in the Noble Battle against Hypocrisy. This not only flattens and dulls the film’s subject, it also makes for one hell of a hypocritical movie in its own right.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Bruce Reid, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

[Written for The Stranger]

The courtyards and compounds on display in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon pare elegant yet stifling domains, warmly beautiful but so hushed you can practically see the sounds being absorbed into the darkly lacquered wood. There’s no surprise, in these places, that legendary Wudan warrior Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat) can never declare his love for fellow martial-arts expert Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh). When Li arrives at the home of his longtime friend and confesses to her that he’s retiring because his efforts to achieve enlightenment failed (his meditations instead leading him only to “a place of deep silence”), he might be describing the very room that holds their conversation, or even the conversation itself—a series of palpable desires and simmering glances whose meanings are left unspoken.

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Posted in: by Bruce Reid, Film music

Ennio Morricone, Musico… Hah-Ha-Hah-Ha-Ha-Ha-Hah!

I was enamored of Ennio Morricone before I heard a note of his music. My father, like many others, loved westerns, and perhaps even more loved passing their stories down to his son, filling the boy’s head with adventures and derring-do that, in those days before home video, might luckily be stumbled upon someday, surrounding such ads as a local TV station could garner on a weekend afternoon. And when it came time for the tale of the Man with No Name (many names, as it turned out: Joe, Manco, Blondie), my father, like many others then and since, would punctuate his telling. Raising his hands to his lips—one curled to an open-fisted trumpet, the other waving to indicate (more visually than audibly) the odd tremolo of the original—and displaying the glint that comes to the eye of a good man recounting wickedness, my father would intone three times, in a hypnotic rise and fall:  Wah-WAH-waaahh.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Bruce Reid, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Beau Travail

[Written for The Stranger]

Beauty is a dangerous thing. Not because, as we are often told, it is superficial or deceptive or skin deep; nor for any of the other tepid half-truths we admire because they flatter our own awareness of how far from beautiful most of us are. It’s dangerous because it is so easy to surrender to, because devotion to beauty can so easily become an obsession. Which is to say, beauty is harmful not in itself, but for what it spawns in others. Claire Denis understands this fact. In Beau Travail, Denis has made her greatest examination of beauty yet — at least of the films we’ve been able to catch Stateside. It is also, of course, her most beautiful.

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