Thursday, 11 February 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Day 149

435 - American Psycho - 3 stars
Misjudged on its release by those expecting a horror or psycho thriller. Instead the filmmakers scaled back on the extreme violence that featured heavily in the novel and instead produced a blacker than noir comedy and wicked satire of the fashion, music, greed and materialism of the 1980's.
Patrick Bateman is the kind of guy who would have idealised Gordon Gekko from Wall Street. "Greed is good", but murder and listening to Phil Collins is bad. His lifestyle, his clothes, his apartment all suggest that he wants to "fit in" with society, except for one problem. He's totally insane... well anyone who listens to Phil Collins must be mental.  His bloodlust is not fuelled by childhood issues or anger at the state of the world but because someone has a better business card than him.
Christian Bale was a revelation in the role, this being his breakout adult role proving he is no longer "the kid from Empire Of The Sun". He effortlessly switches bewteen smarmy yuppie, goofy music nerd and psychotic killer.
The best moments in the film are Patrick Bateman's music reviews. Taking place during sex with hookers or murdering work colleagues, Bateman muses on such eighties musical visionaries as Collins, Whitney Houston and, the highlight of the film, murder to Huey Lewis And The News.

358 - Russian Ark - 1 star
There is an argument that cinematography and editing are tools that allow the story to unfold and shouldn't be obviously OTT where the audience thinks "wow, that is a cool shot", and that is the point when you are taken out of the movie albeit temporarily.
An example of this are the noticeable extended steadicam shots by Joe Wright in P&P and Atonement, as a result I was continuely expecting a similar shot in The Soloist and unable to fully get involved in the film, although it turned out that there wasn't one at all!
That isn't to say there are not exceptions to the rule like the crane shot in Touch of Evil or ... And so with that thought in mind I popped Russian Ark in the DVD player and prepared to watch an arthouse film that is 96 minutes long and shot in one single continuous take. Would the extreme and bold choice in cinematography style have an effect on the viewing of the film?
Turns out it really didn't matter, it could have had tons of crazy Michael Bay style camera work but it wouldn't have stopped this film being the most boring film I have watched so far on the list, if not ever!
Some philistines out there claim that foreign language films can be too arty and pretentious, and if this was the only one I had seen I would be tempted to agree with them!
I don't have much interest in Russian art or history so I have absolutely no desire to spend 90 minutes slowly walking round a Russian heritage museum through varying points in history.
Now we come to the camera work in the film. It is a wonderful experiment in organisation and timing to make sure that everyone hits their marks on time (sound dubbing was clearly done in post-production) and after about 10 minutes or so you become used to the fact that it is all being shot in one continuous take... or is it?
I'm going on record now to post my suspicions tht this is not one single continuous take. I suspect there may be a couple of hidden edits in here.
A famous case of this is Alfred Hitchcock's Rope. It was shot in just ten takes each lasting around 10 minutes in length (because this is how much film the camera coul hold at one time) and edited together to almost seem like a continuous take. The edits were hidden by having the camera moving behind a character of focusing on a table (another great example of this is episode 4 of the great TV series Psychoville).
I believe that thi was done here too, as there are a couple of odd moments where the camera zooms in and focuses on a particular painting befre panning away again, and I think it is in these moments that secret edits between take occur. I might and could be wrong but my suspicions are there.

Days remaining - 216 Films remaining - 284

1 comment:

  1. I saw this a few years ago, with the recommendation to watch the "Making of" feature before watching the film... and it did help. And I have to say, I really enjoyed it!

    It was about 5 years ago perhaps, but I just remember the fact that it was actually quite weird and seemed to have a bit of a sci-fi story going on, rather than just a tour of the museum. Although not exactly a thrill-fest, I enjoyed it. A sort of peaceful, thoughtful time, like wandering round a museum, funnily enough.

    Although I entirely agree about the editing thing. There's a couple of points when the camera pans round past a dark patch and the screen is entirely black for a moment - they could easily have made a cut there. Of course, it could just be that they planned those moments in case they needed them!