Dancer in the Dark
Have you ever taken a shot to the guts when you were looking the wrong direction? If you have, then you know the power of this movie. Is it a shock opera masquerading as something respectable or one of the most powerful pieces of our time? Either way, you will not be able to deny Icelandic pop singer Bjork’s presence or the beauty of her voice.
Selma (Bjork) is a single mother who sublets a house from a local cop, Bill (David Morse). She works every available hour in a factory to pay for eye surgery for her son. They both suffer from a genetic problem that will cause them, to lose vision. Her condition is long past being unsafe to work in a factory, as we discover later. Bill gets into financial trouble and asks Selma for a loan, only to steal the money from her when she turns him down. The ensuing confrontation leaves Bill dead and Selma on trial.
The score is written and performed by Bjork. Her voice is wonderful, her songs haunting, and the dance scenes ingenious. (Yes, I said dance scenes.) Amazingly, the songs incorporate elements from the movie not only into the dances, but also the song itself. The sound of the train provides the backbone for one song, and the noise of the factory as an orchestra in another. Is it a shock opera masquerading as something respectable or one of the most powerful pieces of our time? I say it’s the musical film that you will never forget.
The beauty of this movie is in the story, not the cinematography. The very vanilla camera work is carefully orchestrated to not distract from the movie itself. Director Christopher Nolan brilliantly puts you in main character Leonard’s (Guy Pearce), shoes. Leonard is a man who has lost his ability to form any new memories due to a violent assault. His wife was killed during the assault and Leonard now relentlessly tracks down her killer. Aided by a stranger he only knows as Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) and a system of photographs, notes, and tattoos, Leonard slowly closes in on his man.
Nolan does not ask the viewer to sympathize with Leonard, but instead plays the entire story back in reverse. Each segment lasts no longer than Leonard is capable of remembering. In this way, Nolan actually expresses to the viewer the frustration of not being able to create any new memories.
This movie is quite literally exhausting to watch, but worth every minute. Additionally, the director does an excellent job showing that Leonard’s marriage was a very typical relationship, and not the perfect one he remembers. This makes the ending a lot easier to swallow, but perhaps I have said too much.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
This comedy from Guy Ritchie centers around the bumbling affairs of Tom, Soap, Eddie, and Bacon, four cockney boys that have managed to fall into serious debt to an English porn king. As they and their “associates” attempt to realize individual goals, we see some of the finest crime buffoonery ever set to celluloid.
Guy Ritchie is a powerful director giving each set of characters a cinematic theme. This in itself is neither daring nor brilliant. What IS impressive is the “blending” of motifs when characters from different groups interact. To further support the groups’ differences he makes the telephones each uses a constant visual reference. Mr. Richie gives cell phones to the boys, plain utilitarian black phones for the small time thugs next door, a huge red phone to Nick the Greek, a wall phone that only dials the front door to the pot smokers, and an enormous, dignified looking phone to Harry the porn king. Still not convinced this movie is worth your time? Well how often do you get to see a bird who’s been wasted the entire movie use a Bren light machine gun to save her boyfriend?
I was hesitant to watch this flick when I first read the back cover. Frankly, no pun intended, I was not sure how any movie featuring a man-sized bunny named Frank could possibly NOT be crap. The movie I have so casually begun caused me to delay a date with my then girlfriend. Transcendent is the only word to describe its genre. It covers such a broad range of topics, almost exclusively while following a crazy young man named Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal).
Donnie is visited by his imaginary friend Frank, a large pink bunny. Due to Frank’s insistence, Donnie survives a jet engine that lands in Donnie’s bed where he should have been sleeping. He then wakes up on a golf course and his life becomes disturbingly more schizophrenic. The movie culminates in an ending that you will not soon forget.
Choose life, choose your job, choose your friends, choose to watch only the first hour of this movie. Director Danny Boyle, who later directs UK’s acclaimed thriller 28 Days Later, pulls off the gloves to display the true nature of addiction. Unapologetically, he displays the power and pleasure of getting high as well as the terrible side effects. When the movie concentrates on hallucination, loss, partying and pain, it is marvelous. When it makes an armed foray into the crime underworld and the unfortunate ramifications of drug use, such as HIV and jail time, it becomes half-assed and less than amusing, yet still worth a rental.