Daily Archives: December 9, 2005

King Kong

It clocks in at over three hours, but Peter Jackson’s remake of the 1933 classic is gripping nonetheless. The film rethinks the characters, turning the original’s stark Jungian fantasy into a soulless but skillful set of kinetic and emotional effects. Carl Denham (Jack Black)originally a self-portrait of codirector Merian C. Cooperis now a comic villain personifying, and thereby displacing, the movie’s own cynical contrivances and hypocritical exploitation. Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) has lost most of her hysteria and gained an Electra complex; the putative hero (Adrien Brody) is now, improbably, a playwright; a black sailor (Evan Parke) has been added to offset the jungle stereotypes; and Kong is anthropomorphized to the point of becoming first an audience stand-in (for whom Watts performs a few vaudeville turns), then a Christ figure. PG-13, 187 min. (JR)… Read more »

Three Days Of Rain

A half dozen Chekhov stories about solitude and quiet desperation inspired this 2002 debut feature by writer-director Michael Meredith, though the presiding spirit, for better or worse, seems to be Alan Rudolph. Crisscrossing destinies are examined over three rainy days in Cleveland (Rudolph would more likely have made it Seattle), accompanied by moody cocktail-lounge jazz from a local radio station whose DJ (Lyle Lovett) serves as a kind of Greek chorus. (Tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano is one of the featured players.) Presented by Wim Wenders, with whom Meredith wrote the subsequent Land of Plenty, this is familiar but atmospheric, with good performances by Peter Falk, Blythe Danner, Joey Bilow, Michael Santoro, Merle Kennedy, and former football pro Don Meredith (the filmmaker’s father). 98 min. (JR)… Read more »

A Man Escaped

From the Chicago Reader (December 9, 2005). — J.R.

a-man-escaped

Based on a French lieutenant’s account of his 1942 escape from a gestapo fortress in Lyon, this stately yet uncommonly gripping 1956 feature is my choice as the greatest achievement of Robert Bresson, one of the cinema’s foremost artists. (It’s rivaled only by his more corrosive and metaphysical 1970 film Au Hasard Balthazar.) The best of all prison-escape movies, it reconstructs the very notion of freedom through offscreen sounds and defines salvation in terms of painstakingly patient and meticulous effort. Bresson himself spent part of the war in an internment camp and subsequently lived through the German occupation of France, experiences that inform his magisterial grasp of what the concentrated use of sound and image can reveal about souls in hiding. Essential viewing. In French with subtitles. 101 min. (JR)

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