16 July 2006

Cinema Corner

27 Asadha - 1928 Saka Era

I rarely go to the movies anymore--a lot of times the sludge coming out of Hollywood just doesn't seem worth handing over £8 for. There are some films that I would like to catch on the big screen, but since I've been working most weekends lately, I don't feel like heading over to the cinema after eight hours at the job. Plus, Saturday nights are when John and Jane Q. Public all want to see a film--and I'd rather avoid the large crowds.

Pixie and I often say, about certain films, "Yeah, let's rent that when it's out in the video shop", but then we forget about them when they are released for rental. This past weekend, we actually had the time and made the effort to check out what's new in the shop. We nearly rented Capote, with Philip Seymour Hoffman as good ol' Truman--but Pixie wasn't up "for anything heavy". Confetti, the wedding mockumentary in the style of Best In Show and The Office, hasn't been released yet, so that scuppered that. In the end, we settled for Broken Flowers, the Jim Jarmusch "comedy" with Bill Murray, Sharon Stone and Jessica Lange--and I chose The Descent, the Neil Marshall horror flick set in a cave, 'cos I've been meaning to see it for a while now.

"Broken Flowers" features Murray, in his now-familiar 'old-guy-sad-sack' mode, as Don Johnston ("with a 't'"--as it becomes a running gag about his surname's similarity to the "Miami Vice" actor's name). Johnston's current girlfriend, played by Julie Delpy, is leaving him, for a reason that isn't explained. The same day, he receives a type-written letter from one of his ex-lovers, explaining that she had a child by him 19 years previous--and this child, a son, is looking for his father. Johnston isn't very intrigued by the letter, but shows it to his neighbour, Winston (played with dopey amiability by Jeffrey Wright).

Winston sees this as an opportunity for Johnston to "live his life", as Johnston mainly just sits around his house watching television. Winston convinces Johnston to make a list of his lovers from 20 years ago and with some internet research--tracks down five possible "suspects" for the letter-sender. He draws up an itenerary for Don to go and visit his former flames and try and figure out which could be his offspring's mother. Johnston, naturally, thinks his neighbor's idea is crazy--but goes along with it, possibly temporarily caught up in Winston's enthusiasm.

The "road movie" portion of the film follows--with Johnston visiting, in turn, four of the five women. Sharon Stone's race car driver's widow is first (living with her aptly-monikered young daughter Lolita). Dora (Frances Conroy) is next, who's now a pre-fab real estate agent, with her husband, an obnoxious 'Noughties' version of a yuppie. Then he sees Jessica Lange's "pet counselor", and she's one of the least impressed with seeing Don after all that time. He then travels to an out-of-the-way farmhouse--which appears to be some sort of biker commune. He confronts Penny (Tilda Swinton), but her reaction proves more hostile than Lange's Carmen--and Don is then beaten up by a couple of Penny's biker friends, who call Johnston "rude". As a last sojourn on the futile trip, he visits the grave of Michelle, another of his loves from around that time, who died in an automobile accident.

Johnston returns home, still unclear about who could've sent the letter. He sees a young man, loaded up with a large duffle bag, at the airport. The next day, after meeting Winston at their favourite cafe, he sees the young man outside--and offers to buy him a sandwich. They end up talking about philosophy and Johnston starts thinking that this may be his son. He asks the young man about his father--which gets a bad reaction--then Johnston blurts out "Look, I know I may be your father..." The young man runs off and Johnston follows him, but loses him soon after. Johnston is left standing in the street, while the camera circles him and a car goes by--with another young man staring at him out of the passenger-side window.

This being a Jarmusch film, the plot never really gets resolved. There's a sub-plot where Sherry sends a letter in the exact same envelope and hand-written on the same paper--but that only adds to the ambiguity. The acting seems O.K. to me, but I'm starting to wish Murray would do a "zany" role again. Aside from a few moments in The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, he's been playing the sad-sack thing for quite some time now. It's really tough to imagine 'Don Johnston' as the lothario that the film insists he is. If he had as many lovers as the plot contrives--he must've been the "Rohypnol King of '86"--'cos I don't think he got by on charm alone. Still...worth a rental.


Anonymous said...

Not seen the Murray film but I think I'll give it a miss!

I really enjoyed 'The Descent' when it came out. Best British horror flick in ages. Not perfect but a good romp.

The Purple Gooroo said...

Yeah--it's just O.K.--not great.

I liked "The Descent"--though I agree it has some flaws. I'm reviewing it here next--watch this space! :-)

acoustiss said...

I enjoyed 'broken flowers,' but then I've enjoyed every Jarmusch film I've seen to some degree. It's clearly not his best but there are some wonderful scenes and I think this is what makes Jarmusch special as a director. Those few moments that are truly sublime.

The Purple Gooroo said...

Jim: Yeah, I agree--"Broken Flowers" does have some sublime moments--Murray slyly checking out the air hostess' legs, the spot-on American girl convo with the teens on the bus, Murray's fever dreams while sleeping on the airplanes--but I agree also..not one of Jarmusch's best.

I do like the Jarmusch films I've seen--especially "Dead Man". I'm not sure if "Ghost Dog" was one of his--but I liked that a lot as well.