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Archive for the ‘James Franco’ Category

The Company

07 Apr

The Company –– directed by Robert Altman. Docudrama. The backstage and onstage life of the dancers of Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet. 112 Minutes Color 2004.

★★★★★

A hybrid tea rose. Gorgeously filmed by Pierre Mignot, who took many of Altman’s later films.

This is Altman’s penultimate work, a small masterpiece, which offers the current of a story not spelled out but floating along in the stream of the life of the dancers in which Neve Campbell, the actress who wrote it, produced it, and does (unlike that other young woman who won an Oscar) actually dance it.

She was trained in ballet long before going into acting, and she worked for three years with another writer to grant the Joffrey their story. And then, as no professional athlete could train, for months she trained to get back into ballet condition.

Nothing is filmed in documentary style; everything is filmed in dramatic film style. All of this is quite fascinating if one can step back and realize that only five actors are actually used and only three of them have principal roles, and only one of them says much. The dancers are beautiful actors, doing what they would do anyhow, which is dancing and being humans preparing to dance. All the more interesting if one knows that The Joffrey is a ballet company without stars: anyone may dance major roles. This gives the film narrative a level playing field.

And it also means that all of the relationships are worked out as pas de deux, or pas de trois, or pas de howevermany. And so we get a view of how the dancers actually live. On the stage they are accoutered gorgeously and lit like angels. Off stage they waiter in saloons to make ends meet and sleep on friends’ floors because they are not paid a living wage.

But that is not so much of what we get as it is that we see the ambiance versus the mechanics of a great dance company in counterpoint. Malcolm Macdowell is devastating as the domineering head of the Joffrey, and Neve Campbell and James Franco sweetly play the young lovers, two youths separated and united by their skills. We see the business arrangements and we see the dance arrangements, and we see that, like the lovers, the two arrangements do not meet except in hiding. For what see on stage is glorious is its riches.

We witness about six astonishing ballets of the Joffrey, with the full company engaged in them and preparing for them by their choreographers and dance masters.

Will you sit back in delight as I did to watch these highly entertaining dances? Will you send out for this film better than sending out for a pizza and far more digestible, you may be sure? Will you remember me and thank me that you read this and acted, as the saying goes, accordingly? Will you enjoy yourself so deliciously?

I hope so.

What gifts Altman had to give when his heart was in his work!

 

Love & Distrust

29 Apr

Love & Distrust – Directed by Eric Kimetz. Anthology. Variations on misbegotten relationships with the world and the self. 93 minutes Color 2010.

*

Scuzzy stories all. With one exception, the acting is Improvisation At Its Worst. The problem with Improvisation is that it does not fall into the category of Acting but that of Performance Art. Performance art includes Preaching and Public Speaking and Stand Up Comedy. Stand Up Comics cannot really act. Bob Hope, Robin WIlliams, Jim Carrey, Martha Rae, Carole Burnett  all  possess and are posssessed by the Entertainers Virus, which pushes them over-the-top or to one side of acting a part. Improvisation means that the actor takes a situation and on the spot makes up a script around it. This turns the actors into fast-food playwrights, and it reduces their acting skills to everyday schtick. None of the actors here are Performance Artists, but straight actors, and, being asked to be what they are not, we don’t really see good acting either, and none of them are good playwrights. The one exception is Allison Janney, who, in a huge limo, white as a baby coffin, bemoans the loss of her lover and then picks up a teen age hustler on the corner. She is excruciatingly funny. She gets the star here. The rest of them should hang their heads in shame and stick to their craft.

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127 Hours

22 Feb

127 Hours — directed by Danny Boyle — Sports drama. A young deserteer/mountaineer finds himself trapped in a canyon. 94 minutes Color 2010.

* * * *

I found myself detached watching this. Let’s assume it’s not because of a piece of undigested cheese, for the film is filled with a thousand felicities. But I have three questions. The film turned out to be exactly what I expected it to be: the story of a man escaping, played by a good-looking actor of some talent. James Franco plays him as a Merry Andrew isolate. I question the choice, not of an isolate, but of a man who is essentially volatile. The volatility may be inherent with Franco, but I wonder if the actual man, Aron Ralston was so. For Franco the desert is a lark. But if Ralston were actually a fellow of serious humor and of steady temperament, what would have happened to him in that canyon? As it is, on the soul-level, nothing happens to him. All he learns is: Always tell someone where you are going. Then, there is a problem with narration, by which I mean editing. In such a story it seems necessary to put the audience, not in the shoes of the main character, but in their own shoes in that perilous place. But that’s not what we get. What we get is the editing machine in that perilous place. So the editing takes over our job for us, without our saying we need it to. There are five million cuts, none of them necessary for our entry into the tale. So we end up with a virtuoso camera and editing, of which we never cease to be aware, and which, in my case, keeps me aloof from the events and from the actor playing him. For the actor is left with no single scene that is his own. Every scene is the camera’s, the editor’s. Franco is always on camera, but we are never allowed just to be with him. This is sad, because the story is remarkable, and because the list of things done well in this film would have no end: the desert shown, the meeting with the two girls hiking and their adventure, the kissing of the staple, the trailing of the rope, the handling of the rock-fall, the great last ten minutes of the picture. Another problem with the picture, just at present, is that too much is known about it beforehand; its publicity has killed it. But it is well worth seeing; it is not depressing; it is harrowing only when it needs to be and less harrowing than a thousand horror films. Expect the expected, and you won’t be disappointed.

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