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August 18, 2010 6:01 pm
|Artful tomfoolery: Angelina Jolie plays an accused CIA officer in ‘Salt’|
Just when you think the silly season can’t get sillier, it makes a bold quantum leap towards insanity. In Salt
Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, a CIA officer accused of being a Russian “sleeper” planning a top-level hit. Her eyes speak to us of her shocked innocence. Her lips, large enough to be a pair of disguised Trident submarines, pout in a warlike way. Soon she is dashing all over Washington DC and points adjoining, trying to stop “her” impending assassination of the Russian president, at a meeting of premiers, since “she” is the supposed agent provocateur.
What can her pal and ex-colleague Liev Schreiber do back in CIA HQ? He tries to shepherd the US president out of shrapnel range when the hour strikes. Suddenly – everything is sudden here – bombs go off and bullets start flying. Jolie, fleeing the FBI goons, is now jumping from flyovers on to the tops of moving trucks, then from truck to truck, then from flyover to flyover. Should we mention the later scene in which Mr President (US) gets to put his finger on the nuclear button? Or the one in which Jolie escapes captivity at sea by slaying, single-handed, an entire generation of the Russian navy?
Director Phillip Noyce, largely quiet since The Quiet American (2002), makes up for lost time and unexercised decibels. The volume is turned all the way up as bangs, crashes and music take over whenever screenwriter Kurt Wimmer finishes playing his latest hand of plot or dialogue tricks. Great art? No. Great entertainment? Pretty damn close.
Did he do it? Mother is partly a Korean Rashomon – the true events of a crime disputed by those involved – and partly a brainstorm with variations, characteristically east Asian, about generational tension and fraught family relations. Are ma and sonny sleeping together, in a more-than-bed-sharing way? Will she make matters worse for him by trying to frame someone else after he is jailed? Who is the true killer?
|Plinking-plonking perfectionism: Stephan Knüpfer in ‘Pianomania’|
Bong’s skill is in choreographing not just action but states of mind. Mother dances alone in a valley of white grass in the opening scene, a weird jig of ambiguous exultation. A hit-and-run street accident and its follow-up are a swift fantasy of survival and revenge, a metaphor for the son’s ability to bounce back from the daily setbacks of a congenital victimhood.
Some scenes have a Hitchcockian suspense flair, others dark streaks of sardonic wit. I loved the rich, hardworking lawyer too busy to sit down in a buffet restaurant. “I just walk along scooping up the food,” he says.
Mother is always a little larger than life – a little richer and more strongly defined – while never making life, real life, seem less than the full and focused object of its gaze.
After Belleville Rendezvous, his hand-drawn animation wonderwork set in a France fantasy-enlarged with eccentric bikers, dogs, circus performers and old ladies, Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist
If you are allergic to elegies – I may be – the film’s fogeyism is fatiguing. Chomet adapts a never-filmed screenplay by Tati, left on his death to his daughter Sophie, the movie’s dedicatee. The story and script identify with every wistful fluttering of the bulb in the human-lamppost protagonist, from his dismay at the rock’n’roll act whose howly-yowly encores steal his stage time (in London) to the jukebox newly installed in the fishing village’s pub to the dying lights of vaudeville in Auld Reekie.
I wish The Illusionist were funny, but it isn’t. That would make up for, or distract from, the arch nostalgia. The drawing at least delights. The Edinburgh cityscapes, at best, are like Doré crossed with Daumier. In the last scenes there is a nearly heartbreaking shot of a book’s wind-ruffled pages casting a bird-like shadow – growing with the sinking light – on the wall of the empty hotel room. But “nearly” heartbreaking is it. A film whose too-manifest agenda, at the outset, is to break our hearts causes a sceptical spectator to apply sealant to that organ from Scene 1.
Great pianists prove to be manic obsessives, as we suspected. Aimard harries Knüpfer to near heart-failure by his inability to choose between Steinway 245 and Steinway 170 for his long-planned Bach recordings. Both are lugged into the recording venue, just as the warehouse is closing and the studio warming up, so the master can sound their subtly differentiated depths. Aimard wins prizes; he must know what he is doing. Cibis and Franck definitely know what they are doing; they should win every music-documentary prize available.
Despite security, more breakouts have been reported recently at the Tinseltown Twilight Home. Sylvester Stallone’s escape, along with Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis, The Governator and others, has resulted in The Expendables
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