Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Week of March 16 to 22 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

There’s a digital divide in the release of 3D films. The inspiration for the revival of this medium was of course James Cameron’s Avatar, an exemplar of big-budget, over-the-top special effects driven filmmaking. And most of the movies that have followed out of Hollywood have continued down that path, while independent filmmakers have remained in the two-dimensional world.

One reason is cost. The 3D equipment is more expensive and more complex to operate, presenting a challenge to those with tight budgets. But there’s also the fact that 3D seems less useful for the story and human-character driven cinema in which independents specialize.

Two German well-known filmmakers are an exception. Werner Herzog offered us Cave of Forgotten Dreams, the 3D documentary filming of a prehistoric cave in France that contained possibly the oldest known examples of human art. Everyone associated 3D with dynamic movement, with people and things flying to and fro. Herzog was filming cave paintings, the most static images one can imagine.  But because access to the cave was very restricted, normally open only to scientists, there was a possibility that he might be the only filmmaker ever to bring in cameras. I suppose he felt obligated to capture the very best images for posterity. The result was extraordinary.

Now we have PINA, from Wim Wenders. He’s best known to us for his Oscar-nominated documentary that captured not only the music but the spirit of Cuban jazz/salsa, Buena Vista Social Club. With Pina he does the same for ballet with a 3D tribute to Pina Bausch, a legendary German choreographer who died in 2009. The extra dimension enables Wenders to put us in the actual space of the performers, rather than  in the position of the audience looking in. We become part of the dance.

“Wenders has woven a gorgeous, hypnotic tapestry of sound and vision. You don’t have to know the first thing about modern dance to be transported to an alternate state of consciousness by Pina.” (Andrew O’Hehir,

So 3D has found another home in the world of visually-oriented documentary. We’re still waiting for someone to find a use for it in character-driven narrative film. Even Hollywood does not seem interested. Maybe for good reason.

I can’t imagine, for example, how A DANGEROUS METHOD would have benefitted giving us visual depth perception. The title subject is psychoanalysis, as practiced by its originator, Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and his disciple Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender, fully dressed). It’s based on an actual case, the treatment and mistreatment of a female patient, Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley). She is an aspiring analyst herself, as brilliant as the two male doctors, but a very difficult patient.

David Cronenberg, the director of Eastern Promises and The Fly, explores the sexual tensions between analyst and analysand, and the conflict between the two men who stood at this new gateway to understanding the mind. A Dangerous Method is “something of an adventure story. It also at times has the quiet, uncanny mood of a horror movie, albeit one whose monsters are invisible, living inside the souls they menace.” (A.O. Scott, New York Times)

The monsters in KILL LIST, on the other hand, are very visible. They’re Jay and Gal, two hit men doing their last jobs together. Sometimes I think that “one last job” is the gangster movie equivalent of boy meets girl, it’s been done so often. But maybe because it’s so dramatically rich. We’re instinctively rooting for the bad guy because we think he’s going to become good. We want him to succeed so he can move on. And Jay is a family man who’s trying to earn a few bucks. But Kill List confronts us with some pretty awful stuff, as the guys seem to want to get it all out of their systems. It’s “brutal and bloody and utterly unnerving.” (Chuck Wilson, Village Voice) “Kill List is all hairpin turns, opening like a standard B noir featuring two grumbly hit men. But … swerves into the most sordid vigilante territory before tumbling down a hole into the realm of … Huh?” (David Edelstein, New York Magazine)

Lots more, including an encore of the ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW in its full glory. Check or for full schedules and information.

No comments: