Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Little Chaos (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

  A Little Chaos

 In "A Little Chaos" directed by actor Alan Rickman, there is a bare trace  of the melodramatic 'bodice ripper.'

We are in France during the 1600s and Kate Winslet plays Sabine De Barra, a landscaper hired to work on an the outdoor theater on the grounds of Versailles. She is haunted by the phantoms of her past, specifically the death of her young daughter. She lives for the Nature within her. She is so intense that ferns appear to spin in her eyes like Catherine Wheels. When she applies for the job, Sabine is already infamous as a woman who employs a kind of anarchy in her designs that have a respect for the whimsy of Nature.  From the very start, both men and women nip at her heels with whispers of derision.

Sabine is outspoken and individualistic, quite similar to the heroine in "Far From the Madding Crowd".

Matthias Schoenaerts, who starred in the aforementioned Thomas Hardy film, plays the leonine master architect Le Notre, as a morose and taciturn man.

Overseeing it all is Alan Rickman himself in the role of King Louis XIV: a jaded and melancholy figure of royalty. He doesn't exactly inspire fear as he intends, but does look down his nose at others, so in this sense, he is aptly posed as a snooty, ineffectual king.

Rickman has one good scene with Winslet in solitude, appearing as a child who knows very little. He is usually all voice with no vigor and the film illustrates this well.

The cinematography too, by Ellen Kuras, is beautiful,  showing the entire garden in a full sweep as a scroll of Oriental tapestry. The garden itself is a moody living thing. Sometimes it is swamp-like and unruly, gray in sadness, but brought to potential, it dazzles in brilliance as if peppered by gold.

But as a romance, "A Little Chaos" stumbles along the path. The usually compelling Schoenaerts is an odd drip of a man, seeming to be on valerian root. His character almost flatlines. This is all the more curious given that the vivacious and driven Sabine is practically bursting at the seams. For such a high powered man, we learn little of Le Notre with the flowing sienna hair, except that he is endlessly badgered by his hissing wife (Helen McCrory).

Actor Stanley Tucci has a glorious and pleasing gallivant as Duke Phillippe d'Orleans. In his role, Tucci is glib, silly and perfectly puffed and powdered.

The film succeeds more as a portrait of the creation of Versailles itself, merely through the encapsulating camera and the soft depictions of the landscape that hit upon us in layers, almost as in watercolor.

And we also get a feel for Sabine herself as she lies along a huge arcing tree, the branches extending beyond her body to create a strange and wild voluptuous creature whose purpose is ahead of its time.

For the most part though, we get a lot of fretful and stern faces, anoxic, pained and held by whispers.

All that "A Little Chaos" needed was a shot of genuine mayhem to live up to its title. Visually, this is a verdant green feast, albeit blighted by a patch of ennui.

Write Ian at

Sent from my iPhone

No comments: