Volume 2, Number 4
This Week's Reviews: Angela's Ashes, Eye of the Beholder, The Source.
This Week's Omissions: Isn't She Great.
(Dir: Alan Parker, Starring Emily Watson, Joe Breen, Michael Legge, Ciaran Owens, Robert Carlyle, Andrew Bennett, Shane Murray-Corcoran, Eanna MacLiam, Pauline McLynn, Ronnie Masterson, and Liam Carney)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Doom and gloom seemed to be the way of life for best selling writer Frank McCourt. Or so you would think from this film. Few films can be clearly called depressing (I don't care how this film ended, the rest of the film was depressing), and most of those titles are great films of modern cinema (The Deer Hunter, Schindler's List).
But Angela's Ashes does not strike me as such, it just barely strikes me as a good film of mediocre cinema. I think that if the filmmakers had not built in such a tout system of sadness in the film, it would have lost much of its emotional push; but at the same time, it would have gained a stricter sense of realism. Alan Parker, et al. are just pulling for the heart strings of the viewers, but doing so in the wrong way. This film does not have the large music swells that create the optimum mood for a generally poor sappy film (October Sky, Patch Adams), but it does feature a vast shot near the end to make up for lacking the music (semi-kudos to John Williams, he presents a great score for the film, but it only plays during ten minutes worth of the film's 145 minutes).
I think that one of the biggest problems is in the fact that, in trying to form the right setting, Parker has filled the film with more filth than it ever would need. I'd say that more vomit and urine was shed in this film than I saw this year (and vomit has been far from passé this year, to say the least).
There are more murky shots of rainy Irish streets in this film than one can handle; there are scenes of dead children and drunken shenanigans and consumption-addled sex. I know that a story of one person's hopes and dreams to become an author in poverty stricken Ireland, and I know that much of the film is from the true memoirs of Frank McCourt, but I cannot really get into such a depressing film.
Still, I cannot simply say that the film does not work. In fact it is a truly interesting story to tell, though assuredly done before in parts. I liked much of what McCourt had to convey, a story of a passionate man's yearning to become an author in America. McCourt's story is one of tragedy and hard work, not to mention the things that most people take for granted, and the story is one that needed to be told. And I'm not advocating making light of his story, but there was still a great excess of foul moments.
Emily Watson pulls off yet another grand performance, one
of her best, though the character is more of a supporting player than the top billing
would suggest. I also found the child actor that played McCourt at the earliest age,
Joe Breen, to be quite remarkable in the film. There was a bit of a problem with
Robert Carlyle, who seemed a bit miscast. I know, he's a little too old, but give me
Bob Hoskins any day. And maybe Hoskins could have refrained from vomiting and
urinating for half of his role's screentime.
|Eye of the Beholder
(Dir: Stephan Elliott, Starring Ewan McGregor, Ashley Judd, Patrick Bergan, k.d. lang, Jason Priestley, Geneviève Bujold, Janine Theriault, Charles Powell, and Cara Reynolds)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Stephan Elliot made one of the best gay oriented films of all time a few years ago. Entitled The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, it found itself tarnished later by being mistaken with Too Wong Foo: Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. What other film would allow us to catch the ultra-cool Terence Stamp in drag, not to mention Hugo Weaving (the evil Agent Smith from The Matrix) and Guy Pierce (the forgotten Officer Ed Exley in L.A. Confidential).
But after such a great entrance, Eye of the Beholder seems too much of a let down (for the record, as of this time, I have not seen Welcome to Woop Woop, the film that Elliott made directly after Priscilla). In fact Eye of the Beholder is, at times, downright unappealing. Few films can capture such a magnificent edge with such a horrible script. The premise of obsession has been done a million time and there is nothing new here. I'd say that no one, and I mean no one, could make this story highly intriguing. It moves with the velocity of a Mike Figgis film, without half the interesting moments (well, not counting Figgis' less than engaging The Loss of Sexual Innocence).
Elliott does have some terrific directorial touches, though the snow globe things got old quickly). I truly liked Ewan McGregor as the obsessed British operative, and Bujold, as always, did not fail to grasp my attention. But the rest of the cast is rather saddening. Judd is horrible as the stalked woman, as is Bergin as her blind fiancé. Just as bad were the small parts played by Jason Priestley (and I even liked him in Love and Death on Long Island) and k.d. lang (and I even liked her in ... never mind).
Eye of the Beholder could have been a good
film, without a doubt, had it been taken from a completely different direction in the
beginning. What has been given to the director is unsalvageable (it would be easier
to forgive Elliot the director if it were not for the fact that he also wrote it).
Had there been a change in the set-up, Elliot might have wowed critics again. To say
the least, Elliot failed to wow me this time around.
(Dir: Chuck Workman, Appearances by Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Neal Cassidy, Norman Mailer, Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey, David Amram, Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, Ed Sanders, William S. Burroughs, Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Kerouac)
BY: DAVID PERRY
The fifties and sixties were the time for two different types of people: those that chose to follow the in-crowd and those that did not. Of course the latter became known as the beat-nicks, with their bongo drums and goatees, made famous through film and television (let's face it, the image of the beat-nick that I have always had was Maynard G. Krebbs, as played by Bob Denver, in The Many Loves of Dobbie Gillis) as those that were too different, the loners, the drug users, the artsy populace. But the beginning of this, the Beat Generation, was not from some public protest or downright storm against Republican government, as the later followers would do, the whole movement actually began with three men, three men that were far from the image that would haunt their movement for the next two decades. Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac met, and then rally in William S. Burroughs, to create the Beat Movement. Through their poetry and prose, these three would literally change the American way, think of how much the Hippies were indebted to these three.
All this is covered in The Source, a documentary from Chuck Workman, the who edits the Academy Awards film compilations every year. Using archive footage of the three at work, interviews by the best known of the Beat Generation, and retrospective clips of the stretch of the Beat-nicks into sixties culture (my favorite is the clip of Alfred Hitchcock dressed as a beat-nick), Workman melds a nearly seamless look at why Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Burroughs changed the world. But the film does not draw the line there with features present in most documentaries, Workman also has readings of the author's most well known works by stars of the moment (Dennis Hopper reading Burroughs' Naked Lunch, Johnny Depp reading Kerouac's On the Road, and John Turturro reading Ginsberg's Howl).
But as interesting as Workman can stretch the subject, the film is unable to get beyond the one-note of the story. I'm sure that a film on simply one of the men would have easily worked, but making a feature documentary attempting to spend equal time on all doe snot really pan out. There is an inexplicable interest in the subject that comes from the piece, one of the most important parts of a documentary, but there is nothing to make it truly memorable. In the next few years I expect to remember films some of the better documentaries of the nineties and the subjects they covered, but I doubt that will be true of this particular film. Maybe I'll read On the Road or Naked Lunch one of these days, and maybe I too will become a follower of the writings of these two, but I cannot say that I was incredibly pushed to read them based on this film.
I liked much of the film's dire somberness, but it somewhat seems that a film rejoicing the changes brought forth by three men could be some downbeat. I know that he was a true visionary in the eyes of the filmmakers, but did we really need that many shots of Kerouac's grave. Though it is almost worth it so that Bob Dylan could be in the film a little longer (with an appearance in The Hurricane as well, 1999 may have very well been the year of Bob Dylan film appearances).
A likable film with some minor flaws, a fitting tribute
to those that actually caused Alfred Hitchcock to wear a goatee on national
television. Now that's entertainment.