> Volume 5 > Number 05

Volume 5, Number 05

This Week's Reviews:  In Praise of Love, The Recruit.

This Week's Omissions:  Biker Boyz.

Capsule Reviews:  Eight Crazy Nights, Final Destination 2.

Jean-Luc Godard

Bruno Putzulu
Cecile Camp
Jean Davy
Françoise Verny
Audrey Klebaner
Jérémy Lippmann
Claude Baignières
Rémo Forlani

Release: 6 Sep. 02

In Praise of Love


Back in 1999, Emilie Schindler, the widow of Oskar Schindler, sued Steven Spielberg in hopes of collecting 6% of the box office receipts for Schindler's List. In her suit, she stated that her importance in the saving of the Jews working at Schindler's factory overshadowed her husbands. Thus, she was more deserving of monetary payment than Thomas Keneally, who wrote the novel Schindler's List from historical fact based on the life of Oskar Schindler. Most people took this as an unfortunate occurrence: while Emilie Schindler, who died in 2001, certainly deserves some credit for her work with her husband, her attempt to belittle his achievement and collect money from Spielberg as a form of restitution was taken as a sad attempt by her to capitalize on what that film collected.

But not everyone sees Emilie Schindler's accusations of Spielberg's greediness as opportunistic. Jean-Luc Godard, so disgusted by the idea that Schindler only received $50,000 for the movie, decided to have a Spielberg proxy as the antagonist in his latest opus In Praise of Love. As if to turn down the agitation that can be created by debasing a pop culture god like Spielberg, Godard was kind enough to throw in another figurative villain: America.

There's no surprise that In Praise of Love has seen constant delays in its American release, especially considering the adulation it received at the Cannes Film Festival and the New York Film Festival in 2001. In the post-September 11 jingoist atmosphere, when even something like Collateral Damage seemed to be too much for audiences, this film and its blatant anti-Americanism was accepted by distributors as devoid of commercial viability. The great misfortune is that it is also devoid of any artistic credibility.

It may be damaging for any film connoisseur to completely disregard an internationally beloved filmmaker like Godard, but I accept the sour grapes that may come. Having somehow made it through a dozen of Godard's post-Weekend films, I have come to believe that something in the 1968 student riots, some moment while Godard and François Truffaut were calling off the Cannes Film Festival, some rift created by his 1967 divorce from wife and muse Anna Karina left the director searching for some deeper purpose in his style of filmmaking that could not be valued by anyone other than himself.

Watching In Praise of Love left me searching for the direction of Godard's 1960s work. The genuine thrill of Contempt or My Life to Live were gone, replaced by a struggle to brandish political treatises without the slightest amount of self-control. I accept Godard's feelings about America and Spielberg as his own personal reaction to their representation of overwhelming hegemons. But how does it ever congeal into anything within his narrative story? Regardless of the number of articles I have read on the film (including an extremely excited Amy Taubin article in Film Comment), none really find a correlation between Godard's political moments and his storytelling moments. This isn't quite Costa-Gavras' Z, where the politics was as important to the story as the dialogue; In Praise of Love is simply cinematic preaching by a director who knows he can get away with it. Think of it like a soft-core porn film, where the story is quick, disposable, and forgettable.

Part of the reason that I feel horrible writing this comes from my own love for Godard's films and even an adoration for his stylistic presentation of this film. There are visual moments within In Praise of Love that are worthy of the laurels given to him for Pierrot le Fou, Breathless, A Band Apart, etc. And yet they cannot make up for the fact that the rest of the film seems trite and exploitive -- at the film's narrative crux, as Godard moves his setting back two years, I rejoiced in the stylistic ways Godard plays with these changes but cringed at the openings the movement gave him to grandstand in an entirely new direction.

And yet I still have a part of me that loves Godard. I cannot, even in the dim of a career (a dim that has lasted a very long 25 years, in my opinion), consider him an ignoble name within the filmmaking community. His love and devotion to film helped to develop the American critical acceptance of cinema as art, and, almost as importantly, he made his own works of cinema art.

In Praise of Love relies heavily on Godard's own past personal achievement, so much that it is hampered by a personality that overcomes the present achievement I want to find somewhere in the film. The film, I suppose, is an encapsulated form of Godard himself, to the point that critics of the film are, essentially, criticizing the man. Then so be it: if Godard, the same person who once made films dedicated to American noir and the presence of Humphrey Bogart, feels that American film and culture is without any merit, as one Godard proxy says, than I am willing to accept that my indignation towards the film carries over to an indignation of Godard himself.

In the first half of the movie, a director prepares to make a film about the four stages of love: meeting, togetherness, separation, and reconciliation. I, like so many of those who have been distraught by the post-1968 Godard, have seen the first three stages. And I still wait for the fourth.

©2003, David Perry,, 10 January 2003

Roger Donaldson

Colin Farrell
Al Pacino
Bridget Moynahan
Gabriel Macht
Kenneth Mitchell

Release: 31 Jan. 03

The Recruit


As the nation looks to the CIA and FBI as final bastions of the "good" vs. "evil" War on Terrorism, and then look down in shame as we come to find out that they have failed in nearly every level imaginable, The Recruit comes with its spy game patented slickness and conventions of a dangerous mind.

The film follows the attempts of James Clayton (Farrell), a computer whiz kid with the tattoos and sparring ability to give him some street cred, trying to make it in the cloak and dagger world of CIA training. Evidently, Clayton topped the same M.I.T. class where Ryan Phillippe graduated in Antitrust (my time in Cambridge never made me privy to the M.I.T.-Abercrombie and Fitch class of 2001).

James has been recruited by CIA instructor Walter Burke (Pacino) to learn the tricks of the trade and, perhaps, follow in his scenery-chewing ways. So off they go to "The Farm," a Langley training ground where future CIA operatives learn about every little James Bond-esque gadget and psychological reversal of intent. They seem oddly imprudent and immature with their task -- a little thing called ensuring the safety of the Free World -- but who cares when they can act all mushy-like at the slightest hint of romance.

For much of The Recruit, we are left to watch the budding love affair between Clayton and another student at "The Farm," Layla Moore (Moynahan). Of course, they rely heavily on the "trust no one" mantra constantly related by Burke and his cronies, which means that their romance becomes a game of tag in which they trade apartments on evenings to browse through each other's computers. Their lackluster attempts to be James and Jane Bond have the rapturous suspense of Rodney Dangerfield opening a bag of Doritos.

I am, of course, the same person who gave a positive appraisal of The Sum of All Fears, another CIA-in-training film that involved Bridget Moynahan and her inability to act. But here lies the important difference: while I was never truly interested in the training section of The Sum of All Fears -- my review was rather negative when it came to the Ben Affleck-Moynahan scenes -- I was intensely engulfed by the questions the film dealt with in international relations and the way it played with the hypothetical war provoked by American suspicion of otherness and its intentions.

Never for a moment did I care about what these people were fighting for in The Recruit. There is a subplot about the possibility of international destruction through a Kurt Vonnegut-inspired electrical virus (remember ice-nine in Cat's Cradle? Well just imagine what variation this film comes up with), but all this serves as a MacGuffin worth more time to recall reading Cat's Cradle than to think of the importance of it in the film.

Colin Farrell may very well be on his way to becoming one of the big actors for the next few years, and yet his performances are getting progressively worse in my estimation. I accepted his puerile rebellion in Tigerland three years ago because of the way it paralleled the setting in which the film was made. However, everything since, from his maddening work in Hart's War to his disposable work in Minority Report, has been disappointing considering the expectations created by that earlier film. The Recruit -- where his greatest acting feat is keeping a three-day shadow for the entire film -- is no exception. When placed next to Pacino, chewing the scenery until his gums bleed, Farrell looks out of place and slight. Though tough on the exterior, you get the impression that the slightest hint of personality would leave him looking for another job.

Pacino, on the other hand, is beaming from the film's beginning to its end. Though his quiet performances are still his best -- just look at his amazing job in Insomnia last year -- there's always something comforting about the overacting Al Pacino. There's little variation between this and his The Devil's Advocate performance -- where he is an omnipotent teacher to an impressionable upstart, in that case Keanu Reeves -- and the reliability of this acting style by the man who invented it helps to create enough tension within The Recruit to make it seem successful on one count.

Director Roger Donaldson last made the Cold War thriller Thirteen Days, which, though flawed, contained more suspense in fifteen minutes than can be found in the entirety of The Recruit. Perhaps, this is because the Cold War is simply more interesting than today's hush-hush spy game. However, I'm more likely to say that it's mainly because Robert McNamera is a hundred-times more dynamic a character than some snot-nosed computer whiz with a license to whine.

©2003, David Perry,, 31 January 2003


Eight Crazy Nights

There are moments in the animated Eight Crazy Nights when it becomes possible that there's something worth watching inside Adam Sandler -- we know it's there because of The Wedding Singer. However, the film still returns to the same puerile aggressive fits that have made him unwatchable in everything from Billy Madison to Punch-Drunk Love. Just when we want to embrace an old man voiced by Sandler, the lead character he also voices comes in to return everything to the pits of post-SNL movie hell.

Seth Kearsley

Adam Sandler
Jackie Titone
Austin Stout
Rob Schneider
Kevin Nealon

Release: 27 Nov. 02

©2003, David Perry,, 31 January 2003
Final Destination 2

Ingmar Bergman set the stage for cinematic incarnations of Death, but none of his subtlety or wit about dying can be seen in Final Destination 2, a teen horror film that has the auspicious chance to follow a successful predecessor. But the Grim Reaper found in this film is a poor variation on even the simple conventions created in the first Final Destination. At its worst, the film revolves only around the gory death scenes the screenwriters have imagined; at its best, the film cuts down the durative fat by letting the Reaper multitask.

David R. Ellis

A.J. Cook
Michael Landes
Ali Larter
Terrence Carson
Jonathan Cherry

Release: 31 Jan. 03

©2003, David Perry,, 31 January 2003

Reviews by:
David Perry