I had a strange dream last night about Romania and Malta, India and Switzerland. In my dream, Francis Ford Coppola had made a new movie, something about an old man who is hit by lightning and grows a new set of teeth. He collects roses and languages and Bruno Ganz was there, too. He owned a German-made tape recorder, for which he apologized. A beautiful woman spoke in tongues and changed her name and lived in a cave for a thousand years. In Walter Murch’s hands, close-ups of cigarette smoke turned into drifting clouds illuminated by the full moon. Mad Nazi scientists electrocuted horses, and I couldn’t remember if I left the third rose in a safe deposit box or inside a shattered mirror. There was never enough time. By the seaside, I made promises and broke them, but all of my friends were at the Cafe Select.
I know, I know — there’s nothing duller than listening to other people’s dreams. And yet… the shared fantasy Coppola created from Mircea Eliade’s novella weaves a strange magic, mysterious, playful, philosophical, and loopy with romance. I’d like to hold on to that gossamer enchantment for just a little while longer, privately, before it’s time to take out the stainless steel critical apparatus and cut this one open. Check back for a proper review before the opening on December 14. With Tim Roth and Alexandra Maria Lara.
Youth Without Youth. Francis Ford Coppola, 2007. ****
After thinking about it for a week, seeing the final few minutes again and learning that the prequel short Hotel Chevalier is available for free on iTunes, I love The Darjeeling Limited even better than I already did. At yesterday’s press conference at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater, Wes Anderson, Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody, Roman Coppola, Amara Karan, and Waris Ahluwalia talked about their Indian adventure, Jean Renoir, and badminton rivalries. Here’s my video, chopped into three YouTube-friendly parts. Marcy’s review is up on About.com. The Darjeeling Limited opens today.
What a relief. After The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, I wasn’t alone in diagnosing Wes Anderson with a damn-near terminal case of arrested development. With this story of three brothers on a spiritual quest through India, the precocious director with a sweet tooth for all things quirky proves that he has found a way forward: The Darjeeling Limited is his best work since Rushmore. With Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman. Roman Coppola, director of the underappreciated CQ, co-wrote the screenplay.
The film screens together with a short film, Hotel Chevalier, that serves as a prequel and stars a very naked Natalie Portman. We’ll have a full review and much more from the New York Film Festival on About.com as soon as we get rid of this leaden jetlag. The Darjeeling Limited will open on September 29.
Update: Marcy’s review of The Darjeeling Limited.
Hotel Chevalier. Wes Anderson, 2007. ****
The Darjeeling Limited. Wes Anderson, 2007. ****
Angelina Jolie plays Mariane Pearl in Michael Winterbottom’s docudrama about the kidnapping and murder of her husband, the journalist Daniel Pearl. After United 93 and several other pointless exercises in dramatizing the “War on Terror,” you might ask: why bother? We all know what happened to Daniel Pearl–what’s the use in rehashing the story? Is the agony of a pregnant widow-to-be really worth sitting through, even if it’s portrayed by an A-list movie star?
Fortunately, Michael Winterbottom, the prolific and versatile talent behind The Road to Guantanomo, 9 Songs, and Tristram Shandy, supplies a convincing answer. As journalists, the Pearls believed that open dialogue would lead to better understanding. Unlike United 93, which was devoid of context and took liberties with known facts, A Mighty Heart, based on Mariane Pearl’s book, constantly refers to events before and after, to people’s motivations, to reasons, arguments, and possible explanations. The film is dedicated to the Pearl’s son Adam, and like the child that never met his father, we have much to gain from a better understanding of the complexities of what happened, and why.
In films like In This World and The Road to Guantanomo, Michael Winterbottom has perfected a semi-documentary style of filmmaking that relies on real locations, small crews, and serendipity to achieve an immediacy that’s rarely seen on the screen. A Mighty Heart was shot in Pakistan, and the presence of Angelina Jolie, in a wig and sans make-up, rarely distracts from the sense that we’re watching real events. From the teeming streets of Karachi, where Daniel (Dan Futterman) is last seen taking a cab to the guarded house where Mariane anxiously awaits his return, the texture of the film is full of impressionistic details that we couldn’t have gathered from the news. For some reason I can’t quite explain, I was especially touched by the way Daniel holds the microphone of his hands-free headset up to his mouth when he speaks to his wife.
The film narrates, from Mariane’s perspective, the days after Daniel’s disappearance on the way to a dicey interview on January 23, 2002 until his death is confirmed nearly a month later. The Pearl house quickly turns into the headquarters for the uneasy alliance of Pakistani and American agencies who are conducting a hectic search, along with journalists and editors from the Wall Street Journal. Emails and documents are searched for clues. A whiteboard fills with a tangled web of contacts, fixers, and mysterious sheiks. Pearl’s Indian colleague Asra (Archie Panjabi) is a accused of being an Indian spy. A chef is brought in to keep pregnant Mariane well-fed. Colin Powell announces that negotiating with terrorists is out of the question for the U.S. government. Suspects are taken into custody and interrogated. Mariane gives an interview on CNN but refuses to cry. A Pakistani toddler plays in the yard, his arms hennaed with curly patterns. The movie’s frantic bustle releases into an explosion of grief when Mariane finds out what we already know.
A Mighty Heart opens next Friday.
A Mighty Heart. Michael Winterbottom, 2007. ****
AKA the Danish movie that didn’t win the Oscar. Susanne Bier’s drama about a Dane who runs an orphanage in India but has to return to Copenhagen to ask a wealthy man for money is the kind of tale that loses a lot in the telling, and even more if it’s told in advance. It’s a very good movie, so I won’t spoil it. You’ll have to contend with the director’s statement and four stars:
After the Wedding is a film about secrets. About how you live close together, love each other and how it is being part of a family… And about how you can keep deep and important truths hidden from the people you love without really feeling any shame.
Efter brylluppet. Susanne Bier, 2006. ****