By G. Michael Dobbs
An anniversary for any movie fan to observe and one really pretentious art film are noted in this week's movie column.
David Cronenberg is one of the most praised and challenging directors working today. A guy who started out cutting his teeth on disturbing horror films, he has produced work that is fairly commercial and successful ("The Fly," "Eastern Promises") as well as films that seem very personal such as his adaptation of the once considered unfilmable novel "Naked Lunch" and this latest movie, an adaptation of the novel of the same name.
The film also helps answer the question of "What kind of films are you going to do if you've spent the last few years of your career starring 'The Twilight' saga?"
"Cosmopolis" stars Robert Pattinson as Eric Packer, an unbelievably rich Wall Street investor, who decides against the better judgment of his bodyguard that he needs a haircut. A haircut means a trip across New York City on a day when the president is in town, the traffic is horrible and there are demonstrations in the street.
Packer, though, wants his haircut and as his stretch limo crawls through the city, he is visited by business associates speaking rather cryptically as well as his doctor for his daily exam. His limo is clearly his world, but he does leave it when he sees a beautiful blonde woman in a taxi next to him. It turns out that it's his new bride although she seems remarkably cold to him. The two speak to each other in arch, unrealistic dialogue, but then this entire film is arch and unrealistic.
This is an art picture with a capital "A," and as his limo rolls on we slowly begin to realize that not all is well with his empire and that he is slowly going to some sort of conclusion in his life.
Pattinson soldiers on mightily trying to create a character coming to grips with the end of his life and career, but the tone of the film defeats any sort of mildly sympathetic characterization.
The technical end of the film the limo set, cinematography, etc. is handsome, but the opaque nature of the story left me cold. I suspect it will leave you cold as well.
An anniversary worth noting
On March 7, 1933, a movie premiered that financially saved one studio, gave its cast its most famous roles and inspired generations of moviemakers.
That film was "King Kong."
Eighty years later, the original black and white "King Kong" still has the wonderful fable quality it had on its opening night. Unlike its amazingly bad remake in 1976 or its bloated and miscast remake in 2005, the original film still can draw an audience in through its combination of horror, romance, and adventure.
Of course, the technical achievement of animator Willis O'Brien should never be overlooked. In this era of computer generated imagery, the frame by frame animation of a model might seem quaint next to a photorealistic Kong created with a motion capture performance by Andy Serkis. Let's face it, the technology allows filmmakers to make "realistic" creatures," but that does not mean they are a better fit for a story such as "Kong."
I marvel at what O'Brien did. Once I lose myself in the film, I simply don't see Kong as an animated model. Instead he is a character as noble and as tragic as any in American film.
If you've not seen the original "Kong," do yourself a favor and watch it this weekend. If you're like me and have seen it countless times, it's probably time for another viewing.