The cinema has always done hostility better than history. Perhaps that is a characteristic it shares with most of us. So, 33 years ago, the spaceship Nostromo was a beaten-up heap ready to be retired, but the engine of its story and the stealthy uncovering of its ultimate confrontation of raw hostility and Sigourney Weaver in her underwear might have been handled by a trio of Einstein, Heisenberg, and Ben Hecht (the latter a pro screenwriter, the first two theorists on larger matters of story).
Moonrise Kingdom is set on an island, but its director Wes Anderson has always seemed like someone who insisted on a small off-shore existence. This is not uncommon in American movies, or necessarily forbidding: Josef von Sternberg lived on a glowing island where the light and its shadows fell on the face of a woman, ideally Marlene Dietrich, because Sternberg had loved her and been humiliated by her. Howard Hawks preferred to find an enclosed cockpit of intense talk and action—the airfield in Only Angels Have Wings or the court newsroom in His Girl Friday.
Some weeks I gamble with this column. I don’t know what to write about, so I wait in the stupid assurance that something will turn up. This happened on the night of Sunday May 27. I was remoting through the television channels, somewhere in the 500s, when I was stopped by the stricken indigo holes of Helena Bonham Carter’s eyes. The film was only a few minutes old, and I had never seen it before, so I stayed with it. It was called Conversations with Other Women, though on the poster the word is Conversations (s). We are at a wedding in a Manhattan hotel. A man and a woman meet.
Only the other day, Lena Dunham had her twenty-sixth birthday. I mention that not to play on your guilt about forgetting to send a card. But I do want to note that when she made her feature film Tiny Furniture, she can’t have been more than 23. That’s two years younger than Orson Welles when he made Citizen Kane. Now, don’t get me wrong. Citizen Kane is more interesting and more fun.
The only reason to see Dark Shadows is to discover how dire and pointless—how flat-out dreadful—a movie can be even when it has Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Helena Bonham Carter attached to its flimsy pretext. This is one more vampiric concoction, the total budget for which (apparently $105 million) might have sustained 100 worthwhile, independent projects by new directors.
From time to time these days, one meets young people—film students even—who can’t quite place Gary Cooper. Come May 13, he will have been dead for 51 years; and on May 7—the day I’m writing—he was born in 1901, up in Montana.
There is a passage in Howard Hawks’ Bringing Up Baby in which David Huxley (Cary Grant) and Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) are lost at night in the forest of Connecticut searching for a leopard called Baby and a fox terrier named George. If you don’t know the picture, don’t bother to ask, “Why a leopard?” Your every instinct is correct—there are (and should be) no leopards in Connecticut. Yet there might have been. We know now that the ingenious German plan to have a U-boat unload a cargo of fierce cats on that state’s shore in 1942 was aborted only at the last moment.
For strange one-day-only engagements, a few Cinemark theaters across the country have been playing a “restored” version of The Godfather Part II (1974). This is a follow-up to the same remarketing of the first film, The Godfather (1972), and Cinemark is proud (if premature) about this “Fortieth Anniversary Edition.” One reason for barely noticing the celebration is that the lucky theatres are so rare. Another is that the Godfather films have not disappeared. They are on television on some channel nearly every week, just because audiences love to see them over and over again.
This is a review of Julia Loktev’s The Loneliest Planet, and the calendar pretext is that the movie will play at the San Francisco Film Festival on April 24 and 27. Not all of you will be able to get to the Bay Area, but, since last August, The Loneliest Planet has already played at the festivals of Locarno, Toronto, New York, London and the AFI. Still, it has not “opened” yet. That is promised for this August, albeit on a limited basis. What does limited mean? Well, Loktev and the rest of us might bear in mind what happened with her previous film, her first, Day Night Day Night.
On Thursday, April 5, I saw the best movie I have seen so far this year. It was only 74 seconds long. That seems quick, yet it felt stealthy and suspenseful as it traveled through time. For the show was the story of a life, or 25 years of it. That is Lindsay Lohan’s age now, and her future is more precarious than 25 usually promises. I watched it first in the early morning of the fifth on Yahoo.