day three finds us in old blighty, greeted by warm, friendly faces...
guy ritchie's films are distinguished mainly by the fact they're derivatives of derivatives, in this case, like danny boyle and quentin tarantino had a baby and had the gall to name it michael caine. his kinetic, highly stylized debut feature film, lock, stock and two smoking barrels (1998), was somewhat of a surprise success upon its release and i seem to remember vaguely enjoying certain parts of it when i saw it over a decade ago, but i'll be damned if i can remember what those were now. what it looks like when i watch it now is ritchie taking a genre i love, the UK gangster/heist film, and just being cute. i watch these four lads bumble their way through this knockabout farce and i find myself whispering a little prayer, asking for terence stamp to show up and kick them until they piss themselves. unfortunately, that never happens. vinnie jones is the only man in the film with the credentials and personality to lay a legitimate claim to the distinguished lineage of UK film criminals. it takes style, wit and a limitless capacity for violent mayhem. this is too enamored of its own cleverness to be bothered with all that. visual tricks cribbed from trainspotting (1996) and plot tricks cribbed from pulp fiction (1994) all aimed at the readership of maxim UK just don't do it for me. there were one or two beautifully edited sequences but overall i didn't feel like i was watching a heist movie. i felt like i was watching a heist cartoon. this also gets a demerit for clearing the way for a tidal wave of films trying to capitalize on its success by imitating its look and feel. derivatives of derivatives of derivatives. thanks for nothing, ritchie. take your alimony and buy some gravitas.
let's cross the channel and see if things are any better in paris.
much better, as it turns out. jean-pierre jeunet's amélie (2001) is one of my favorite fairy tales and a perfect antidote to what i find toxic about films like when harry met sally (1989). the introduction to the film is all you need to know that you are a world away from the rote, set-them-up-and-knock-them-down "humor" prevalent in those other films. we meet the cast of characters, celebrating their idiosyncratic likes and dislikes, fostering an appreciation for the infinite chain of coincidences that place us at so many of the crucial intersections of our lives. it immediately underlines how unique we can be rather than relying on the safety of sameness and it does exactly what it's supposed to to me. i immediately fall in love with this girl. i fall in love with her attention to odd details, her clunky shoes, her willingness to dispense mischievous justice, the rocks she carries in her pockets, that i see the faces of people i have loved in her face, everything. i love that instead of lazily regurgitating some lame "everywoman" that they take such great care to help you understand that there is no one else like her. in fact, that there is no one else like anyone. this movie always makes me feel a little bit better about all of our chances. everything about it seems encouraging. the color palette, with its predominant greens, makes it seem like everything is constantly growing, like every element of her universe is natural and thriving. family is also crucial. over and over again, in practically all of his films, jeunet demonstrates to us that nothing is quite as fulfilling as family, either our biological families or those that we construct out of the random assortment of people we are lucky enough to meet along the way. his work with marc caro will probably always remain my favorite, primarily because it's a bit more sinister, but even in this confection there is room for darkness. death plays a big part in the film and i think it only makes it that much more beautiful because it doesn't shy away from mortality. it lets you know there's room for everything and when you've worked out the dark and difficult that you should proclaim your joy.
we end the day with a bit of a surprise, clint eastwood's a perfect world (1993).
set in texas in 1963, it tells the story of a man who escapes from prison in huntsville and takes a young boy hostage. he's pursued by a righteous texas ranger while he and the boy form an unlikely bond. i actually enjoyed this a great deal. i am no fan of kevin costner and how he can only play kevin costner - he'll never be better than in bull durham (1988) - but he acquits himself admirably enough this time. the real standouts here are john lee hancock's screenplay and eastwood's sure-handed direction. hancock's story unfolds just like it ought to but not like you might expect it to, especially as the chase is brought to an end by a most unlikely circumstance. and i have said it before, and i will say it again, clint eastwood is our generation's john ford. yes, he may be a little sentimental at times but i will be damned if i can ever think of a better place to put the camera than where he puts it. there are one or two missteps here - the FBI agent is crudely drawn and some of the music cues are pedestrian at best - but eastwood tells a solid story in a fashion that compels you to keep watching. the relationship between costner and the boy, which only spans a few days on the road, feels authentic. halfway in, when costner is talking about going to alaska, i found myself having to stop and think about whether or not this boy might just decide that was the life he wanted from now on and they would just continue as father and son. it's not the last time you're going to see the theme of the elastic nature of mentorship show up this week, but i think this might be the best. a very pleasant surprise, indeed.
i am going to enjoy this good feeling while i can. you never know what tomorrow may bring.
actually, i do know. it brings leo in the real world: thailand!