Twin Peaks “The Last Evening” [1990)

The essence of Twin Peaks is make-believe FBI.

Our main character (arguably) is a Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

He is a shining example of honor.  A professional.  A vestige of Norman Rockwell’s America.

And before we go crying kitsch and digging up old Soviet propaganda posters in the spirit of Milan Kundera’s distillation (“Soviet kitsch” from Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí), let’s pause for a Mom and apple-pie moment…and a damn good cup of coffee.

Ahhh!

Do one nice thing for yourself every day.

Says agent Cooper.

And he’s right.

Fit as a fiddle.  Healthy as an apple.  A strapping young man.  Not to be confused with the boy with the Arab strap.

Lime in the coconut.  I knew but I didn’t know.

Fleeting.

No, I never spent hours on the beach.

Always a day late and a dollar short.

But we learn.

Attack the attackers.

Neutralize the threat.

While setting Mexican standoff traps to protect all of your resources.  Capabilities.  Core competencies.

You might just achieve a competitive advantage.  And achieve strategic competitiveness.

THis is the meaningless parlance of business.

Leverage without mechanical advantage–without the amplification of force.

And always a metaphorical lever without the equally necessary fulcrum.

Stay with me!

Twin Peaks was the era of VHS.  And cassette tapes.

And mixtapes…  [Now don’t we miss those?]

Something beautiful about the analog warmth.

Analog to digital and back to analog.

And when the tape would unravel…?  Oh well, as long as the tape player is alright 🙂

IT’s really a nasty prank.  But Lara Flynn Boyle fits the Nancy Drew role like a reincarnated Bonita Granville.

And James with his Harley-Davidson…by her side.  like Sade.  Sha-day.

Not as Yoshimi as Saoirse Ronan in Hanna, but I digress.

THe drum-machine universe keeps on boppin’.

Seagrams?  AMF?  Seeburg?  Seberg?

I can remember the magic fingers of Merlin at the Wurlitzer.

That suitably sums up “and Russ Tamblyn as Dr. Jacoby”.

That old television credits ritual.  Need a history on that.  Stat!

Wigs and fake mustaches.  In a little undersized briefcase.  Like Lon Chaney.

Walter Olkewicz seems quintessentially from “down the bayou”, but it’s a mashup with QUebecois generalizations…transposed to British Colombia.

Ahh, how my heart years for Bellingham…

[film is truth 24 times a second]

cuckoo’s nest

Can’t blame Michael Horse.

The lesson here is, Never wash your hair.

Which is to say, Keith Richards has a method to his madness.

His long life.  His longevity.

So much intercutting.  Such convergence.

The strands are not tied up, yet we come to a significant knot in a series of many mini-loops.

D’you know what I mean?

 

-PD

Je vous salue, Marie [1985)

Jean-Luc Godard has, in my opinion, made five perfect films.  Chronologically, this is the second of those five.

The first was 23 years earlier.  In 1962, Vivre sa vie let a 22-year-old Anna Karina shine as never before.  After a proverbial 40 days in the deserts of Varèse-like experimentation, Godard emerged to string together a series of films which paved the way for the style in which he continues to direct till this day.  Nevertheless, Je vous salue, Marie towers above the “middle quartets” which precede it.  Truly, this is one of the finest films ever to be made.

It is also a particularly difficult film to review as its history is laden with controversy.  Godard, ever the rebel, chose to retell the story of the Virgin Mary in a modern setting.  No doubt the sincerity of Godard was misinterpreted by many Catholics as blasphemy.

The key to understanding this film is watching the whole thing.  If you are offended, try to make it to the end.  Perhaps the method of storytelling will then make more sense.

It must, however, be admitted that Godard’s take on the Annunciation and birth of Jesus is highly mystical.  It is like the music of Olivier Messiaen.  Dissonance is a gift from God.  To hear the works of Messiaen is to hear devotion expressed in a highly unique way.  My guess is that the great French Catholic composer might have appreciated Godard’s timeless creation under review.  Perhaps even the current Pope Francis might sympathize with the heartfelt offering of Godard.

In 1985, this film was positively scandalous.  What a shame…

Continuing with our musical history lesson, one must only consider the great Handel (composer of Messiah).  Handel was reputedly able to curse proficiently in German, Italian, and English.  Handel was not a saint, yet he composed a tremendous amount of sublime religious music (including the aforementioned oratorio).

It makes me wonder about the great artists like Michelangelo (whose Creation of Adam graces the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel).  Was Michelangelo a particularly pious man?  I have no clue.  But it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that he was colorful in ways other than with his palette.

But Godard committed the greatest sin.  He let life enter his art.  God forbid that life and praise for the divine coexist in a single creation!

But let us return.  This was Myriem Roussel’s film.  It is the finest performance by an actress not named Anamaria Marinca or Dorotheea Petre ever committed to film.  Saoirse Ronan is still waiting for the right vehicle.  Hanna was frighteningly close.  Going back further I would nominate Lauren Bacall, but her range was curtailed somewhat by typecasting.

And so Myriem Roussel.  Godard.  The sublime.  Every shot in this film is perfect.  Every element is precisely placed.  It is intelligent design embodied.

I cannot begin to scratch the surface of this gem.  My lead is no match for this diamond.  No matter how much I scribble, it will not be enough.

This film will endure long after everything is gone.  Je vous salue, Jean-Luc.

-PD

I Could Never Be Your Woman [2007)

We get older.  It’s hard.  Our lives didn’t turn out like fairytales.  And yet, we push on.  We live.  We work.  We study.  We survive.  Oh, how much it can mean…a kind word.  A moment extra taken to be gentle.  Humble.  Respectful.  Thankful.

I didn’t know what I was getting into when I threw on this film.  I’ve sought out Saoirse Ronan films because I have been so impressed with her acting in Hanna and The Grand Budapest Hotel.  Suffice it to say, some of her lesser-known films…I never would have watched otherwise.  But it’s good.  It’s good to exit the genres and areas with which we are most comfortable.

Some of these newer films…there is a trepidation which precedes the viewing.  I wonder if I can make it past the first 10 or 15 minutes.  Let me say quite plainly:  this is a pretty damn good film.

Credit director and writer Amy Heckerling with tapping into a vein of stories which need to be told.  Likewise, Michelle Pfeiffer was just the right choice to express the marginalized stories which come to the forefront in this film.  Paul Rudd is a shockingly-good support here.

You want marginalized?  Well, this film went straight to DVD in the U.S.  That’s an insult.  I don’t care what the market research said:  that was a mistake.  Film history will vindicate these pictures which were treated thusly.

Over the hill…  40.  Women have it hard.  And so do dudes like Adam Pearl (Paul Rudd).  Teenage girls have it particularly hard.  Saoirse really does a masterful job of delineating a tough role.

I will admit:  this film made me tearful on several occasions.  Jon Lovitz…yeah, that’s the ticket.  Fred Willard…spot on.  But no, neither of those two.  It’s that look on Pfeiffer’s face when Rudd first reads in an audition.  It’s the right look.  Taking pride in your craft as a dramatist…even if you’ve been reduced to producing prepubescent pablum.

I’ve been in that chair.  A lifetime’s work for one or two lines that might be remembered by history.  I’ve been on that date.  I live that life every day.  Age.  And I’ve been the nerd.  Whoa have I been the nerd!

I’ve never lied about my age, but I know the industries where that becomes commonplace.  No, I’ve never gotten that whole lying thing down very well.  Yeah…me and Napoleon Dynamite would be best friends.  I guess that makes me Pedro…

Ah, but belief…  You can hear it in Bob Dylan’s new album Shadows in the Night.  We never stop believing.  We can’t.  We’d better not.  And Tracey Ullman is in our ear with the bad news…

You are right to be paranoid.  In general, the world is set up to get you down.  Globalizing…hah!  Perhaps generalizing?  Past aggressive.  Passed aggressive.  We hear the phrase and we assimilate into our patois.  The phrases don’t come with user’s manuals.

It’s a set-up.  I hyphenate when I please–when I’m damned good and ready.

And so I cry that I was human.  But most of all we cry for ourselves.  When the bottom falls out of your little corner of the entertainment industry.  This isn’t Los Angeles.

Yeah, I can relate.  With all of it.  Trying on pants.  Damn it.

Some people think they have me all figured out.  But mostly, they don’t think.  About me:

I don’t have a demo.  I have finished films.  Call Harry Smith from beyond the grave.  He’ll vouch for me.

Beware of the fake.  I just want to put food on the table.  The only thing that can’t be faked nowadays is food on the table.

Fuck it.  Gimme GMO.  My high horse rode off long ago.  Soft kill the shit outta me.  You’ll never know the sadness of the streets.

And for that you are poorer.  Consider it like a fine wine…or a classic foreign film.  Oops, sorry:  no corkscrew and no subtitles.

The Fonz reads Sartre…laughing.  Eat your heart out David Lynch.

You should have given him another chance.  You’re so responsible.  You threw away a heroic love.

I stayed as true as I could.  And now nobody calls.  My emails go unanswered.

Yes, the time stamp gives it away.  The BBC was 20 minutes early.  WTC 7.

Suck away.  I have moved on.  No, I’m not happy.

When Hal Blaine hits the floor tom and snare after the intro…like the world comes to a violent halt:  “Wouldn’t it be nice…”

We get older.  Mother Nature calls it creative destruction…maybe.  When the shit hits the tiara.

-PD

The Host [2013)

Science fiction is often a metaphor…and this movie is about the national security state (whether it knows it or not).  It would be easy to fault this film for its trite trappings, but if one has reason to give the film a chance…  My reason was Saoirse Ronan.

I remember being a big fan of Thora Birch after seeing Ghost World.  [I’m still a big fan.]  The lengths to which film fans go to see their favorite players is sometimes remarkable.  My admiration went so far as to watch Dungeons & Dragons (2000).  Boy, I wish I could get those 107 minutes back!

I can’t echo the same sentiment about The Host.  This is truly a fine film.  Granted, it is a pale imitation of Hanna (2011), but I believe that Hanna will stand as one of the best films of all time.

What we do have is a dystopian “failure to communicate.”  This is essentially the problem with the national security state.  No reasonable person can seriously believe that the men and women of the CIA, NSA, and other such agencies are truly sitting around frying up babies on spits.  The problem is that the technology has far outstripped the human skills of these agencies.  For every action which is automated–every process given over to a computer…these agencies lose the war they think they are winning.

When agencies such as MI6 and Mossad no longer have popular support, their days are numbered.  The American intelligence community has failed to recognize that the war is not against “terrorists,” but rather for Americans.  “Hearts and minds” went the old phrase…  The world’s most powerful intelligence agencies are losing the human relations race almost as much as they are losing the information race.

Every once in a while there is a crack in this monolithic façade.  Not so long ago, Zbigniew Brzezinski (perhaps inadvertently) blurted out the real score of both the information and interpersonal communications races during a speech in Canada (Toronto, I believe).  It may have been a Council on Foreign Relations function, but really:  who cares?  The sentiment was echoed on the floor of Congress some years back by Hillary Clinton.  Whether explicit or not, these cracks indicate the panic of highly intelligent and heavily-invested players on the world stage.

Technology brings with it a certain uncertainty:  an undefinable amount of risk.  The same can be said of democracy.  It is no wonder that certain American Founding Fathers (Alexander Hamilton, for instance) felt ill at ease about the prospect of “government by the people.”  But this fear only shows weakness.  When power is fearful, power shows its ass.  Obverse and reverse.  We are used to seeing the obverse, but we must remember there is a man behind that wizard curtain.

Diane Kruger impressed me with her articulate acting in the National Treasure movies.  Here, she represents the sheen of the national security state.  She is like Shannon Bream on FOX News:  a neocon trophy anchor.  In truth, her character is staged in almost an identical way as that of Cate Blanchett in Hanna.  The accoutrements of power in The Host also have a ubiquitous and literal sheen in the form of mirrored-paint (chrome).  It is not far from the cheese factor of Sphere (1998).

Yet, The Host truly does have something to offer…and that is primarily due to the acting prowess of Ronan.  The major addition is the superb support of William Hurt.  In his character “Jeb” we see the dreamer mentality of American ingenuity which stretches back at least to Benjamin Franklin.  We also see in Hurt’s depiction the presence of John Wayne and other noble examples of simple morality from the American western genre of film.  What is really at issue is consequentialist morality vs. deontological morality.  Consequentialists (such as the rational aliens of our film) would argue that their ends justify their means.  Deontological circumspection (as in the case of Hurt’s character) holds that certain acts are repulsive in and of themselves (ontology) and therefore to be considered in such light.

Hurt’s character goes against the grain (Huysmans, anyone?) by refusing to kill the alien which has occupied the body of his niece.  His hunch turns out to be right:  his niece is still alive somewhere deep down inside there.  In Hurt’s character and his milieu we see the “prepper” mentality which has remained strong in America, but most of all we see the imagination to think conceptually.  Uncle Jeb is the only one to give credence to the thought which those around him spurn.  It is possible.

Much has been made about the American intelligence community’s “failure of imagination” regarding 9/11 all those many years ago, but I believe that’s rubbish.  However, the only way the U.S. will ever heal and move forward in an evolutionary way is for those “in the know” to come forward in numbers and ways heretofore unseen.  Likewise, those upset with even the most senior of the military-industrialists must be prepared to embrace the unique wisdom they have.  It is hard to talk about such things in precise terms owing to the nature of the dispute, but ultimately the powerful and the powerless need each other.

-PD

Hanna [2011)

This is quite possibly the best film I’ve ever seen.  Once or twice every generation an actress comes along who is well beyond all the rest.  That actress, for this generation, is Saoirse Ronan.  I would not have come by this film were it not for her turn in The Grand Budapest Hotel.  That film is likewise one of the best I’ve ever seen.  This one is better.  Why?  Because Miss Ronan is allowed to show a much wider array of her skills.

I had previously thought Wes Anderson a modest director until his most recent aforementioned film.  The Grand Budapest Hotel is his first great, timeless piece of cinema.  The key (though it may go unnoticed by many) is Saoirse.  The name Joe Wright meant nothing to me prior to tonight.  I must congratulate him on a near-perfect movie.

Yes, this is a movie.  And a film.  There is a difference.  Movies are entertainment.  Films are cinema.  Guy Hamilton proved in The Man with the Golden Gun that a movie could also be a film.

Mr. Wright’s film benefits from an anti-fascist plot which would do the opponents of Operation Gladio and other black ops proud.  I count myself among their number.

Hanna is a genetically-modified human…a prototype super-soldier.  Cate Blanchett plays her role so wonderfully (like James Mason in NXNW) that we wonder if there is a heart beating at all under there.  Ms. Blanchett portrays the CIA officer who helmed the genetic research which spawned Hanna.  To call her icy would be an understatement.  She registers at absolute zero.

The beauty of this story is when its’ arc arrives at the golden mean:  the moment Hanna first hears music.  To be precise, it is the moment when she equates music with the encyclopedic definition she learned as a quasi “wild child” in the Finnish arctic.  Funny how a comparison can be made to François Truffaut and the director in question is not Anderson (whose style most resembles the sentimentality of Truffaut), but Wright.  The link is L’Enfant sauvage from 1970.  Anderson, for his part, found the golden mean in The Grand Budapest Hotel by way of Saoirse Ronan as well.  That moment is the magical kaleidoscopic close-up of her angelic face aboard a merry-go-round.

Both Hanna and The Grand Budapest Hotel straddle a line which would have made Hitchcock proud.  In the latter, Mendl’s pastries are all the sweeter for scenes such as the one in which Jeff Goldblum loses four of his fingers.  In the former, the PG-13 rating is pushed to the max with gruesome deaths (such as Knepfler’s topsy-turvy demise à la Saint Sebastian…particularly as depicted by Odilon Redon), yet there is an innocence and panache to the whole affair.  Credit Wright with knowing how to offset the sheer terror of the premise with essential throwaway aspects such as the camper-van family (who, by the way, do a lovely rendition of Bowie’s “Kooks” from Hunky Dory).  The whole juxtaposition is positively Beethovenian.  And none of it would have been possible without the Leitmotiv and soul of this film:  Saoirse Ronan.  She did not, as it turns out, miss MY heart.  The Academy just missed its best actress.  I have a feeling her coup de grâce is yet to come.

 

-PD