Wednesday, January 10, 2007

First Two Films of the Year

A short post on two not-unpleasing films I saw in the past few days. First there was Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Loft, the latest in a line of maddeningly oblique and opaque psychological thrillers by the Japanese director, who is no relation to his much better-known namesake. The tale of a female writer suffering from, yes, you've guessed it, writer's block, who holes up in the country, only to discover that the man next door is hoarding an 800-year old mummy, who was preserved in the same mud that the writer appears to be puking up every day. A film that can yield either no interpretation or dozens, depending on your disposition. Half the audience walked out (in my opinion not always a bad sign). If nothing else, I was interested to the end and the photography, low-lit, ethereal and misty like that of the great Kazuo Miyagawa, is stunning.

Allen Coulter's Hollywoodland suffers from the same problem as many other filmic tales of the history of American popular culture such as Quiz Show, The Aviator, and Gods and Monsters: it is really hard to care about the injustice that lies at the heart of it all, the distance in years being by now too great. But the film is enjoyable nonetheless with Ben Affleck worryingly convincing as the washed-up Saturday-morning-serial actor (and former Superman) George Reeves, and Adrien Brody as the gumshoe who tries to unravel the facts behind his suspicious suicide. The film plays on every hoary cliché known to viewers of films from Hollywood's golden era, down to the smug straightening of his suit by a beefy doorman as he is caught in the flash of a surreptitious lens, but I found myself strangely forgiving of this, even of Brody's character who is much too James Dean for a World War II veteran in 1959. But Allen Coulter's direction is assured and the film is entertaining enough to forget that it was based on a true story in the first place.