Thursday, May 19, 2011

Two from the art-house side

FOSTER'S BIG RISK THAT DOESN'T PAY OFF. A man talks through a puppet, and we're supposed to take it seriously.
Jodie Foster seems to have taken a risky (and probably wrong) turn with her latest movie. Foster's The Beaver tells the story of a depressed toy company owner (Mel Gibson) who relates to others through a hand puppet -- a beaver that looks like a Sesame Street reject. Gibson gives a decent performance as a disturbed man who has lost interest in life. All possible Gibson jokes aside, the movie -- which casts Foster as the executive's wife and Anton Yelchin as his alienated teen-aged age son -- further taxes credibility when it tries to show that society is as nutty as Gibson's Walter Black. Walter starts addressing his employees through the puppet, which also becomes a major hit in the toy world. Of course, there's a crash. And, of course, the movie must get around to dealing with the serious issues it raises. And, of course, depression is no joking matter. That The Beaver is at all watchable attests to Foster's directorial skill and Gibson's acting, but they've both chosen material that -- almost by its nature -- is self-defeating.

A BEAUTIFUL LOOK AT LIFE IN CALABRIA. This magnificent movie can't be easily categorized.

Le Quatro Volte is an exceptional movie from director Michelangelo Frammartino, who stages some scenes but also uses real real people. Frammartino imposes his artistic will on his material in small, revealing doses, as he tells four stories: one about an old shepherd, another about a flock of goats, a third about the felling of a giant tree, and the fourth, a look at the creation of what appears to be a supply of charcoal for the winter. Frammartino is one of those directors who communicate more by telling less. He offers no narration to guide us through the various mysteries that he finds in and around a tiny village in Calabria. I thought a couple of Frammartino's touches were mildly corny, but -- in total -- Le Quatro Volte is a mini-masterpiece that no real film lover should miss.

No comments: