Citizen Kane has met his/its match: There Will Be Blood is a masterpiece of near impossible quality and magnitude. Paul Thomas Anderson has gone where few dare (No Country For Old Men, ahem), and when a director attacks that which is more than human, perfection is the only option. Here’s to the brilliance. #
I had a hard time watching the Oscars this year. I seriously think that Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic There Will Be Blood was overlooked in such ways that years from now, we’ll will be refering to this year’s Oscars as the year were There Will Be Blood was denied Oscars.
Today I’m going to commence a feature on this weblog called Story Tricks. I don’t know how often I’ll post these Story Tricks but hopefully they’ll become a fixed feature.
The idea came to me after I watched David Cronenberg’s excellent “Eastern Promises” last night. The script is written by Steven Knight and he utilizes a very simple and very subtle trick that, for me at least, was brilliant in keeping the suspense going in the first part of the film.
The protagonist, Anna (Naomi Watts) is a midwife at a hospital in London and one day a young girl dies in her ward while giving birth to a baby girl. The young woman is unknown but she did carry a diary with her. The problem is that the diary is written in Russian.
Although Anna herself is Russian she can’t read the language and therefore she asks her uncle Stepan to translate it for her. He abruptly refuses as he finds it highly immoral and utters “Do you always rob the bodies of the dead?”.
So Anna must find another way to translate the diary in order to find the relatives of the unknown young girl and hand over the baby to them. Inserted into the diary is a card of the restaurant owned by Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl). Going there she meets Kirill and Nikolai and becomes clear that this restaurant is a meeting place for Russian gangsters in London.
Anna don’t know exactly why, but Semyon seems like a bad man. There is just something about him that’s off, maybe it’s because he’s too direct in offering to help Annie. On the other hand he seems like a very likable grandpa-kind-of-person and is very polite and forthcoming toward Anna and her request for a translation.
And here comes the trick. We as the viewer know that Semyon is bad and that the diary very likely contains information that he normally would have people killed for. The issue is then if Anna can trust Semyon to do a real translation or if he’s going to lie to her.
Parallel to this Anna keeps pushing her uncle to do the translation and he keeps refusing.
This subtle trick creates an enormous tension and suspense in the story, and we sit watching this part of the film on the edge of our seats hoping that uncle Stepan will come to his senses and help Anna so that she can get far away from Semyon. Even though this conflict is resolved in another way it moves the story forward in a very effective way.
I could easily imagine an entire movie centered on this; someone finds a book or scripture and has to get it translated. Unfortunately the person(s) he approaches with this task is someone whom stands to lose a lot if the knowledge in this book is to become publicly known. It’s simple trick and used many times before but it works very well.
I also highly recommend reading Steven Knight’s entire screenplay that Focus Features have so kindly made available online in this award season.
When people find out that I’m “into movies” it doesn’t take long before this question pops up: “okay okay… so what’s your favorite movie of all time? No, no, let me put that in another way; if you could take only three movies with you on a desert island, what would they be?”.
Then I look like I’m thinking really really hard even though I have the answer ready beforehand. I go something like this: “hmmm… that’s really hard to pinpoint only a few movies. There are so many that I like. But if I have to choose only three movie it would be; After Hours and XX and YY”.
I then replace XX and YY with some movies that would please the crowd so to speak, be that anyone of the 9 or 10 stared movies from the movie page.
Then they go something like this: “Wow, man that is so totally rad! I love XX and YY, they’re the best movies EVAR made… but what was that first movie again? ‘After’ what? ‘After Hours’?… Never heard of it.”
I truly think it’s one of the most overlooked film of all time. It’s it without a doubt Scorsese’s most overlooked. It dark and sad and funny and heart wrenching and because of all this, very realistic. And it all takes place in one single night.
I’ve seen many compare the movie as a modern day Wizard of Oz or an urban Alice in Wonderland, where it is Paul that goes through the rabbit hole and enters then land of weird. It’s like a 10-min Groundhog Day that brings one man’s world to its knees, and he sure as hell isn’t in Kansas anymore.
And the “funny” thing about the movie is no matter how absurd it becomes, and it really does become very absurd, you always view the scenes and say “man that could happen to me” or “I know a person just like that”. That’s the brilliance of the story, it so absurd that it in a way becomes very realistic and close to home, because that’s what life is. Absurd.
The trailer below is full of spoilers so don’t watch it you haven’t seen the film already.
The story is basically about about Paul who meets a girl in a coffee shop after work and everything goes does south after that. Wikipedia has a very long and very good summery of the plot (that is also full of spoilers).
There are so many scenes in the movie that are worth showing but this one is really telling of the overall premise of the film:
On YouTube there are also a 2-part documentary about the making of the movie.
On researching for this post I found this quote on Wikipedia:
The film was originally to be directed by Tim Burton, but Scorsese read the script at a time when he was unable to get financial backing to complete The Last Temptation of Christ, and Burton gladly stepped aside when Scorsese expressed interest in directing.
Very interesting. I can’t seem to figure if it would have been a different movie if Burton was helming it. Visually and all it most certainly would have, but in my view the story is so strong that I think it would have remained more or less untouched. But that is just thinking about things that never happened and never will.
What remains is my favorite movie of all time. So now you know.
Hvis jeg nu siger “Forget about it…” vil du måske huske da filmen “Donnie Brasco” for første gang ramte de danske biografer i 1997 og alle gik og sagde denne sætning.
Filmen er baseret på en sand historie om FBI agenten Joe Pistone (Johnny Depp) som infiltrere mafiaen i New York ved at gå undercover som en Donnie Brasco alias Juvel-Don.
Lefty (Al Pacino) tager ham hurtigt under sine vinger og oplærer ham i mafiaens skrevne og uskrevne regler. Der går ikke længe før Lefty og Donnie udvikler et form for far/søn forhold.
Og det er netop dette forhold som er filmens kerne og hæver den langt over gængse kategorier. For “Donnie Brasco” er ikke en gangster film eller en action film. Det er en fortælling om et ualmindeligt venskab mellem to ualmindelige personer.
Lefty er lidt af en gammel afdanket mafioso. Han er forgældet til op over begge ører og hans reelle magt er efterhånden indskrænket betydeligt.
Han tænker altid tilbage på de gode gamle dage, da han nød mere respekt på gaden og alle var bange for ham. Nu er hans største ønske blot at komme til at nyde sit otium sammen med sin kone. Men tingene falder ikke helt i Leftys favør.
Donnie bliver efterhånden så meget involveret i mafiaen at han kommer til at gøre ting som han ikke er særlig stolt af.
Ydermere tager meget hårdt på Donnies privat liv at han konstant er undercover og aldrig er hjemme.
Situationen bliver endnu mere kompliceret da den store mafia-boss bliver myrdet og alle skal forfremmes et led frem i kæderne for at udfylde pladserne og Lefty bliver forbipasseret.
Bitterheden over dette kommer til at præge Leftys forpligtigelser for mafia fremover.
Instruktøren Mike Newell var knap nok blevet førdig med filmen “Fire Bryllupper Og En Begravelse”, før han gik i gang med “Donnie Brasco” som må siges at være noget af et spring i en anden retning.
Men det er lykkedes Newell at skabe en af de absolut bedste film i 1997. Båret frem af nogle af de bedste skuespiller præsentationer i lang lang tid indhyllet i en gribende og velskrevet historie.
Om “Donnie Brasco” er en god film? Forget about it! Den er et mesterværk. Og det er en fornøjelse at se den igen.
* * * * * * (6 ud af 6 mulige)
- Simon Larsen
Original Titel: Donnie Brasco
Længde: 121 min.
Instruktør: Mike Newell
Medvirkende: Al Pacino, Johnny Depp, Michael Madsen, Bruno Kirby, James Russo, Anne Hache.
På DVD’en finder vi en 20 minutter lang The Making of – dokumentar som giver et glimrende billede af arbejdet med at bringe denne sande historie til det store lærred.
Ud over det ligger der det sædvanlige materiale; trailere, bio’er.
En ganske hæderlig DVD-udgivelse.