Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Quick Takes: "Singin' in the Rain", "The Fountain", "Black Swan", "Toy Story 3"

"Singin' in the Rain"
Directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen

The first ten minutes of "Singin' in the Rain" are absolutely atrocious, and set a pretty foul taste for the ninety minutes to follow. I was actually rather uncertain whether or not I wanted to continue on with it. Then the film dials up the Donald O'Connor with some one-liners that were slaying enough to latch me on for whatever hijinks ensued later on. Once they dispose of the obnoxious setup, they really let go of serious inclinations and go haphazard with absolutely everything. All the musical numbers that have been so hyped up over history are absolutely winning in spite of the flood of dilution. Gene Kelly is an exceptional exuberance, and that pervades the screen in both performance and direction. It balloons into a powerful inadvertent drug-trip, like "The Artist" meets "Mad Men" meets "Inception".

"The Fountain"
Directed by Darren Aronofsky

Can you believe that I've gone this far without having officially seen the film that split Darren Aronofsky right down the middle in terms of how people viewed him? I always worried that I'd fall into that negative category, but as it turns out this film is absolutely deserving of infinite praise. If you don't raise the stakes of your own ambition, you can't truly achieve the same heights as films such as "2001: A Space Odyssey". I'm hardly saying that this journey across time, fiction, and mortality is just as good as Kubrick's singular masterpiece, but it is at the very least comparable. Darren strives six years to get this film on the screen, and it prevails to stun several years after. Cruelty is a powerful tool at Darren's disposal, as are the gorgeously brittle and fascinatingly layered performances by Rachel Weisz and Hugh Jackman, respectively. "The Fountain" moves swiftly and strangely along its journey to a place of awe, and I can't help but wonder how one could feel negatively about having been brought there.

"Toy Story 3"
Directed by Lee Unkrich

Is it all just overheated fanaticism surrounding Pixar's closing to their first series of "Toy Story" that makes it seem so great? Is it the fact that it came out at a junction of when the people who grew up with it are also going to college? Is it any of those obvious reasons that could so easily serve as excuses? As it turns out, and I am quite happy to realize this, "Toy Story 3" is absolutely thriving as a piece of singular and self-sustaining cinema. I'm happy because I could have come back to it and find that it was just exaggeration of circumstances, but as it turns out the film is massively thorough in its study of a wide variety of characters.

"Black Swan"
Directed by Darren Aronofsky

It gives me rather great joy to revisit Aronofsky's shaking character-study "Black Swan" and find it not overrated, but given new and greater life through a different pair of lens'. The film I remember was one that was personal and quite shattering, but something that I never quite realized before was how hilariously cruel the film is. Though this may prove to incite rage amongst people I know who adore the film, the dancing of a ballet company is admittedly quite trashy. Vincent Cassel's director Leroy is trying to take "Swan Lake" and make it "visceral and real", which however honest a pursuit is still rather ridiculous and full of hubris.

I was really able to remove myself from the film this time around, and give it a sort of piercing look from a bent point of view. Quite often you think you've reached the heart of a film and you stop searching for meaning. "Black Swan" absolutely obliterates that and influences you to keep searching for meaning, which seems so elusive given a mindfully messy approach to it. It is quite a contemporary fairy tale, and as such rather dark and cruel to its characters. Each of these characters seems so exaggerated and positively nutso, the bi-product of an unreliable protagonist showing us her experience through her not-exactly-healthy point of view. It's still absolutely devastating, but more because of the film's cruelty in how these characters are represented and not what is done to them.

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