19 May 2009

screening: Synecdoche, NY; Doubt; Diving Bell & The Butterfly

Synecdoche, NY
First of the 2 Phillip Seymour Hoffman films. I didn't really appreciate the scattered and seemingly pretentious musings of Charlie Kaufman. It had all of the weirdness of his other ones without the charm and humor. Maybe I just missed it altogether or maybe I turned it off too soon, either way, though I really looked forward to this one, I was heartily disappointed.


Awesome. Hoffman utterly redeemed himself. Streep and Adams were perfect. This really strummed the right note of my parochial school upbringing. I highly recommend this one mostly for its acting and ability to leave a sticky ethical situation to the viewer's imagination, and it's final conclusion that that imagination and those things left unsaid is perhaps the harshest judge of reality. No need to be explicit when you can craft a complex story and characterization, which in the end teaches at a deeper and longer-lasting level.

Here is a great clip of Hoffman at his best, behind the pulpit in a good ole fashioned Irish-Catholic homiletic attack:

Diving Bell & The Butterfly
If the first movie was too weird for me, and Doubt was perfect in its subtlety, DB&B broached some middle ground (in French) while expanding towards an abstract and non-linear presentation akin to movies like 'Big Fish' & 'What Dreams May Come'. For starters, the story is so brilliant that it could only be non-fiction: playboy Elle' magazine editor suffers a stroke leaving him essentially locked in his own body unable to translate his brilliant, literary mind and faculties through any other channel than a single eye's blink. But it is through this sharp mind and speech therapist's 'Morse code' system that he dictates an entire transcript. The result is a melancholy and poignant narrative monologue plumbing the depths of his condition via a diving bell and soaring to the heights of love and imagination on the wings of a Butterfly. Particularly resonant scenes were the Madonna of Lourdes scene and the shaving scene with his senile father.

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