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Monthly Archives: November 2008

Twentynine Palms

I thought I’d go in a slightly different direction for this entry. I guess it’s because Ottawa just lost in a shootout (surprise), but I’m feeling bitter and annoyed. So I don’t really feel like heaping praise on a movie I love at the moment.

With that in mind, I will be discussing a terrible film by the name of Twentynine Palms (and no, there’s no space between “Twenty” and “nine”… Look it up on IMDb if you’re in doubt). Twentynine Palms is a French film, released in 2003 and directed by Bruno Dumont. Truth be told, it’s been awhile since I watched this movie, but I will try to summon up some of the feelings I had when I first saw it.

Basically, the movie is like Seinfeld without jokes. Which is to say that nothing happens. There’s two main characters, they wander around the desert, ostensibly “location scouting” for a movie. Or something. It’s not really explained in detail. There are a lot of long takes in which nothing much goes on. It’s well shot, don’t get me wrong. I like good cinematography as much as the next film snob. But after a while it starts to feel like a travel guide video as opposed to an actual movie.

Has anyone seen Gerry? With Casey Affleck and Matt Damon? That movie is basically Twentynine Palms, right down to the long takes and scenic views. The only differences are that Gerry is about 2 guys, while Twentynine Palms is about a guy and a girl, and the ending to Twentynine Palms is even more strange than the ending to Gerry. Also, Gerry has humour and decent dialogue; Twentynine Palms doesn’t. This movie is just plain boring, and I didn’t care for the acting (or the script) at all. Hmm, maybe I should’ve written about Gerry instead. See that, don’t see this.

Actually, I take that back. See it. As someone who loves movies, I consider it kind of a point of pride that I can sit through anything. It just makes you appreciate great movies all the more, and besides, maybe this movie will be right up your alley. Who am I to say? So I would say see it, and be prepared to find out you hate it.

To me, the movie could’ve been cut in half (if not more) and nothing would have been lost. I guess I understand that having the movie longer makes the ending more effective, but honestly by the time the ending came, my eyes were starting to glaze over. I didn’t follow exactly what happened and I couldn’t see myself sitting through the whole damn thing again just to sort it all out.

The other problem is that the ending goes for shock, but really garners more of a “what the hell?” reaction. The same can be said for a lot of the movie. I saw it with an audience and there seemed to be a lot of laughing at parts that didn’t really merit laughs, in my opinion. I thought about it afterward, and I decided that people were laughing because they were uncomfortable. I give the director credit for that. The movie is good at creating discomfort. It’s definitely not something you sit around and watch with friends, unless you want to feel awkward as hell.

After writing all this, I kind of want to go back and see this movie again. It’s been 4 years since I watched it and I want to see if it’s as bad as I remembered or what. Unfortunately (or fortunately perhaps) the movie is probably not all that readily available.

I guess that about does it. Until next time…

The Apartment

This week, I’m looking at 1960’s The Apartment. When I started this blog I had in mind that I would do movies from as many different decades as possible, and this one breaks the streak I had going, since I’ve already looked at the sixties. Oh well. My next movie will probably be from the fifties, although I don’t know exactly which one I’ll pick yet.

Anyways I chose to do this movie because it’s one of those “classics” that everyone seems to love (8.4/10 on IMDb). I did not. I didn’t hate the movie by any means, and in fact it started out really strongly. It seemed like it was going to be a straight comedy at first, but then it took a sharp turn into dramatic territory, before finishing up with a rather cheesy ending.

The movie has some major talent behind it. It’s directed by Billy Wilder, who was also responsible for Sunset Blvd. and Double Indemnity (two film-noirs that I do love). Jack Lemmon is great as C.C. Baxter (“C” for Calvin, “C” for Clifford), an accountant at a huge firm in New York. He finds himself constantly lending his apartment out to his bosses for their extramarital affairs, which helps him to rise quickly through the ranks, but also leaves him without a place to sleep on many occasions.

The problem is that his bosses expect him to vacate the apartment at a moment’s notice, and threaten him with demotions at work if he refuses. It’s a pretty original story that has rather few laugh-out-loud moments, but is still quite funny. Lemmon’s character is presented almost as a victim of circumstances, someone who is constantly being imposed upon but who never stands up for himself or puts his foot down. In spite of it all, Baxter maintains almost unfailing cheerfulness and just keeps rolling with the punches.

The movie fell apart for me a little bit towards the middle, but saying much more than that would spoil things. Suffice to say there are complications in Baxter’s scheme. I didn’t mind that so much, but it’s the way these complications are resolved that troubled me. It seems as though Wilder (who also wrote the script, along with L.A.L. Diamond) had come up with an ending and just shoehorned the action in the movie into that ending without scripting it very well.

I still give the movie credit for being funny, well-acted, and original, I just thought the story could have been fleshed out a little bit more. Basically, I’d recommend it solely on the basis of Jack Lemmon’s performance, but I don’t think it lives up to the hype.

At this point I guess it’s only fair to mention that The Apartment did pick up 5 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. So maybe I’m just crazy. I could get into the fact that my favourite movie from 1960, which it just so happens I’ve covered in a previous post, wasn’t even nominated in any of the major categories. But why bother… I guess the Academy just doesn’t appreciate a good western. Not “artsy” enough I suppose.