Thursday, October 15, 2009

Happy 50, Todd Solondz


Ya wanna hear something horrible? I've seen Todd Solondz's new movie, Life After Wartime. I saw it last Saturday at the NYFF. And I really really loved it, too. That's not the horrible thing. The horrible thing is all of that happened and this is the first time I'm bringing it up since. Horrible! I find myself defeated whenever I want to write something though. I wanted to watch it again as soon as it was over and I still want to watch it right now and I don't know if I'm gonna be able to fully encapsulate my feelings about it until I do.

It's terrific, a worthy companion to Happiness, and it sort of represents what I guess you could call a further step towards maturity in his work. Not that I ever minded what he was doing before, obviously. But you know that part in Happiness when Lara Flynn Boyle tells Jane Adams that they're not laughing at her, they're laughing with her, and Jane says she's not laughing? That exchange always seemed to me to sum up Todd Solondz's films completely. But now, even though we are still laughing, lots and lots and lots, it definitely feels as if there's the slightest almost imperceptible step towards the characters actually laughing with us now. It's like he stepped five degrees to the left and the world he'd been staring at suddenly blossomed in a different way.

Maybe a lot of it has to do with casting - the new actors portraying his old characters are harder, older, less vulnerable. But even beyond that there are walking dreams, ghosts from the past, a magical realism more exposed and ever-ever-slightly more hopeful than before. There is a real true heart beating in this film. And it threw me the fuck off!

Mind you, unlike some people I think Solondz has always loved his characters, a lot more than people have ever given him credit for. But something has changed here. There's a pair of scenes in Life During Wartime, basically stand-alone right in the middle, that center on Ciaran Hinds as the released-pedophile Bill (played so memorably by Dylan Baker in Happiness) having a one-night-stand with Charlotte Rampling, and it's a pulsing open wound on the screen. So painful and sad that it took my breath away. If there were any justice - there ain't, of course - Rampling would get an Oscar nomination for her work here - it's lacerating. Of course the film doesn't even have a release date yet so that talk's premature anyway. And foolish. Nobody much gives awards for making the audience feel like shit. But if they did Todd Solondz would own a Lifetime Achievement version!

And I thank him for it. Have a happy birthday, Todd,
and make many many more movies. We need you.

No comments: