Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Spies of Hitch's Youth

Bridge of Spies -- In some ways I like the Steven Spielberg making movies right now more than ever - no he's not flying the crazy heights of his crazier blockbustier days but there's a hard confidence, bone-deep, that supports everything he does like a silver skeleton; we're in most assured hands with his film-making. I guess that comes from having the ability to literally do whatever the fuck you want to do; Spielberg can crow about superhero flicks all he wants but he's still got Hollywood on a string. Not many other people are making movies a bunch of middle-aged men stumbling around in snow banks with the budgets he's working with. If it seems like I'm avoiding actually talking about Bridge of Spies proper, the movie itself, it's because it is just a pretty basic, solid, old-fashioned thing - it's middle-aged men stumbling around in snow banks. But compelling ones! There are hints here and there of a Munich-esque anger underneath everything that I wish there were more of -- perhaps replacing one or two of the shots of Amy Ryan's silent moist eyes? -- but I can't knock the precision with which Spielberg's settled into doing what he wants to do these days.

Hitchcock / Truffaut -- You can tell director Kent Jones' heart lay in the moments when he's making the passages of Truffaut's classic text come to life - when he's able to fuse Alfred Hitchcock's words with Alfred Hitchcock's pictures all at once into little poems of image and theory and sound and fury. And these are the moments when the film works best - like the good parts of the Shining documentary Room 237, we swirl obsessively around Hitch's ideas, Vertigo-like, sussing out his many signs and meanings. There's other stuff, like the basic building of the book, the hard dead facts of the behind-the-scenes How This Happened, that are less inspired - the doc soars when it goes full bore psycho-cinematic though.

Youth -- Example number two of 2015 that everything up to and including life itself would be better off being narrated by Rachel Weisz. Good grief is she a honey-voiced wonder. In a way this movie might suffer in the shadow of The Lobster - there's the Weisz factor and a stilted tone in an airless upscale setting. But I still liked Youth very much and reveled in the chance to hang out in the Alps with low-key Michael Caine and Co. (I don't really get the chatter of awards hype for Jane Fonda though; her couple of scenes felt a bit off-step to me.) Anyway Youth didn't hit me as hard as director Paolo Sorrentino's last film The Great Beauty did, but I could see myself seeing this again in twenty years and maybe finding something deeper to cling to. Michael Caine is a pleasure.

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