Following Raising Arizona, Wild at Heart is only the second film on Cage’s filmography that I’d seen before starting this project so going in for a second viewing I knew what I was going to be facing. And simply I couldn’t wait to get back into David Lynch’s Bonnie and Clyde-like road movie. Wild at Heart follows Sailor (Cage) a convicted killed who brutally beats a man to death in the opening scene after having a knife pulled on him and his girl, Lula (Laura Dern). After serving his sentence Lula comes rushing back to him against her mothers demands and the pair of love birds go on a wild escapade across the vast plains of America in what seems to be a particularly strange, Lynchian interpretation of our modern day world.
This film is one of the reasons why I love Lynch so much, its packed to the brim with his unique, stylish, yet awkward and uncomfortable hyper-realistic style. Wild at Heart has a more understandable plot than other Lynch films but that’s not to say its normal by any stretch. There are a number of scenes that don’t seem to have any bearing on the actual storyline, and lots of cryptic lines and shots that are difficult to read and understand. Out of these cryptic tendencies comes one of the films most intriguing themes, the constant reference to The Wizard of Oz, of course, this is partly a nod to one of cinema’s greatest achievements but it’s also an acute and incredibly well thought-out metaphor for what’s going on with these bizarre central characters. As they spiral out of control in a burst of sex, violence and crime it’s as if they’re trapped in this strange new world with larger than life characters. As the film goes on the references become more explicit to the point where Lula even taps her red heels together three times and wishes to go home. There is no escape for her though and she is trapped in this chaotic and haunting place, stuck in a particularly unusual relationship with Sailor. Before going into Cage’s performance it’s important to mention just how brilliant Willem Dafoe is in this movie as Bobby Peru, a slimy wheeler dealer who isn’t introduced till late in the proceedings. He has a habit of saying particularly disturbing stuff before laughing it all off as a joke, but his yellow-stubby braced teeth and crazed eyes show us a bubbling insanity and a dark core at the centre of another strange metaphorical character in Lynch’s vision. Cage is simply exceptional in this film, too. He is perfect casting for Lynch’s over-the-top and almost cartoony world. Every move cage makes, every line and every action is just a bit more hammy than you’d expect and it really gives Wild at Heart it’s all-important mood.
In terms of Cage Rage rating this film has to get top marks, with a scene of hideous violence at the hands of Cage to kick things off the insanity doesn’t let up throughout. While this may not be Lynch at his absolute finest Cage is a perfect match for the director and it’s a real shame the two haven’t worked together since. A great watch and the second 5/5 rating.
It was right in the middle of my Freshers fortnight when Drive came out here in the UK and as I was attempting to make some new friends at uni I organised a little trip with some mates, persuading them to come to this instead Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Drive starts off very slow, you’ll know if you’ve seen it, which had me worried having talked my new buddies out of TTSS. But little did we know what it was all building up to; a gripping summary packed with stylish violence, gorgeous cinematography and Ryan Gosling in the form of his life. Two years down the line and the guys I went to see Drive with are now my best mates, and the film is one of my all time favourites. But more importantly, Nicholas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling have returned with Only God Forgives. An epic, yet abstract crime opus set in Hong Kong. We follow Julian (Gosling) a drug dealer who hides his business by hosting boxing matches. In a twisted tale of revenge his brother is killed and his mother (Kristin Scott Thomas), a stubborn bitch to say the least, turns up and forces Julian to avenge his death.
It’s a much more artistic movie than Drive using visual metaphors and dream like scenes with characters you’re never sure are real or not as Julian battles both inner demons and outer in a a bloodthirsty thriller. It’s not completely unlike Drive, there is very little dialogue as Refn lets his actors and his cinematography do most of the talking with artistic expression and flourishes of brutal violence are to be found throughout. There are major differences though, Only God Forgives is not a film that’s going to please mainstream audiences. It’s not an easy film, it demands thought and time invested in it and most audiences, even a large number critics it seems, haven’t been willing to give this movie the time it deserves. While Drive was really an extremely well executed action movie Only God Forgives is an arthouse movie which takes as much from Lynch movies than it does from the action greats. It’s a dark, bitter film that may leave you with a bad taste in the mouth but it’s done so well that I can’t understand why it hasn’t got the deserved reception.
Nicholas Winding Refn can never be accused of being boring and now with a sizeable filmography behind him he has made himself one of the most interesting auteurs out there, with the minor blip of Valhalla Rising all his movies are great watches and manage to be vastly different from each other while still holding the same themes but looked at in different ways. He knows how to make a completely intriguing lead character and base a whole movie around them with very little dialogue and his cinematography just keeps getting better. For me I might slightly prefer Drive but Only God Forgives is not far off, don’t listen to the critics this is a great movie brings Refn’s name even greater clout.
As CAGE RAGE continues the second step on my stairway to Cage heaven was Francis Ford Coppola’s Rumble Fish. A stylish black-and-white street gang movie. Cage only provides support here as the lead roles are taken by Matt Dillon and an unrecognisable, young Mickey Rourke. Dillon plays Rusty James a character who is misunderstood by both his older brother (The Motorcycle Boy, Rourke) and his father (Dennis Hopper). Rusty James lives constantly in the shadow of his elders, his brother is some kind of legend on the street, but whenever Rusty James tries to be like him it goes drastically wrong.
Shot entirely in black-and-white, until a few flashes of colour at the very end the best thing about this movie is how it looks. There are a number of outstanding fight scenes where some of the shots will get any movie fan excited. The story’s an intriguing one as well and while the main idea of the plot is fairly run-of-the-mill the way events pan out is clever and gives the movie an unexpected emotional kick. The performance from Dillon is strong and leaves you wondering why he’s only really gone on to star in mediocre cinema, he’s both believable and sympathetic as the insecure little brother and you really feel for him when he is belittled by his older brother. Rourke is something special here too. As for Cage, though, there really is not quite enough of him, when he is there he’s great and he is involved in the odd fight scene but once the film reaches its mid-point he is more-or-less out of the story altogether, which is greatly disappointing.
As a film I found Rumble Fish an enjoyable watch, not without its flaws but artistically filmed and very well acted creating an emotional and gripping story with an empowering end. For CAGE RAGE it, sadly, doesn’t give us quite what we’re wanting, a great shame.
This week I also got round to watching David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis. Released last year his latest movie stars Robert Pattinson as a young billionaire in a kind of futuristic/alternative who wants a hair cut but things keep getting in his way. Before I go on with the review I do need to make clear that for the majority of the film I had no idea what was going on and I still don’t really know what the hell was happening but I will try and give you the best opinion I can from that. The film was based on a book of the same name which I am now very intrigued to read because it would certainly explain the goings-on better than the film does.
Now one of the first things to note about Cosmopolis is, of course, R-Pattz the teen heartthrob is on completely new territory here really and I must say he does an incredible job. A million miles away from his famous Twilight role here he portrays this ballsy, soft-spoken, stuck-up, down-to-earth, selfish, sex addicted young billionaire in a way that I could not imagine anyone else doing better. He’s voice works perfectly in this kind of role and with his gaze rather than making teenage girls swoon he gives us something quite sinister and dark.
The best thing about the film though is easily Cronenberg’s direction every is stringently selected so that even though I didn’t really understand what was happening I could still get some idea of what this mad alternative world is and what the stories was trying to say. Just as Pattinson’s character is deadpan and bored the way in which the film is shot reflects his feelings towards the world and takes you inside the protagonist’s head. It’s just a shame overall that the whole plot is not explained to people who haven’t read the book. I watched this film with three other people and none of us had any clue, the climactic scene involving Pattinson and an on-form Giamatti feels as if it should have some profound meaning and provide some big tension but that is lost because I din’t know what was happening. Maybe the project was just too big in the end but this is still worth a watch and I’d like to read the book and then go back to this and see if things become any clearer.
One of the biggest critical successes of the last year has been Leon Carax’s Holy Motors so last night once everyone else had gone to bed I thought what better way to end Christmas day than with a slice of arthouse? The film that ensued was a fever-dream of comedy, drama, beauty and in above all, utter weirdness. Holy Motors follows Monsieur Oscar as he appears to play a number of different characters by changing life every time he hops in his limousine.
Right from the off you know you’re not in for anything normal, there is silence for the opening 5-10 mins as we see an audience in a cinema screen and then watch a man search for a door hidden in a wall, then Monsieur Oscar is welcomed into the limousine and the madness begins. It takes a few different scenarios before it clicked what was happening. Every time he gets in the limousine he comes out the other side a different person in a different situation, during his trips in the car he’s given briefings and taken to a place where he can re-do his make-up. There is obviously a lot of hidden meaning to the events that take place but I must admit I only took what I was seeing at face value but still found it strangely riveting.
The variety of different characters he portrays speaks of both actor Denis Lavant’s skilset and Carax’ for being able to create such a vast array of different scenes. It moves from strange sewer-dwelling leprechaun who kidnaps a model (pictured above), to everyday father picking up his daughter from a party or a CG lizard having sex you really couldn’t dream of anything more eclectic. Somehow it all works though, somehow every scene has you gripped and wondering what’s going to happen. When it comes to end I don’t want to give anything away because it was the surprise that got me but let me just say it’s just hilariously weird. This film is something I could watch over and over attempting to figure out what it means and failing, a funny Mulholland Drive, perhaps? What I do know for certain is that Holy Motors makes choosing my favourite film of the year even harder than it already was….
The Master is P.T. Anderson’s sixth feature and his latest since 2007’s Oscar winning There Will Be Blood. Starring Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master tells the story of a stowaway who ends up on a ship with a group who all follow The Master’s (Hoffman) Cause, said to be based on scientology. Phoenix plays Freddie Quell who immediately hits things off with The Master, real name Lancaster Dodd, and is used as a test subject for some of Dodd’s new experimental processes designed to help members of The Cause to improve their understanding. As the film goes on it becomes clear that the members of The Cause have been trying to help Quell get over his strange psychological issues, which is quite clearly caused by sexual repression. Anderson creates a wonderful comparison between two kinds of insanity while examining the ideas of belief, cult and psychology.
The acting by the entire cast is second to none. Phoenix’s lead performance is flawless as he becomes this slightly strange bloke from the 50’s who is clearly completely lost within himself and in search of some identity and some love. Hoffman is similarly mesmerising as the charismatic Master who spends half his time being incredibly friendly and happy and the other half losing his shit whenever anyone tackles his belief system. No answers are ever given as to why what he’s saying is true. Amy Adams is also excellent as Dodd’s wife who actually seems to be a bit of a driving force behind The Cause’s cult like membership system opting to cut anyone out who does something she doesn’t like.
The narrative of the film at times feels non-existent and that’s because it mostly is. This film is not about plot this film is about it’s characters. And that makes it all the better. It is a study of human character and is left open to the viewers interpretation. Much like There Will Be Blood it is slow moving but it is paced in such a way for a reason; to make you think. And make you think The Master certainly will, I was lying in bed last night for ages thinking of what different things meant. One thing that I can be sure of, though, is that this is a great film further adding to Anderson’s sublime filmography this must be another shout for an Oscar.