January 13th, 2007


Children of Walter Huston

I think it was in The Proposition that I first noticed Danny Huston and I thought to myself, "Another interesting and talented person named Huston? Surely not another of Walter Huston's talented descendents." And yet he is--now there's Walter, John, Angelica, and Danny.

He's good at being abrupt and sort of cerebral. Aside from The Proposition, where he played an intellectual psychopathic outlaw, he was also memorable as the Austrian emperor in Sophia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, and as a rich art collector in Children of Men.

His scene in that last movie is one of its most striking, partly because it's quiet and sort of brobdingnagianly elegant in the midst of a movie that is otherwise an impressive, breakneck exercise of overlapping Orwellian dystopia with brilliantly humanistic action sequences.

Children of Men does a marvellous job of maintaining tension without fatiguing the viewer to the point of losing herhisits suspension of disbelief. A lot of the ads compare the movie to Blade Runner, but it's not quite that good, and indeed a different sort of movie. Blade Runner may in many ways seem to be a credible glimpse of the future, but the movie's not really about trying to predict the future. Blade Runner's about existentialism and dark fantasy, while Children of Men is solidly a tale of humans reacting to the very credible future the movie creates. It's about politics and the ways in which an insurmountable and inexplicable catastrophe can produce totalitarianism through people's willingness to be led away from grim reality. In fact, in many ways, Children of Men is the movie V for Vendetta ought to have been.

In their rush to create anti-Bush propaganda, the makers of the V for Vendetta movie missed the comic book's message about humanity's fear of deadly chaos driving it to create a firm system of Knowns. Though while the V for Vendetta comic pits the impoverished totalitarian state against an agent of anarchy, Alfonso Cuarón's protagonists are more in the camp of vague hope and intrinsic optimism for human nature. Perhaps there's even a spiritual element, as the idea of a miraculous pregnancy to save humanity seems clearly allegorical.

But fortunately (for me, anyway), the movie's more about how people react under the stress of desperate adventures, which is a lot of fun. Clive Owen's great as always, and so is Claire-Hope Ashitey as the pregnant woman. Danny Huston's brief scene is interesting--as a well placed government official, he's used his wealth and resources to save works of art from ravaging mobs, so his otherwise austere white home is decorated with Michelangelo's David and Picasso's Guernica. A pair of pet oversized dogs completes the impression rather nicely of a home I bet the film's art designer would probably have designed for himself.
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I recently purchased a copy of Dario Argento's Suspiria, a really nice three disk set, one disk of which is the movie's original soundtrack by Goblin.

I'd seen Supiria once before when I was in high school. My friend, Marty, who was my high school film teacher, had a poster in his class room of the movie with the tagline, "The only thing more terrifying than the last 12 minutes of this film are the first 92."

"So the end's kind of a letdown?" I said. Marty said nothing could be further from the truth and let me borrow his VHS copy, and I was duly impressed by the film. But not as impressed as I was by this DVD version, which is widescreen and a much cleaner print, preserving the crisp and strange colour palette for which the film is so well known.

Actually, more than an enjoyable experience of fear, I found the movie great more for how beautiful it is, with its art nouveau set designs and boldly strange green, red, and blue lighting effects.

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