Acting on general orders from robyn_ma, I saw Across the Universe last night. It was pretty good. It's directed by Julie Taymor, whose film version of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus I'd really enjoyed. And I liked her movie about Frida Kahlo.
I'm not sure Across the Universe really succeeds as a story. There are too many elements introduced and left dangling. The movie serves the music more than it serves itself, so as a series of loosely connected music videos, it works pretty well. It's frustrating to have a lesbian cheerleader introduced so brilliantly with "I Wanna Hold Your Hand", only to have her story all but fizzle out. And the use of "Happiness is a Warm Gun" to portray a Viet Nam vet's addiction to morphine is interesting, but also goes nowhere. Most of the Viet Nam stuff, shot on stylish sets, was incredibly difficult to appreciate after seeing the extraordinarily realistic Rescue Dawn so recently. Though I did sort of like the image of a bunch of young guys in their underwear, trudging over a miniature Viet Nam, carrying a heavy model of the Statue of Liberty on their backs.
Another real problem I had with the movie--and this one's probably my fault--is I couldn't enjoy how pretty everyone was. Seeing a guy who works at a Liverpool industrial shipyard, living in a tiny home with his mother, with perfect skin, a great body, and wearing pristine sweaters is to me like looking at one of those pictures of an object that seems to have three prongs at one end and two on the other. But I think I'm missing the magic of musicals there.
The movie gives Eddie Izzard what is probably his best role ever, as a demented ringmaster called Mr. Kite. His sequence begins when massive models of hands and arms are pulled back to reveal a massive model of a head in a green forest clearing--I was reminded of the "Bojangles of Harlem" sequence in Swing Time*. This segues into a great scene of our heroes making love naked underwater. It's a PG-13 movie that gets away with a couple girl nipples here and there, mostly by playing the Titanic artist's model card, but this movie would have been great rated R. You see exactly the kind of odd blocking that David Cronenberg managed to avoid recently when Viggo Mortensen decided it was okay for everyone to see his penis. There's also a curious scene of people smoking invisible joints--it's so obviously a technique to get around censorship that it's a little distracting, even as it makes clear how ridiculous the censorship is.
But I don't want anyone to get the idea this movie's not worth seeing--it's good Beatles music, performed well with beautiful sets and costumes.
I had sushi again before the movie at a little place right next to the movie theatre inside the mall. I'm fiercely craving sushi a lot lately. It's a good thing I found a really cheap place for it that nonetheless sells good sushi--I had a two piece meal with green tea a little while ago for just eight dollars.
I read The Lathe of Heaven last night while eating my sushi. I'm deeply, passionately in love with this book--I'm already about two-thirds through, which is fast for me. I think Heather Lelache is my dream girl.
I finally broke down and ordered the new Criterion edition of Seven Samurai. I'd read several really astonished reviews about how much better the film looks now, and I saw that Amazon had it on sale for ten dollars off. Considering how much better their newer edition of Yojimbo was compared to their old one, I'm really looking forward to this.
*I keep being reminded of Swing Time lately.