Sunday, May 11, 2008

Fear and Romance The Hard Way

I'm slowly trying to make this blog more focused and professional looking and I hope to starting adding things like videos soon, but for now I want to get my thoughts on two recent movies out of the way. I recently found the local Blockbuster so I can get in the habit of seeing more recent films again. Both of the first two films I rented featured John Turturro in some regard but not at his best.


This was supposed to be the big American crossover success for Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn who had previously made a really good thriller in his home country called "Pusher". Needless to say things didn't work out that way and watching Fear X I understand why.

John Turturro stars in this movie as a mall security guard obsessed with finding the mysterious person who shot and killed his wife in a parking lot. There was such an ominous, hallucinatory atmosphere throughout this picture that I was afraid they were going to end it with the predictable twist of Turturro himself turning out to be the killer. Thankfully they didn't go that route but the plot that did unfold was an underwhelming X-Files / Twin Peaks hybrid involving vigilante cops. It all turned out to be much more vague and unsatisfying than it needed to be with low-lit sinister tableaux that seemed to be imitations of much better and more original works. Watching Turturro creep around dark red hotel corridors flashed me back to "Barton Fink". I kept expecting John Goodman to run down the hall carrying a shotgun and screaming "I'll show you the life of the mind!".

When Turturro was playing the part of a blocked writer in "Barton Fink" it turns out he actually did begin working on a screenplay. That screenplay became the second film I saw:


Turturro both wrote and directed this tongue-in-cheek musical about a steelworker with a wife and three grown daughters who is having a torrid affair with another woman. You could actually believe the Barton Fink character wrote this. It's pretentious, obvious and silly, a movie that takes its cues from ironic works by the likes of Godard, Truffaut, Fassbinder and Dennis Potter but doesn't do anything that hasn't been many times before. Just like in Potter's "Pennies From Heaven" the characters express themselves by singing along to pop songs, this time including "Piece Of My Heart", "A Man Without Love" and "Delilah" but there's no surprise to it especially when there are so many familiar faces in the cast.

Turturro seems to have gotten all of his New York area acting buddies like James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon and Steve Buscemi into this but not given them anything new to do. Buscemi plays a typical Steve Buscemi role. Christopher Walken plays a typical Christopher Walken role, including dancing, and Gandolfini even does his entire role in his Tony Soprano voice. It's a cute idea to cast Mandy Moore, Mary Louise Parker and Aida Turturro as Gandolfini's punk rocker daughters (even though two of them are close to his age) but they have nothing to do except stand around the edges and complain. Kate Winslet's foul mouthed Molly Bloom take as the other woman would have been more memorable in a better movie.

The cast may be attractive but this is really a massive piece of self indulgence that was probably a lot more fun to make than it is to watch.

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