Monday, December 03, 2007

Two other examples of directors who need an intervention from

In It's A Coen, Coen, Coen, Coen Bros. World, The Dude, now married to Ed McDunnough, discovers A Satchel Of Money People Are Dying Over, and winds up running from Leonard Smalls while Marge Gunderson follows a few paces behind. Everyone seems a bit frustrated to be stuck in this familiar tale of goober store clerks, goober motel clerks and macabre violence, openly wondering why each other bothers, but the performances, set pieces and extreme close-ups of evidence are engaging enough to make the film entertaining in a logey, predictable Ocean's Thirteen way. Following The Ladykillers and Intolerable Cruelty, this self-serious retreat-to-form is currently #21 on the imdb top 200 and may well get them some Oscar love.

Casualties Of War II: The Redactening is equally disappointing auteur theory fodder, with Brian DePalma attempting to combine the biting media commentary of Hi, Mom! with the wartime rape plot of the original film. While Coen confections can be tossed willy-nilly without harm, DePalma's more substantive ideas clash. Casualties was about a soldier's moral dilemma, not an attack on the Vietnam war itself. The micro details distract from his macro goal here, offering the thesis "war allows RAPE to happen," which is doubly offensive as A) war would be horrible even if it didn't, and B) people get away with rape all the time. Where the Coens show they can still make a gunfight awkward and memorable, DePalma reveals he's still incapable of making a remotely watchable static-shot scene of two people in conversation. The "found footage" concept tragically forces him to abandon his gifts and use security cameras to capture rants that would be melodramatic in any context.

Before the film goes haywire, DePalma does succeed in forcing you to acknowledge embarassing facts about the Iraq War that are being made easy to forget. The sequences credited to a French documentary show off his visual wit and, until the overripe speeches get under way, the actors have an affecting, fratty anonymity. Had DePalma not been distracted by his tortured obsession with misogynist violence, the film might have been praised for inspiring the frustrated anger it desires rather than criticized for its interminable obviousness. Instead, critics and arthouse audiences alike get to cheer those guys who can really do that thing they liked for finally doing that thing again in a relatively classy way. DePalma's upcoming Untouchables: Capone Rising may be a little too obvious in its intent to receive the same appreciation.

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