Monday, August 07, 2006

This is the girl.

Girish's reminder that Inland Empire's debut is right around the corner had me reaching for my copy of Lynch on Lynch over the weekend. (Oof, that was some wonky syntax. Deal with me. It's Monday.)

I'd forgotten that in his intro to the book's section on Mulholland Drive, editor Chris Rodley touches briefly on the film's meaning and just what exactly is going on, but is much more interested in why Lynch made it. Anyone familiar with the Twin Peaks backstory knows that Lynch and his co-creator Mark Frost spent years struggling with a Marilyn Monroe biopic before scrapping it and deciding to develope a murder-mystery soap opera. Here Rodley connects that aborted project with Drive:
At one time he agreed to direct a film, to be written by his Twin Peaks partner Mark Frost, based on Anthony Summers' book Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe. It never happened: "I loved the idea of this woman being in trouble," Lynch says, "but I didn't know if I liked it being a real story."
Marilyn was, of course, found dead in suspicious circumstances--lying on her bed in a semi-foetal position. She was supposed to have had mob connections. Hers was an unhappy childhood, and apparently she feared being genetically prone to insanity. She once noted that--as a Gemini--she was "Jekyll and Hyde. Two in one." She was even diagnosed as being a "borderline personality." "Borderlines" are emotionally unstable, excessively impulsive and dependent on external approval. They crave applause and become extremely depressed when rejected by others. Marilyn's lifelong friend, the poet Norman Rosten, is quoted at the beginning of Goddes: "Hollywood, the dream factory, has created a dream girl. Could she awaken to reality? And what was the reality? Was there a life for the girl outside the dream?"

This is the girl--probably, possibly, maybe.

Pretty perfect, huh?

Friday, August 04, 2006

A plea.

Since around 60% of my 2006 posts have contained some sort of pathetic "I'm sorry I was away, I'm'a do better, I'm back" bullshit, I'm going to forgo that shtick and get straight to talking about movies.

What better way to return to the fray than by writing about a movie none of you have seen? (Work with me, people, I'm rusty.) I just got back from a test screening of Billy Ray's Breach and I'm experiencing one of those nice movie highs that you get when you walk into a theater with no expectations and walk out deeply satisfied. The film's a fact-based thriller about the FBI and its case against Robert Hannsen; do me a favor, if that name doesn't instantly ring a bell, leave it alone. Don't go Google him or look him up on Wikipedia, Breach's twists will work that much better if you're fairly ignorant of the case (like I was).

If you've seen Ray's previous film, Shattered Glass, you have an idea of what you're in for: a competently shot, impeccably edited, precisely written, perfectly acted piece of entertainment. And again, Ray works his hoodoo voodoo by taking the blandest, most vanilla leading man imaginable (in Glass that'd be Hayden Christensen, in Breach it's Mr. Reese Witherspoon), making him act opposite a gauntlet of brilliant character actors (in this go-round it's Chris Cooper, Laura Linney, Gary Cole, and that girl from Wonderfalls) and somehow elicits a real and sturdy performance out of the guy.

Breach is the perfect Sunday afternoon movie to me; the weekend is fading fast, you're itching to go to the movies, and you want something substantial (so you feel like your Sunday afternoon has been wisely spent) but light (because you're hung-over, because you need to take your mind off the fact that Monday is rapidly approaching, because Lars Von Trier is too much for a Sunday, etc.). Here it is, kids.

But this is the main reason I'm writing about a movie that's not scheduled to come out until March of '07: I took part in the post-screening focus group... It's as depressing and soul-killing as you've heard. A lot of talkin' loud and sayin' nothing.

I'd like to point out that the movie--in the cut that I saw--clocks in at ninety minutes. The thing is perfectly paced, not an ounce of fat on it, the thing just clips. Over half the group felt it was "boring," "too slow," and "too long." Ninety minutes, people. Ninety. In addition they felt that not enough happened and they started offering notes: the movie's so dull, why couldn't they make Ryan Phillipe's wife a double-crossing spy? It needs more shoot-outs. Can't they change the fate of Hannsen/Cooper? People, this is a historically based piece. Making Phillipe's wife a double-crossing spy is not only fucking insane and dumb, it's, uh, not how it happened. If you don't like the "story arc" of Hannsen/Cooper, take it up with the FBI and, er, history.

It kills me to think that Universal executives are going to listen to playback of these focus group tapes and take any of it seriously. Surely they don't/won't, right? I'm not so sure.

So here's my plea: I'm know that one of my readers can get this post into the hands of some Universal executive's assistant or somebody who is covering Breach over there (I'm looking at you Ms. DreamWorks and you Ms. Focus) and I've just got to let them know -- please don't touch this thing. Please. Just let Billy leave it as is, it's a really really fine piece of film. And, look, if you want to listen to what those idiots have to say about how they felt about Chris Coooper's religion or how they felt about the portrayal of Phillipe and his wife's domestic life... fine, whatever, I'll deal. But for the love of Christ, ignore all the script notes (obvs) and realize that a ninety minute running time is not too long. Thank you.

That's it for now, yo. Back for more film nerd adventures soon.
And if you haven't seen Shattered Glass, get on it pronto.