This is a new edition of this post, it’s a follow-up to one wherein I chronicled the films I could recall having viewed on my birthday. Some have been good to great, some have been awful. I usually try to make the selection something befitting a mood I wouldn’t mind being in on that day (hence I saved Amour for today) and something I think I would remember. I think both the titles from yesterday. For a guide to what these ratings mean, please go here.
This is a film that I wanted to see first because it’s Coppola returning to horror, but then also because of some of the people involved. I cannot argue by any means that it’s perfect. However, if there’s one thing that gets under my skin is when people argue “It’s just a horror movie” implying: there’s a ceiling to how good it can be, or it’s OK if it’s stupid, or worse, it’s allowed to be unambitious. I don’t think this film falls into any of those tappings. It’s hard to say if going beyond a standard horror film’s running time would’ve benefitted or hurt it, but I think it may have hurt. I recall that why I liked My Soul to Take so much was underscored by what was left on the cutting room floor. The exposition that was deleted spoon-fed things I and my friends pieced together after it was over, and that made it more powerful. There are deeper mysteries and enigmas here and multiple plots all horrific and well-wrought, though they don’t always seem so. After seeing him in a few that were not-so-great, it’s good to see Val Kilmer in a fascinating horror film.
The allusion I made above to occasional greatness definitely applies here. For a filmmaker such as Woody Allen who on many occasions has been accused of using his films as therapy and being un-cinematic this film is a rebuttal. For myself, as a long-time devotee, it’s wondrous not only to see him work a story that again employs a wonderful editorial language that is quickly-learned and never off; but also such a non-judgmental character study. It’s a film of revelation rather than reparation. It has its humor, too, but is perhaps the most searing, honest drama he’s committed to the screen since Husbands and Wives. The casting, as well as the cast, is flawless; but it’s really Cate Blanchett who makes this film work. She’s as powerful, if not more so, in her character’s detached, pained moments as she is in the “big” ones, which is what makes her turn so immaculate. It’s a performance that towers not only due to the sparsity of great roles afforded women in the American cinema lately, but because of how titanic an effort it is on its own.
Engaging and enthralling from the first frame this film of a life shattered, whether by design or not, may be his most Bergmanesque, and is truly one of the year’s best.