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« We Need a Sociobiological Economics | Main | Moviegoing Update 2 -- "Au Hasard, Balthazar" »

November 03, 2003

Moviegoing Update 1 -- "In the Cut"

Dear Friedrich --

While you've been contending with out-of-control SoCal fires, The Wife and I have been running around to movies, theater, and readings. I'm going to indulge myself by jotting down my reactions to some of the things we've seen.

In the Cut: Suspense-free erotic thriller, with Meg Ryan as a Lower East Side creative-writing teacher who gets a little too involved with a murder investigation, and Mark Ruffalo as an is-he-the-good-guy-or-the-bad-guy cop who knows how to get her juices flowing. I thought Meg and Mark were terrific, even though the way the creative-writing gal is written makes even less sense than in the Susannah Moore novel the movie is based on. (Too bad too that the book's most scandalous scene isn't in the movie.)

The culprit here is the leadfooted work of the director Jane ("The Piano") Campion. Campion's an odd one: she's got a nose for touchy, hot-button female "issues" and a talent for impressionistic imagery. She'd make ravishing one-minute tone poems, she delivers hot sex scenes, and she's playing here with wonderfully dicey themes -- namely women's ambivalence about brutality, violence, and control. All of which may sound alluring.

But Campion, who has zero gift for storytelling and suspense, is an odd one to be making a genre picture; she seems as determined to be "interesting" as any quirky East Village girl, and she seems to feel that it would be anything but interesting to focus on the characters and the narrative. So there isn't a conventionally acted-out and staged scene in the movie. And the imagery is all fragments -- quick, jiggly shots with fancy lighting effects and post-production Photoshop whizbangery in almost every one. Usually this twitchy handheld camera is used to convey immediacy, excitement, "reality" -- but Jane Campion, who may be quirky but is also doggone serious, manages to make the style seem lugubrious. Which is a strange kind of achievement. Meanwhile, I sat there staring at Meg's character and thinking, Now tell me once again why this girl is doing what she's doing?

Hey, here's a review of Campion's "The Piano" I can pretty much get with.



posted by Michael at November 3, 2003


I hear ya. I HATED HATED HATED "The Piano". And I haven't seen a Campion film yet that didn't suck as much and pretty much in the same way "The Piano" did. That dialogue/review that you linked to was dead on. Especially this: "Campion is like Margaret Atwood and Naomi Wolf. They have temper tantrums over their right to have the most routine female fantasies." To me, Campion films have always been blatant hate-fests.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on November 4, 2003 11:10 AM

Y'know, I'm probably the only man alive who will admit to enjoying (parts) of "Steel Magnolias", but when I tried to watch "The Piano", I came to the conclusion that there are some places a Y chromosome just forbids you to go...

Posted by: jimbo on November 4, 2003 1:55 PM

"In the Cut" isn't politically offensive in the same way that "The Piano" was. But it's similarly narcissistic, high-minded and ponderous. Every guy's favorite filmmaker, is that the consensus?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on November 4, 2003 6:46 PM

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