Aneesh Chaganty

Archive for November, 2012|Monthly archive page

“Anna Karenina” | MAD Review

In Uncategorized on November 30, 2012 at 1:34 AM

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Anna Karenina

(2012, UK, d. Joe Wright)

One of the most under-appreciated filmmakers of this era is Joe Wright. His filmography includes Pride & Prejudice, AtonementHanna – and now the epic Russian tragedy Anna Karenina. There is much to love about this film, for despite its historical setting, Wright and (godsend) cinematographer Seamus McGarvey infuse the world of St. Petersburg and Moscow with such rich color, movement, and interpretation, it becomes very easy to be swept away by the melodrama in the piece. The story of Anna Karenina sounds like a bore – like an out-of-touch movie by a filmmaker who’s become far too emotionally irrelevant. But I promise you: the film is anything but.

It’s a film that challenges you to interpret its own message. On the surface, it seems like a self-reflexive piece. We open looking onto a stage where the film itself begins to unfold. Oftentimes, entire scenes will transition as if we were watching a play – sets will rise, new sets fall into place as we are transported from an elegant ballroom in Moscow to the dreary Karenin mansion in St. Petersburg to a snowy train station somewhere in between. However, our initial guesses prove false, for as the film progresses, it becomes clear it’s simply hiding it’s own message under the guise of self-reflexivity. The sets begin to take on a deeper meaning. Open spaces tell whole stories. 

My main critique of the film was that despite all the melodrama and passion, I wish we had delved into Anna’s obsession, love and downfall further than we did. The story was told perfectly well through its formal elements (don’t even get me started on the near-perfection the camera achieves) but I feel as if Keira Knightley was underused – like an eraser we never want to erase with as to keep its perfect look. For me, the audience was always looking at Anna, rather than looking out from Anna’s eyes. But perhaps, this was the intention. Regardless, Knightley’s performance is among the year’s most captivating.

Though not nearly as invigorating as Wright’s earlier Atonement, it seems as if he’s onto something here. I only hope this film’s inevitable mediocre-box office doesn’t limit the stories and resources he’s allowed for the future. 

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“Hitchcock” | MAD Review

In Uncategorized on November 29, 2012 at 6:53 PM

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Hitchcock 

(2012, US, d. Sacha Gervasi)

I had a lot of fun during this film, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. Let’s start with the positive: Stylistically fresh, energetic, and self-aware, HItchcock easily surpasses the burdens of its “historical” and “old Hollywood” setting (none of which are bores to me, but others tend to disagree) and injects life into what was essentially an extended “Making Of” featurette you would expect on the Special Features of a film…in this case, Psycho. I guess that’s what happens when you base a movie on a book entitled “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho” (written by Stephen Rebello). But that said, I did go into the film hoping for a little more. This may have been my fault, but when you make a movie called Hitchcock, you expect a sort of character study on the man. This film always felt too comfortable. The only real dramatic tension came from the instability of the Hitchcock marriage, and even that – at it’s worst – was a rich, creative partnership. There were moments Hitchcock (played very respectably by Anthony Hopkins) feared, but those were short-lived. I wanted more. This is a film that could have stretched its 1 hour and 30 minute running time by another 45 minutes. It nailed all the plot elements with the right amount of flair and energy, but I was missing the fears and vulnerabilities of the guy the movie was named after. But that said, for what it was, I really enjoyed it. Though this won’t be a film I expect to see making the rounds in the awards season, I do hope for two things: 1. Helen Mirren is recognized for her performance as Alma Hitchcock, easily one the best supporting performances I’ve seen all year and 2. The sound design in this film is not overlooked. Watch out for the latter. It’ll surprise you.