Saturday, February 3, 2007

Jason watches "The Good German" and "Lost Highway"

And after watching "The Good German" I've seen everything nominated for best art direction. I promise I'll start writing up my oscar picks soon. I also hope to see "Letters from Iwo Jima" today.

Anyway, "The Good German" was pretty cool, and Steven Soderbergh continues to be, for better or worse, one of the most interesting and individualistic directors working today. It's one thing to make a movie about 1945 Berlin (specifically, during the Potsdam peace conference). It's another thing to make it look like a movie from 1945. It's a whole different level to be so committed to the 1945 look that you insist on using 1945 technology and techniques. And I say this is interesting for better or worse because the end result is that you can "see the strings"--you can see what is real and what is fake (and most of it is fake). Still, that can be part of the charm, and it really does feel like watching a 1940's movie, but with modern actors. In fact, news footage of Churchill, Truman, and Stalin feels less out of place than George Clooney, Tobey Maguire, and Cate Blanchett.

Besides the technical fascination and how the look of a movie can put you immediately in that time period, there's also a really good mystery story here. In fact, I'm tempted to pick up Joseph Kanon's novel on which it was based and read it.

Okay, then I saw "Lost Highway" for a few reasons:
1. I had to drive all the way down to Santa Cruz to see "The Good German" because it was no longer playing anywhere closer. "Lost Highway" was the midnight movie shortly after "The Good German" got out.
2. "Lost Highway" is a movie I like, but don't quite understand yet. Everytime I watch it, I think I get a little closer (and I might have it now, more below).
3. Watching a David Lynch mind-fuck is good practice for "Inland Empire", which opens Indiefest this Thursday.

Okay, so "Lost Highway" is ten years old, so I'm going to assume if you're reading this, you've seen it (if not, I'm not going to get into the plot, but it's possible what I write might constitute a "spoiler", in as much as it might change how you watch the movie). For me, the key to the movie is Fred Madison's (Bill Pullman) assertion that he doesn't like video cameras because he prefers to remember things his way, "How I remembered them. Not necessarily the way they happened." So, the premise is that most--if not all--of the movie is his inaccurate memories. Quite possibly it's even his life flashing before his eyes and he dies (in the electric chair? For murdering his wife?). There are still some small points to dissect--is he really Fred Madison, or is he Peter Raymond Dayton (Balthazar Getty)? Or, a pet theory I have, he's actually the mystery man and he's remembering himself as either Fred or Peter at any given time (and how freaky that he's played by Robert Blake, who went on to allegedly kill his wife in real life?) Yeah, there's still stuff I can tease out of it. But on a higher level, what is it all about? Whether it's Fred remembering himself as Peter, or vice-versa, or the mystery man remembering himself as both; whether it's his final thoughts as he's being executed or just a really bad dream, there's still an overarching theme. And that is, "man's disgust at his own libido." Okay, now everyone go rent the movie and watch it while thinking about that.


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