Much like Terry Gilliam’s great film Brazil, his new Brothers Grimm behaves according to its own peculiar logic. It is a magical world without magic, and vice versa. Gilliam has come full circle from his first feature, Jabberwocky, back to the point where plot and character are mostly irrelevant to the expressionistic visuals. A sort of extended riff on fairytales, the movie features Matt Damon and Heath Ledger in the titular roles, not as the historical linguists and folklorists that the real Brothers Grimm were, but instead as charlatans who use the superstitions of the German people to liberate them of their municipal savings.
Set during the time of French occupation, Gilliam’s mise en scene is full of elaborate pomp and circumstance. Add to this a collaborating Italian torture-master and the Brothers Grimm is certainly unlike any stately Mechant/Ivory or Barry Lyndon version of Napoleonic Europe. Once the movie ventures into the dark and unknown forest, a more conventional Priness Bride feel emerges, only to give way to a mishmash of fairytales so excessive that it could only have come from ink notes by Bruno Bettleheim upon which water had been spilled.
The acting in this movie is universally atrocious — from Monica Bellucci right on down to Jonathon Pryce. The plot is beyond ridiculous. (Fairytales never even mentioned in the collection of the Brothers Grimm are horned in.) I didn’t care. Because trainwrecks like this one are simply fun to watch.
RELATED: Arnold Zwicky says Brothers Grimm is not linguistically sound.
NEMESIS OPINION: Manohla Dargis more or less agrees about the confusing nature of the film, but doesn’t come down for or against.
Wong Kar-wai’s movies are not for everyone. Including me. I didn’t much care for Days of Being Wild and In the Mood for Love. And yet this movie, a semi-sequel that dwells in the land of regret and loss, affected me with its langorous pace and lingering visuals.
As I figure it, Wong Kar-wai would not even be half as popular a filmmaker if not for the considerable talents of cinematographer Christopher Doyle (Hero) and actors Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung. He’s the unneccessary fourth leg of a tripod. A former screenwriter, he somehow manages to turn any interesting narrative into mush. The same thing happens in the 2046 — but expecting it, I didn’t mind so much.
2046 was the hotel room where the shy writer couldn’t bring himself to admit his love in In the Mood for Love. That movie has lived as an art-house classic. I guess some people like to watch two hours of unrequitedness. I was hoping Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung would -get- -it- -on-.
At least in 2046, the Tony Leung character has that chance. Now inexplicably a ladies man, the movie follows non-linearly his affairs with several women, many of whom happen to end up in a room 2046 of a hotel. Zhang Ziyi, the new chinese siren, plays one of them, in the most hot-and-heavy romance of the movie. Her character seems too vibrant for the repressed world of Wong Kar-wai, and so I guess it is inevitable that she departs it for what he has built up, in this trilogy, as a mythical land where ‘old lovers who never die’ go: Singapore.
There is another mythical terrain, that of the sci-fi 2046, a novella by the writer character that is dramatized on screen all too little. Apparently the movie also had some martial arts sequences at one time. They were cut, probably because they would have entertained the audience. 2046 is apparently a place that is hard to escape from. The movie 2046 is easy to escape from. Several old ladies sitting behind me walked out, after loudly expressing to each other how bored and confused they were.
If you can’t stand being bored and confused for small payoffs, 2046 is not your movie. What can I say? Maybe I was just in the mood for it.
RELATED: Wong explains the origins of 2046 in an interview.
NEMESIS OPINION: Manohla Dargis says “Mr. Wong is one of the few filmmakers working in commercial cinema who refuse to be enslaved by traditional storytelling.”
This is one of my favorite movies of the year. It is a cinematic experience unlike any I’ve ever had. Despite a non-sequitur opening of yodels, the film eventually gets on a certain non-beaten track, following an art dealer who comes to a Carolina backwater town to woo a retarded, rascist artist. Her new husband happens to have come from the area, and her interactions with his wacky family form the heart of the movie.
The movie has a surprising heart. The small-town folks gradually change from caricatures to full-blown characters. The movie is full of strange and wonderful scenes. An interrupted baby shower. A frustrating failure to videotape a meerkat documentary. A revelatory song in a church basement.
Clearly made for almost nothing, the technical aspects of directing and editing seem very clumsy and will definitely put off mainstream audiences. Which is too bad, because the remarkable surprises of this film deserve a wide audience.
It is directed by Phil Morrison, director of the old Upright Citizen’s Brigade TV show. My biggest disappointment was seeing Matt Besser (a brilliant improv artists) so little. Clearly aspects were improvised, but one of my studio moles who has the script in her office assures me that writer Angus MacLachlan deserves full credit.
RELATED: Interview with Phil Morrison about the making of Junebug.