Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

26 February 2007

A Review or Two

The first movie (for me) of 2007 was Billy Ray's Breach, starring Chris Cooper, the beautiful Ryan Phillippe and, in boring I-wear-a-suit-and-deal-with-very-sensitive-CIA-FBI-DOD-information roles: Dennis Haysbert and Laura Linney. The movie is an okay thriller without much of a plot. It's sold as a thriller, but it's actually more of a character study (not unlike Ray's last movie, Shattered Glass).

Breach starts at its own end, like so many movies these days, so the suspense that the film might hold is greatly alleviated by the fact that we already know how the movie ends. Still, there are great moments of tension and Chris Cooper is riveting. He gives a tortured, fascinating performance as a pervert/spy/devout acolyte of Catholicism. Phillippe, while pretty to look at, mostly pouts through his role and we experience none of the alleged ingenuity the character is supposed to be displaying. Instead, Phillippe makes all of his character's very difficult decisions seem easy and all of the character's moments of brilliance seem like he had them planned out for years ahead of time. Here, perhaps is the real flaw in the film. Pillippe doesn't at all play the tension. The nicest moment in the whole film is Bruce Davison's single scene as Phillippe's father. Davison is perfectly cast (he even sort of looks like Chris Cooper, for a little more of a father-son parallel) and his scene is masterful: filled with history, longing, impulse and regret and yet restrained and measured. It's the best part of the whole thing.

This morning I also finally saw Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Red Shoes. This classic film from 1948 deserves its status as a cinematic icon. The score is phenomenal, and the film uses ballet in all the ways it ought to (a method much more restrained than Minelli's in An American in Paris). Anyone who works in the theatre should get a kick out of The Red Shoes. It's a film about how much we need art and the sacrifices we make for it. It's also about the family of other artists we create in the theatre and the way artists play and speak with one another. It's gorgeously shot, as well, and the story is so well-told that even the shoe metaphor sneaked up on me. If you haven't seen it...