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

19 June 2007

Covering the Spectrum

A couple days ago I watched Claude Chabrol's adaptation of Madame Bovary with Isabelle Huppert. It's a very well-crafted adaptation with some excellent acting and absolutely gorgeous costumes. The story, though, remains very problematic for me. It's not a very feminist tale, is it? Emma Bovary is a woman who doesn't belong in her situation. She's too talented and too much of a dreamer to be stuck in her provincial existence. In this way, everything she does seems justified. But then she is painted as living an unsustainable existence, a burning meteor headed for a crash landing. It ends badly for Emma, and there seems to be a sense of justice in the story. She gets what she deserves. And yet, she doesn't get what she deserves; not if she is justified in her actions and is as life-starved as the author makes her out to be at first. It's a deeply ambivalent tale.

A hundred miles from Claude Chabrol is Judd Apatow's Knocked Up. I assume everyone has seen this movie already. If you haven't, you really must. It's very, very funny with some excellent acting. The movie is too long (as was Apatow's other film The 40 Year Old Virgin), but it's original and clever with a wealth of funny business. I liked it better than Virgin, but I don't suppose that will be the general consensus. My favorite performance in the film is by Leslie Mann, who plays Katherine Heigl's sister. First of all, she has fantastic hair throughout the film, but her comic timing is exquisite and I believed her in every moment. I also felt like I could always laugh at her, even when she was crying or screaming or being a shrew. It's a terrific performance. I also want to say something about Paul Rudd, who looks ubelievably, impossibly gorgeous. Clueless was twelve years ago and he is better looking now than he was then. It's incredible.

And then this morning my sister and I watched Jules Dassin's 1948 film The Naked City, which is out now in a Criterion edition that shows off its absolutely splendid film noir photography. This is a superbly crafted police drama. It's not as noirish as I was expecting, but I absolutely loved it on its own merits. It's a murder mystery and a bit of a melodrama, but it's mostly a detective story with the crusty, loveable Barry Fitzgerald as chief detective and a young Don Taylor as his legwork man. Check this one out if you're into really cool 1940s cinematography.

I'm leaving Los Angeles tomorrow morning, so the next week or so is a little bit up in the air, but I have had a very nice time here and I have been lucky enough to spend some serious time with a lot of friends.