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

05 November 2007

Thesis Exhaustion

This week I have spent writing. I sat down last Sunday and just started writing the thesis. Technically, what I am writing is my prospectus, which has to be approved before I can write the rest of the thesis. But the prospectus becomes the introduction to the thesis, so I am approaching writing the thing as if I am writing the introduction to a book. Albeit, a clunky book with a huge review of literature in the middle of it.
That said, after writing for a week or so, I have about fourteen pages of the thing. Not to jinx it or anything, but I think it's looking good so far.

On the movie front, I saw Tony Gilroy's Michael Clayton, which is a serious drama/thriller. I found it tension-filled and very, very smart. George Clooney is great in it, and the film boast an Oscar-bait performance by Tom Wilkinson. The cast is rounded out by Tilda Swinton and Sydney Pollack (!). But what, you ask, is Michael Clayton about? This is the film's main problem, really. It's a kind of big-business/legal drama and the stakes are all about business and capital. Michael Clayton is also very much about living with ourselves and the decisions we make, and "doing the right thing" (whatever that means.) The stakes sound kind of bogus, I admit, but the film is acted extremely well, and it's also very well-made technically. (It feels very much like a film made by Steven Soderbergh--who was one of the film's producers.) I enjoyed it very much and I expect that if audiences can commit to caring about the stakes of the film, most people will like it.

I had insomnia (actually, that isn't true; I had too much coffee) the other night and instead of tossing and turning, I popped in the new Criterion DVD of Hiroshi Teshigahara's sixties film Woman in the Dunes. It was not at all what I was expecting. I have been watching a lot of old Japanese movies this year, and I was expecting something contemplative, poetic and understated. But Woman in the Dunes is scary. A man gets trapped at the bottom of a sand dune at the beginning of the movie, and learns to live there. It's occasionally horrifying, always beautifully shot, and really, really creepy. Definitely one to rent.

And then last night I saw Ang Lee's new movie Lust, Caution, whose title I hate. I really liked the film, though, and I might even bump that up to "love" the more I think about it. It's a spy/drama/love story set in 1940s Japanese-occupied Shanghai and Hong Kong. It stars the amazing Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Joan Chen and two younger actors who weren't previously on my rader: Tang Wei and Wang Lee-Hom. All acquit themselves very well. From the trailer, I had assumed that Joan Chen wasn't going to be in the film much, but I was delighted at how much she was in it. This movie is a lush, well-acted prestige-type movie with some very interesting things to say about the impact of sex on our lives, and the ways it ties us to one another, even to people we may hate. It's really fascinating. It's also rather explicit (which is why it has an NC-17 rating, I guess). It's not explicit on the level of, say, Shortbus, but maybe on the level of The Lover. To my mind, though, the sex scenes are incredibly valuable to what the film is doing. Lust, Caution is long-ish and a little slow to start, but I think it's definitely worth seeing. I should also mention that the score, by Alexandre Desplat, is absolutely beautiful.