Archive for February, 2012
How to fit this film into my blog, a film the audience may not even register as French (a Franco/Iranian/Romanian writer Yasmina Reza, a Franco-Polish director Roman Polanski, and a quartet of actors : [Kate Winslet, Jodi Foster, John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz] hailing from Britain, Austria and the U. S.) ? Dare I pay tribute to an undeniably visionary director, yet persona non grata to many ? And can I do so without incurring the wrath of an audience and without being cast as the man’s defensor (which I am not) but admittedly, yes, as a fan of the artist ? Last year, I snuck in a review of Ghost Writer in conjunction with my chronicle of the Césars after they had awarded him the prize for Best direction, thus I felt (relievedly) vindicated in my admiration for Polanski’s chilling, atmospheric artistry. This year, word is he is a guest host, chosen to award Kate Winslet with an honorary César and has been nominated for Best adapted screenplay. So…
Carnage is perhaps Yasmina Reza’s most unflinchingly brutal and arguably her most challenging play to pull off without losing emotional credibility : the tensions here escalate to near hysterical heights yet the mood remains strangely cool, hostile, and never turns grotesque. This is also perhaps one of the very rare cases where film direction suits the drama better than a stage direction could. Two words explain this : close-ups. The ever-shifting moods, modes of behaviour and expression (barely perceptible facial twitches, double takes, side glances…) would be lost to an audience in a dark theatre, but here are given their required screen time : for the play simply unravels one after another the varying portraits of our “civilized” selves. And it is tantalizing to watch. The cast is thrilling. But Jody Foster, a rare screen presence nowadays, particularly so : charming, unpredictable and devastating. Her spartan beauty, incisive eyes and lined features steal much of the camera’s attention and act in fact as landscape to the ensuing Carnage.
The film is a small, unnerving masterpiece that will have you laughing nervously and then rip you apart. TRAILER.
Quite frankly I wasn’t expecting to like this film. The reviews were generally unenthralled, a few occasionally applauded, somewhat condescendingly, the film’s “heartfelt humanity” : which in cinephilic speak translates as a (shudder!) popular, well-meaning but otherwise forgettable effort.
Yes, it is certainly unambitious, unpretentious, and anything but a sexy sell (Karina Lombard as the romantic interest is a negligeable plot point) : it’s a guy’s guy film about rugby that breaks no ground but stays rooted within the director’s (Philippe Guillard, veteran French rugby star) field of expertise and comfort zone.
And yes, I was actually won over by these spirited, if ill-adjusted characters, and through them bound to the group of buddies who came together to pull off a story dear to their hearts. It all felt like something of an improvised project: a cast of ex-rugby recruits, unscripted scenes, slightly sloppy editing, mishandled romantic narrative… in short, a totally winsome, fresh and fun flight away from high brow cinéma d’auteur.