Commentary on Movies and TV by Brian Holcomb

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

TETRO Film Review

by Brian Holcomb

On the DVD commentary, Francis Ford Coppola describes his latest works as examples of "personal filmmaking." He uses this label because all of the others have been demonized about as much as the words "socialist," "conservative," or "liberal" in our current political climate. What would've been proudly presented as an "art film" or "experimental film" in the 1960s, or as an "independent film" in the 1990s, would be seen as something much more obscure if labeled as such today. "Personal filmmaking" best describes what Coppola is doing now. At age 70, the writer-director is making modestly budgeted films on his own terms, financed by his successful wine business. The "personal" label separates his last two films from his previous career as one of the key figures of what he refers to as "industrialized film." Both Youth Without Youth and his latest film, the wonderful Tetro, are not so much experimental or arty as they are personal. Tetro in particular seems to be about as personal a film he could make without producing a documentary called "Coppola".

That said, this isn't the story of a wildly ambitious filmmaking family, but it is a film about art and how the art is often inseparable from the artist. Beautifully shot in crisp black and white by cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr., Tetro seems to be a product of another era. While the visuals echo the work of filmmakers as diverse as Fellini and Elia Kazan (and at times the Coppola of Rumble Fish), the screenplay is very much in the tradition of '50s poetic drama as defined by writers like Tennessee Williams and Clifford Odets. 

To read more of this review at click HERE.

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Monday, May 03, 2010


 by Brian Holcomb

This week's "pulp-sci-fi-musical-noir" Fringe could've been a 12 car pile-up on the interstate freeway. Lets be honest, most viewers don't come back to this show week after week for some meta-fiction a'la Dennis Potter's The Singing Detective or William Goldman's The Princess Bride. So who knows if writers and showrunnners Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman were smoking the same "Brown Betty" that Walter indulges in at the beginning of this episode or if they just wanted to prove that they have more to offer than machines and monsters.

In either case, they were just the right amount of clever to pull it off without drowning in pretension. Like I assumed last week, there's almost no advance in terms of plotting: Peter is missing in the beginning of the episode and he is still missing at the end. In the middle however, he is involved in some wonderful noir intrigue involving glass hearts and an evil wheelchair bound Willy Wonka.

The excuse for this narrative exercise begins with a heartbroken Walter Bishop (John Noble) who has taken refuge in a particularly strong hydroponic weed he affectionately calls "Brown Betty". Olivia arrives with Ella (Lily Pilblad) and asks he and Astrid (Jasika Nicole) to watch her while she searches for Peter. When Ella insists on hearing a story, Walter delivers a meta-fantasy that blends the fantasy world of the series with one inspired by his mother's love for the novels of Chandler and Hammett. So what we get is not classic noir so much as yet another parallel dimension version of the characters, themes, and plotlines. What's particularly clever about it is that it takes place in a timeless "story world" in which odd looking cellphones co-exist with period cars and clothing and where laptop computers present web pages that look like old time newspapers. Basically, the story fulfills whatever idea pops into Walter's head and since he's clearly been thinking about Peter, the story within the story echoes this in the form of a private eye adventure. TO READ THE REST OF THIS GO TO  SHADOWLOCKED.COM




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