Archive | 3 Nests

Sofia Coppola’s ‘Somewhere’ (2010) Takes Viewers Where They Need To Go: A Review

Sofia Coppola’s ‘Somewhere’ (2010) Takes Viewers Where They Need To Go: A Review

Sofia Coppola’s ‘Somewhere’ (2010) Takes Viewers Where They Need To Go: A Review

Sofia Coppola’s 2010 film Somewhere tests viewers right out of the gate with an opening visual that hints at a Ferrari driving laps in a long continuous and monotonous shot. We see brief glimpses of the car and hear its roaring engine, but while that noise would seem in contrast to much of the rest of the film, it serves as an excellent precursor to the director’s surprising indy gem.

Somewhere follows Stephen Dorff’s Johnny Marco, a Hollywood star who lives at the famed Chateau Marmont on Sunset. Johnny has access to all the trappings that fame provides – money, sex, partying and recognition – but his life seems alarmingly empty in his moments of solitude. Even pole dancing strippers (the Playboy Mansion’s Shannon twins) can’t get a rise out of him. He’s bored with their routine and inside his life’s routine, despite his affable attempts at pleasing those he encounters. Publicists and makeup artists treat him like the puppet he is, despite his star status. He’s not a reluctant star but his life clearly beckons for more.

Somewhere movie strippers

A pole dance is supposed to be erotic but in this case, the reality is more comedic.

Enter his estranged 11 year old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning), who’s shorter visit turns into a longer several week stay. She cooks for her Dad and Johnny takes her to Italy, where he is presented an award in comedic fashion. His frequent dalliances with beautiful women carry on, but Cleo’s presence changes him, particularly when she finally leaves. She never imposes on him and clearly loves her, which has unlocked something that may have been missing in his day-to-day. He was having more fun than he realized and without her, concludes being by himself sucks. He feels aimless and despite appearing to have it all, wonders where he’s going in life. The film’s still tones throughout show you Johnny’s slow burn to reach this point. Somewhere is the contrast to HBO’s “Entourage”, and Johnny Marco needs someone like Johnny Drama to keep him going.

Coppola succeeds in showing us an attractive Hollywood lifestyle and balancing it with the non-glamorous realities when the action isn’t happening or when the cameras aren’t around. Somewhere never dictates to us. It keeps the allure of a Hollywood life alive but also shows the potential for emptiness when the lights fade. It’s a film that is both a challenge at times (at least 12-15 minutes without dialogue to open the film) and rewarding, as it gets under your skin and begging you to think about it more. It’s at that juncture where any film succeeds. It has to take you somewhere and kudos to Somewhere for doing just that.

Posted in 3 Nests, Reviews0 Comments

‘Edge of Tomorrow’ Movie Review: Tom Cruise & Emily Blunt Battle Alien Forces

‘Edge of Tomorrow’ Movie Review: Tom Cruise & Emily Blunt Battle Alien Forces

Tom Cruise & Emily Blunt Battle Alien Forces In Summer’s ‘Edge of Tomorrow’

Edge of Tomorrow promises science fiction smarts, audacious and exciting visuals and a challenge to the minds of general audiences over the age of 13. With the citizens of Earth at war and in a fight for its very existence with alien forces, Edge ramps up the usual war angle and throws in a time-warping twist to the proceedings. What results is summer entertainment of a quality order, one that it’s star, Tom Cruise, has not seen for some time. If you think of Oblivion when coming to see Edge, think again then start your thought process over.

Edge sees Cruise’s Cage, a military man who’s never fought, trapped in a warp where he joins fresh recruits for a battle with aliens for Earth’s survival. This war with the aliens, however, is doomed to fail as Cage soon discovers. But Cage has a special blend in his blood that sees him reliving the same day over and over again. Think Groundhog Day, which is the natural comparison. His bad dream becomes the key to possibly winning the war, but will require the ultimate sacrifice on his behalf.

edge of tomorrow pic

Cruise wouldn’t mind rolling, lighting and smoking Blunt in ‘Edge.’

Cage meets Rita (a fetching, but tough Emily Blunt), the ultimate war-fighting heroine who happens to have had a similar blood affliction in the past. They form an underground alliance in order to try to win the war without anyone (the military authority in particular) being the wiser. Alas, things do not go as planned, naturally. Writer Christopher McQuarrie, best known for penning The Usual Suspects, manages another mind-bender and shows off his versatility with this futuristic, war-related piece.

Swingers and The Bourne Identity director Doug Limans’s Edge of Tomorrow displays flair, humor and originality throughout its two hour runtime. Cruise and Blunt share surprisingly palpable chemistry despite the fact that they barely know each other in the film’s context. Edge is at times heart-breaking, humorous and humiliating (to it’s lead any way). The sci-fi fantasy does a good job at keeping the viewer’s interest and playing out to a satisfactory end. This deserves your attention at some point.

Posted in 3 Nests, Reviews0 Comments

Christian Bale-Led ‘Out of the Furnace’ (2013) Movie Review

Christian Bale-Led ‘Out of the Furnace’ (2013) Movie Review

Christian Bale-Led ‘Out of the Furnace’ (2013) Movie Review

Christian Bale stars as Russell Baze, a poor Pennsylvania mill worker who gets himself imprisoned for killing innocent people during a drinking and driving accident. This absence forces him to miss out on looking after his younger brother Rodney (Casey Affleck), who suffers from rage and mental stability issues after four tours in Iraq. They both lose their father during Russell’s imprisonment and Russell also loses his girlfriend Zoe Saldana to a local cop (Forest Whitaker) during his stretch.

Upon release into the world, Russell tries to lay low, while Rodney does the opposite. Unable or unwilling to find fulfilling work, Rodney fights for chump change in illegal underground boxing matches with seedy inbred types in uncontrolled environments. He is paying off a debt to a local drug(?) Lord John Petty (Willem Defoe), but little does he know that Petty owes the unscrupulous and menacing Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson) a debt of his own. These debts come to a head and heads (literally) will roll. This draws Russell back into a scene and life he clearly wants no part of, but alas, such is the life of a man with little to live for.

Bale Out of Furnace

Christian Bale’s Russell Baze (and his rifle) get pulled back into a life he disdains.

Director Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart) brings the world to life. There is the law and the other side and a thin line separates the two. He places us in a world that few sane men would choose to enter, but is also probably all too real. That is one of the strongest traits of the film. He also draws a strong cast together and gets a particularly stellar performance from Woody Harrelson. Harlan’s vengeance and never say die attitude hang over every frame he enters.

Still, it’s Bale’s Russell who anchors the film and while his pain and internal struggle is felt, he kind of feels a hair underserved by the material. Affleck, though good, seems a touch miscast as a brawler, considering his slight frame, but thats a minor quibble. The film seems to be a bit of a missed opportunity in that it gave us glimpses of a menacing world, while not quite throwing us into it with no way out. It never reaches the heights you feel it is capable of. It’s a slow burn that doesn’t have the thrilling climax you are hoping for, satisfactory as it may be. I wanted to have a burning passion for Furnace, but instead feel a bit conflicted like it’s lead character. Maybe that’s a good thing.

Posted in 3 Nests, Reviews0 Comments

Movie Review: Director Wes Anderson’s Unique ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ Inspires, Confounds

Movie Review: Director Wes Anderson’s Unique ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ Inspires, Confounds

Movie Review: Director Wes Anderson’s Unique ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ Inspires, Confounds

The Grand Budapest Hotel (GB as it’s known and will be referred to) is Wes Anderson’s highest grossing film to date. It continues in the tradition of recent Anderson works such as Moonrise Kingdom, where intricate worlds only he can create are inhabited by rich, unique characters. GB delivers Anderson mainstays such as Bill Murray and Owen Wilson, but among many adds Adrien Brody, Ralph Fiennes and newcomer Tony Revolori into the mix. The story follows Rovolori’s Lobby Boy of the “grand” hotel and his mentor Fienne’s M.Gustave, as they serve as an Abbott & Costello like duo for the audience. The story is told in semi-modern time narration (1982 I believe) flashing back 50 years to be told in essential flashback form.

Some potentially distracting elements must be accepted when you realize that Revolori and F.Murray Abraham play the same character, as does another character in a later reveal, when the two younger and older versions absolutely look nothing alike. Taking that leap of faith aside, what you get is typical Anderson. M.Gustave wins a big prize (the genius painting ‘Boy With Apple’) after the death of one of his lovers and hotel guests over the years passes away. The family of the deceased then plots to frame M.Gustave as her murderer and chaos ensues. Typically rich and detailed settings loaded with Anderson’s specific quirky charm are on full display. It will likely delight fans, while pushing some critics to call for more diverse film creations. This is a tough call and a difficult way to judge someone’s work, as once filmmakers leave the confines they are known for people often complain, yet here, with Anderson staying in his comfortable lane, we are not as excited by the outcome as we could hope to be.

GBH

Anderson veteran Jason Schwartzman and newbie Jude Law help ‘GB’ come to life.

The film is shot largely in 1:33-1 ratio, so not the widescreen we are accustomed to, a choice I could have done without but understand why it was made to serve the story. A large ensemble of mostly monotone characters inhabit this film, as is becoming the norm for the acclaimed filmmaker. While it’s great to see Harvey Keitel back from Moonrise, one actor who never seems to quite fit in Anderson’s world is Edward Norton. He’s a talent who has thrived in darker, more complex roles (Fight Club, American History X) and to see him reduced to a sideshow, small character actor in each of Anderson’s last two movies doesn’t really add up. He’s not the quirky type and Anderson’s films call for qualities even some great actors don’t quite nail. Still, it’s nice that Wes can pull so many talents together at one time.

The film is solid, entertaining, amusing (there are numerous laughs) and wholly intricate. A few sequences, including a prison break, are truly the thing of beauty. Anderson’s style is duplicated and followed by nobody. He owns it. Still, while the chase is interesting and bordering on fun, nothing overly surprising happens and that is where the investment in the process becomes questioned. Anderson’s fans can focus more on the detail with which he is increasingly becoming known for, while a critical eye will ask why there wasn’t more emotional involvement. The film is adults child’s play (maybe that should be known going in), so despite some adult themes and a nice caper, murder and chase yarn, the stakes never seem so high that it is enthralling. A great performance (Fiennes) and strong writing aside, this one creates many questions for the future for fans of Wes’ work. My companion opined that maybe the stakes weren’t high enough. In that sense, I concur that while they may have been, the “feeling” was that they weren’t. The director can continue to churn out similar works for years, but his challenge will be to continue to push the boundaries (which he does in GB to some extent via language and world creation) of the territory he so clearly now occupies. GB is a nice visit, but whether its a place to repeatedly stay is the question.

Posted in 3 Nests, Reviews0 Comments

Scarlett Johansson’s Literally Killer Body Stars in ‘Under The Skin’: A Movie Review

Scarlett Johansson’s Literally Killer Body Stars in ‘Under The Skin’: A Movie Review

Scarlett Johansson’s Literally Killer Body Stars in ‘Under The Skin’: A Movie Review

“Under the Skin” and the Sexualization of Scarlett

The opening essay in Chuck Klosterman’s 2006 collection, IV, is about an interview the author (him, not me. I only refer to myself as I, me or my (hell, you got three examples in the last sentence and a half)) did for Esquire with Britney Spears. The year was 2003, and only 36 hours prior to the interview, Spears had announced that she had sex with Justin Timberlake when she was 18. Prior to then, she was sold to the American public as the virginal sex kitten. It’s the same trick Jessica Simpson’s handlers used for their client, but to lesser success. Spears was the girl you wanted to touch, but never could. Even, supposedly, if you were her pop-star boyfriend. Strangely, with her cat (so to speak) out of the bag (she was photographed pantless for the cover), she spent the entire interview denying she was any kind of sex icon or that there was anything overtly sexual about her music, her videos or her personality. It’s impossible to believe even an infant could be less self-aware.

I happened to read this entry the day before I saw “Under the Skin,” the latest film by director Jonathan Glazer (“Sexy Beast,” “Birth”), which stars Scarlett Johansson as an alien traipsing around Scotland in attempt to seduce men into an apparently mobile pool of liquefied blackness. If that sounds bizarre, I’m not here to dissuade you from your initial reaction. To be honest, I wouldn’t be 100% confident in the alien thing if it weren’t mentioned by other critics and there wasn’t a short shot of three pinkish lights in the sky – which you assume to be UFOs – shortly after Johansson’s character arrives on Earth. It seems like the kind of thing that would’ve been put in the press kit, just to make sure critics were certain of at least that much. It reeks of something spelled out in a way the film never bothers – nor needs – to do.

The extraterrestrial Johansson roams around the Scottish country- and city-side in a white van, attempting to lure lone men into her vehicle, by doing that most stereotypical of female driver actions, asking for directions. Though that sentence would make the film seem sexist, it’s done with a nod toward empowerment. It’s like a gender-reversal version of the long-running pornographic trope of a man picking up a girl on the street to have sex with him in his van (Why do I know this? Let’s just say it’s because I’m smart). In the film, the alien Johansson at least has the decency to pull off to an abandoned home for the next step of her plan. She’s the one who wields the power.

Unlike Britney Spears, Johansson has never struggled with her sexuality, at least on-screen. In a what-would-like-to-be-believed-by-young-boys-as-apocryphal story from “The Island,” Johansson wanted to be shown nude, and it was the film’s director, Michael Bay, who dissuaded her. This is the same Michael Bay who cast a longing camera at Megan Fox’s glistening torso in “Transformers,” after an almost-certainly-not-apocryphal story about her audition for the film, in which Bay forced her to wash his Ferrari in a bikini, while he filmed the affair. Doesn’t quite sound like the same guy. Nevertheless, the first time I’d ever laid eyes on Johannsson, she was offering to give Billy Bob Thornton a blow-J (© “Superbad”) in the Coen Bros.’ “The Man Who Wasn’t There.” That’s something not even a “Slave 4 U”-era Britney was doing.

under the skin pic

One of the chief discussions around Johansson’s prior film, “Her,” was of the actress’ ability to solely use the sultry tones of her voice to convey sexiness. The simple idea of not having the easiest conveyance for this ideal – her body – at her disposal was, for most, worthy of calling for an Oscar nomination. “Under the Skin” gives her a British accent, her body back and also lets her finally do the nudity she was supposedly so willing to present to Bay’s cameras back in 2005. I normally wouldn’t note this, but I imagine it’s the producers’ only hope of competing with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and they’d want the word out if it could lead to any additional box office take. Johansson’s E.T. role allows the actress to flex every muscle she has and use every weapon at her disposal in a way she’s never fully been granted. She’s seen as a seductress. Let her seduce some men. Like Charlotte Gainsbourg seems perfect for the weird world of Lars von Trier, Johansson fits in exquisitely in the Earth of “Under the Skin,” at least as Glazer has depicted it.

The director strips the connective tissue of comprehension bare, leaving not much more than chronology. Even the male victims of the alien speak in a Scottish brogue so thick the company hired to create subtitles for home video will have difficultly deciphering the meaning of every word. But his images are both haunting and glorious. The Salvador Dali-esque inky darkness swallowing the alien’s victims, transporting them into a swimming pool, bloating – then dissolving – them of their insides is a nightmare worth reliving. However, he also manages to capture whole scenes of complete captivation, like the alien’s soft appeal to a wary, facially-disfigured young man. Though we know what the end-game-to-come is, it’s hard to not be touched with the tenderness by which she treats him. Glazer presents scenarios that will linger in the recesses of my brain like the alien’s victims in their post-seduction/pre-skinning state.

The film is based on a 2000 book of the same name, by Michael Faber. My first instinct is to try reading it to get at some answers, much like my initial reaction to seeing “2001: A Space Odyssey” was to find out what Arthur C. Clarke was willing to provide us in text that Stanley Kubrick wasn’t on film. I never did and probably never will. Only part of the reason being there apparently aren’t many more answers contained within the book. There’s a similar mysterious quality to “Under the Skin” that makes the allure of explanation potentially more fulfilling, but at the same time lending fear to knowing the perhaps better off unknowable. If things are straightforward, a work of art loses its ability to provoke debate. It’s what keeps the Mona Lisa the most discussed painting ever created (I’m not saying this film is on par with the Mona Lisa, I’m saying it’s better. Only Dan Brown has made me care about Da Vinci’s “masterpiece”).

“Under the Skin” is not an easy film. But sometimes, as a viewer, it’s good to be challenged. Alfred Hitchcock once said, “Some films are slices of life. My films are slices of cake.” In this case, Glazer’s is a slice of brain you were forced to eat in a dream you once had. But it’s a dream you wish to have again. However, if you’re the type that needs the extra incentive, you get to see Scarlett’s boobs (hey, if it can be pointed out in an Academy Awards opening number, it can be pointed out here). For those crying sexism, there’s also more male genitalia between this and the “Nymphomaniac” films than I’ve seen in the mirror the past month. Though Britney Spears may have been unaware of her appeal, Johansson and “Under the Skin” know how the bills are paid and you might just get something unique out of the experience.

Posted in 3 Nests, Reviews0 Comments

Director Lars Von Trier’s ‘Nymphomaniac Vol. II’ Movie Review

Director Lars Von Trier’s ‘Nymphomaniac Vol. II’ Movie Review

Lars Von Trier’s ‘Nymphomaniac Vol. II’ Movie Review

“I am whatever you say I am.” – Eminem “The Way I Am”

A self-fulfilling prophecy is that if you believe something to be true, it will likely result that way. It’s one of the key points from “The Secret,” the video/book/key-to-happiness that was all the rage a few years ago. It gave people the belief that if they just concentrated hard enough on a certain goal, they would achieve it. The selling point behind “The Secret” concept was more wish-fulfillment, like a mental magic lamp, but the theory behind it was sound. After all, this guy wanted to go out with Drew Barrymore, so he made a movie about his pursuit called “My Date with Drew” and his stalk was granted.

When last we left Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) from “Nymphomaniac Vol. 1,” she was in a state of battered rest, sipping healing tea and recounting her sexual transgressions to the professorial Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard), who happened to find her semi-lifeless body outside his abode. He listens intently to her stories, which she recalls prompted by the surroundings of the room in which Seligman has brought her to recover. However, unlike most of the men Joe has told these tales to, Seligman is not titillated. His interest is only from a theoretical standpoint, as he has no way to sexually relate. He describes himself as asexual. The Mr. Glass to Joe’s David Dunn.

But his non-arousal enables to Seligman to withhold any judgment about Joe, which is what she’s expecting. Before her, she sees a man. And men only view her as a sexual object, especially after her described experiences. She believes herself to be a bad person and is therefore pre-disposed to doing bad things. Alas, she’s just a human being.

At one point, Seligman and Joe discuss the philosophical idea of how people develop perversions. She’s looking for an answer to explain how she’s come to be. She believes it stemmed from a lonely moment lying among the grass as a twelve-year-old when she had her first orgasm and a vision of what she assumed was The Virgin Mary. Seligman assures her based on the description, the vision actually contained the wife of Emperor Claudius as well as the Great Whore of Babylon. He tells her Freud’s theory of the development of sexual perversion, that when a child is born, all kinds of perversions exist and that through childhood, some of them drop off, as opposed to the child being initially bereft and acquiring them through other means. Nevertheless, Joe insists she is a “nymphomaniac,” even against the preferred nomenclature of the leader of an employer-prescribed sex addiction meeting.

As much as the first half of the film (“Nymphomaniac Vol. 1”) belonged to the portrayer of Young Joe, Stacy Martin, “Nymphomaniac Vol. 2” is all Gainsbourg’s. If Leo DiCaprio is Martin Scorsese’s muse (yes, I’m aware that role belonged to Robert DeNiro at one point), Gainsbourg is surely director Lars von Trier’s dirty clay to mold to his basest desires (one’s that according to Freud and Seligman were probably there since birth and just never left him behind). With this now her third collaboration with von Trier, it’s practically impossible to imagine Gainsbourg as an actress in anything that’d be roundly deemed non-risque. Not that any of that matters, of course. At least not to viewers.  Though she’s nobody’s definition of “classicly beautiful” (or probably any definition of the word), her willingness to put herself in any position von Trier asks makes her indispensable in an art form where vanity typically trumps value (I’m reminded of a scene in “Project Greenlight” where Bonnie Hunt tells the director of “Stolen Summer” how she should be lit). Just because there may not have been another soul to actually take on the role of Joe, doesn’t mean Gainsbourg isn’t perfectly fit for it.

Nymphomaniac Part 2 pic

I described “Nymphomaniac Vol. 1” as being as close to a romp as von Trier gets. “Vol. 2” certainly puts him back in a familiar position. If “Vol. 1” were “Under Siege,” “Vol. 2” is certainly its sequel. This is “dark territory.” At 18, Joe loses the ability to orgasm and ventures into the seedy underbelly of addiction, seeking to once again find the high of climax. She encounters a sadist named K (Jamie Bell) who delivers punishment so harsh it’s soon to be adopted up by disgruntled Marines to be administered to trouble-makers in their barracks. Their intercourse is nil. Instead, he slaps her with a leather glove stuffed with quarters, binds her to a couch and whips her ass not in the competitive way, but in the Roman-punishment-sense. He checks her for lubrication like removing a dipstick from a car’s engine and degrades her to a degree where he refers to her only as “Fido” in lieu of ever learning her name. I like to imagine K’s backstory as actually having been Billy Elliot, suffering a ballet-career-ending injury and having to toward sadism to get any satisfaction (hell, maybe that would’ve also answered the Rolling Stones’ problems).

This bout with the mar-K de sade is just a step in the dark direction on Joe’s journey to self-discovery in Seligman’s bedroom. Her stories come in the form of verbal chapters, taking cues from her surroundings. The last chapter is provoked by an image of a gun, but I’ll let her tell you that story, just as she tells it to her would-be savior.

Though the visual flourishes of “Vol. 1” didn’t entirely carry over here (aside from the dueling nymphos vision and a recurrence of the 3+5 graphic) there were moments when I found it impossible to watch the film without my mouth agape. This is a film-viewing expression I usually reserve for bouts of how-did-they-think-of-that brilliance, like so many moments in Christopher Nolan’s “Inception.” Here, my awe was for audacity. These fly-catcher-causing scenes mainly occurred with K and Joe. There was something about the mixture of the pain-pleasure threshold and the painstaking patience the actors, characters and camera had in creating the situation and having it play out to maximum effect. I can’t say I didn’t miss some of the visual ingenuity from “Vol. 1,” but this was a harder-edged half of the story to tell. All fun was out the window. Even so, we’re still in the good hands of a master manipulator.

As a two-hour film, “Nymphomaniac Vol. 2” had some gaps in storytelling where Joe seemed to leap into a new part of her recollection, instead of telling a nice throughline, which “Vol. 1” pretty much maintained. Prior to release, there was talk of a five-and-a-half hour cut of the film, which needed to be trimmed to four hours and thus split into two halves. I wonder if some of these holes would be filled (pun might as well be intended) by the extra footage, which we supposedly someday may see. Udo Kier is in the film as a waiter for one brief scene, whom I don’t think has any lines beyond “did you get a spoon?” Certainly seems like a cutting room casualty.

“Nymphomaniac Vol. 2,” like its star, her character and its director is nothing if not self-assured. Though Joe expects Seligman to judge her, the film would prefer you to do as Seligman does and withhold any prejudice. One of the highest compliments you can pay a film is that it knows what it wants to be. There are no qualms here.

Posted in 3 Nests, Reviews0 Comments

Lars Von Trier’s ‘Nymphomanic Vol. 1′ Review: Journey vs Destination

Lars Von Trier’s ‘Nymphomanic Vol. 1′ Review: Journey vs Destination

Lars Von Trier’s ‘Nymphomanic Vol. 1′ Review: Journey vs Destination

The pursuit of sex is what drives romantic relationships. Even abstinent ones are adhered to with the promise that the pursuit will one day be fulfilled. For them, marriage is just an obstacle toward getting there. It’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, only usually less illusory. A sitcom called “Mixology” recently debuted (and may be cancelled by the time you read this) on ABC, all about the characters’ desire to have sex with one another. The dramatic hook of the show is whether they will or not. If that sounds horrible, it apparently is. If art indeed imitates life, “Mixology” is the douche-bro you’d be wise to avoid. I’m sure the show can proudly count Richie Incognito among its 1.1 million person fanbase. As long as sex is on the horizon, who cares about the through-line? The destination is all that matters to these people.

Nymphomaniac Vol. 1” opens in a moist, brick-lined courtyard. Water slithers down the concrete façade. A foreboding and foreshadowing necklace of nuts (of the “and bolts” variety) adorns a pipe, like a pelt of ears serrated off a scalp. Sprawled out in the center of the area for display, is a battered, bruised and barely conscious Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg). A man with a “ridiculous name” (as Joe tells him), Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard), discovers her near-corpse and after her steadfast refusal of accepting an ambulance or police arrival, suffices to invite her inside for some tea and recovery.

When Seligman inquires about Joe’s state of physical duress, she professes herself to be a bad person. He immediately dismisses the notion that anybody is preternaturally “bad” and proceeds to approach Joe as a psychologist would, fascinated with her life to this point in time. Joe declares her reasoning for feeling this self-assessment is due to her nymphomania and proceeds to regale him with tales of her sexual past and how she came to be the picture of ill-health in front of him. If sex is a destination, her life is a series of skipping the journeys.

Though Joe is played by Gainsbourg, her character’s flashback portrayer is embodied by an according-to-IMDb fresh face audiences have never seen before, named Stacy Martin. “Nymphomaniac” (Volume 1, at least), is Martin’s movie. She’s fearless and uncompromising. Not in the “nudity equals fearless” way, as any porn actress would deserve to have that label slapped on them like a frat-boy-paddle to the ass, but she is assured. A literal man-eater (in a sense). Martin’s Joe is the portrait of a woman who cares little about anything but herself, although she waxes poetically about her love for her father (Christian Slater) in the least Oedipus complex way.  Though sex is supposed to consist of two-way pleasures, Joe is one-track minded.

At fifteen, Joe takes her virginity not literally into her own hands, but at least hand-selects her suitor. He’s a mechanic named Jerome (Shia LeBeouf), who thrusts such a minute amount of times that Joe can recall the exact number years later to Seligman and director Lars von Trier posts them on the frame in fit-to-screen sized font. He doesn’t do this to belittle the character, but to weigh the impact the event would have on Joe’s life. Jerome turns out to be the only recurring sexual partner Joe relays to her caretaker.

Nymphomaniac Pic

The “only sleep with the same person once” mantra is something developed by Joe and her friend B for a club they found for like-minded ladies. Their escapades begin in a quite literal metaphor of the journey versus destination ideal, as Joe and B challenge each other on a train trip to bed as many males as possible before the train reaches its destination. They’re measuring their journey based on how many destinations they can meet. The wager? A bag of chocolate malt balls. To them, that’s the ultimate destination. Or at least the object of marking a fun time. If Joe wasn’t conscious of the power she potentially wields with her body, this sequence is where she becomes self-aware. She devises tactics to increase her “score” and learns how to get what she needs to satisfy her selfishness. If the question for Joe is “love or lust,” the answer is “neither.” At least according to her, she’s not doing it to fill some type of void in her life. She’s doing it because she’s just “a bad person.”

Von Trier, has become known as a bit of a provocateur as of late (if he wasn’t always labeled as such) and crafting a four-hour epic named “Nymphomaniac” in which the “O” is composed of two parentheses designed to look like a woman’s labia majora is not the simplest way to dismiss that notion. But the film, at least through these first two hours, is not designed to ruffle feathers, regardless of the reactions it elicits from the types of people who picket theaters for exhibiting movies they’ve never seen. It’s a character study about a woman with an addiction that a lot of society views as a joke. Tiger Woods can use it as an excuse for his philandering and it’s used for primarily comic effect in Chuck Palahniuk’s “Choke,” but von Trier provides little giggle room.

Though I wish the film had a few more laughs, this isn’t the sex addiction version of “Leaving Las Vegas,” either. I’ll happily endure repeat viewings with pleasure (written with the least titillation in mind as possible). Joe hurts people and ruins lives. Just watch for a standout scene with Uma Thurman, as Mrs. H, a wife and mother with a husband Joe victimizes with her addiction.

Though darkness abounds, von Trier brings some spunk (don’t test me) to the images. With the aforementioned thrust-count posted in the virginity scene with Jerome, von Trier also cuts to a chalkboard scorecard in the train game between Joe and B, equates Joe’s addiction with fly fishing through intercut images between those juxtaposed acts, draws a diagram onscreen for Jerome to show Joe’s preciseness in which she’s able to park his car (not a euphemism) and finally provides close-ups of flaccid members as Joe describes the parade of penises she’s pulsed upon. It’s as if he took David Fincher’s IKEA price-tagging from “Fight Club” and Quentin Tarantino’s (“Don’t be a”) square (Uma Thurman again!) from “Pulp Fiction” and applied it to a darker-themed film in order to alleviate it. It’s as close to a romp as von Trier gets.

Unlike previous depictions of sex addiction in art as portraying someone needing to “get their rocks off” (as Chuck Palahniuk would put it), “Nymphomaniac Vol. 1” is really about love versus sex. As she exits the club she helped co-create, B tells Joe that love is the secret ingredient that provides sex with an extra feeling she can’t capture until she experiences it. Until then, Joe’s chasing a high she’s never really felt in the first place. She’s trying to get to the destination by skipping past the journey. Luckily for us, we have to wait another month before “Nymphomaniac Vol. 2” is released before we reach our destination (although I have to doubt love is the conclusion to which our protagonist is coming (okay, that one’s for you)). For now, we get to enjoy the journey, even if Joe can’t. “Mixology” characters and fans need not apply.

Posted in 3 Nests, Reviews2 Comments

‘Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir’ Review – The Director Speaks On His Life

‘Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir’ Review – The Director Speaks On His Life

Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir – The Director Speaks On His Life

Ed. note: You can view this film on iTunes, Amazon, youtube and other digital formats.

Does free will exist or “is it all written?” That is the question philosophically posed at the end of Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir. The documentary about the infamous director’s life – in his own words, as told to one of his best friends – reveals more about the man while still leaving a few questions slightly unanswered.

To many, Polanski is known equally for his film exploits and his extradition from the United States for pleading guilty to unlawful sex with a minor, Samantha Geimer, in 1977. Those that know only of Polanski through the media will naturally have come to some conclusions about the man without knowing the truth. A Film Memoir sheds light on the incidents of 1977, while covering everything from a rough childhood, his rise to fame, the death of his pregnant girlfriend, and several things in between.

A young RoPo in happy times.

Polanski has been through unquestionable tragedies. From his childhood, much of which is depicted indirectly in his film The Pianist, which won Best Picture at the Oscars and allowed Adrian Brody to take home a statue while stealing a kiss from Halle Berry; to his adult life, post his extradition, the director speaks candidly on multiple subjects from his perspective. It is shocking knowing the amount of pain and suffering, the struggles he has had to overcome and the perseverance he has shown in order to become the success he has.

The film is an interesting piece of work, though a standard conversation largely from a format standpoint. Polanski’s work has often echoed images or instances from his life and had them placed on celluloid. The film deftly handles many of these in the first third of its 90-minute running time. The film covers tragedies in each “act” and still leaves the viewer with perhaps a few questions, particularly surrounding the 1977 incident. Only you can be the judge about what you hear and see, but for those with even a modest curiosity about the director, this is a worthwhile biographical piece to endure. Recommended.

Posted in 3 Nests, Reviews0 Comments

Page 1 of 1012345»...Last »