In 2027, in a chaotic world in which women have become somehow infertile, a former activist agrees to help transport a miraculously pregnant woman to a sanctuary at sea.In 2027, in a chaotic world in which women have become somehow infertile, a former activist agrees to help transport a miraculously pregnant woman to a sanctuary at sea.In 2027, in a chaotic world in which women have become somehow infertile, a former activist agrees to help transport a miraculously pregnant woman to a sanctuary at sea.
This is one, and it really surprised me. That's because though I generally regard Hispanic filmmakers as the vanguard, he hasn't really impressed not as a major talent. My how he impresses now. This isn't just an effective film, its effective in ways that show he really understands some of the theoretical mechanics.
Here's what I mean. I was greatly impressed by the opening scene of "Casino Royale." But if you look at it closely, you'll see that someone could have produced it by mere extrapolation. All they have to do is look at examples of things that are exciting in current movies and do the same, except a little more intensively.
But what Cuaron has done is go back to first principles. He knows how Welles redefined space. He knows how Tarkovsky created a whole new sort of eye by making the camera drift. He knows how Kirosawa invented the notion of layered planes. He's synthesized these in a new way, it seems to me. It isn't radical enough to not be readily digestible to a modern film-goer. But it also isn't much like what we had before, which I may typify with Ridly Scott's "Blackhawk Down." There's a scene toward the end which I imagine was where he started to imagine this project. Our escaping couple are detailed on the street by those who have been chasing them. This group is ambiguously evil, perhaps even the good guys. They prepare to kill Owen's character and perhaps do. From that point until near the end that seems to be one continuous shot. It isn't, but it seems to be, "Rope" -like.
He runs down the street and around a corner, being shot at. He runs into a bus and out. Then across the street in the middle of heavy combat where a building is under attack. All this is hand-held using a partially-stabilized camera, halfway between a documentarian's camera (at this point blood is spattered on the lens), and the other way toward stylized distance that surveys the planes of the spaces while they are animated with bullet hits.
We then follow him into the building, up several flights and down hallways to retrieve his "family," then on out again. At this point he becomes "seen" by those around him. Before, he was more like us, there but disembodied, in a die hard sense. Now he becomes part of the texture and we later discover, wounded.
So on down and out of the building to be adored, as Joseph the partner of the Maddona and then a tank explodes and we are back into the space, leading to a tunnel, an expanse of water, and then something else.
Its so wonderfully choreographed, the camera, the narrator's stance, the dancing walls, the object that appear and vaporize, the shifting types of engagement among us, characters and place...
We know we are being set up. This is no Terry Gilliam who basically intuits. Before this scene we see all the bits from the other masters presented separately. The Tarkovsky bits were perhaps less meditative that I would have liked. One was a visit to an abandoned school where we see our mother outside through a hole in the window, and encounters happen that "break emotional walls." The other is the presence of a profoundly senile old woman, and how she is included.
You walk through other basic film vocabularies elsewhere until they all combine in this last sequence. A Kurosawa episode on a bus when the midwife is taken to meet her fate.
Quite apart from the visual vocabulary, he's done well with complementary notions of story. Its science fiction but without tedious explanations. The world just is. There's brutality as in the future of "Vendetta," but one can see it isn't religious wars or jingoism that fuels it, but a far deeper existential concern. Julianne's character is the grand motivator, though wonderfully (in terms of story mechanics) she disappears early, effectively launching the real story: our hero is a storymaker.
Noir. Regular readers know I define noir a bit different than ordinarily. It has to do with ordinary folks thrust into extraordinary situations as if the existence of the viewer motivates a capricious fate that weaves and frames a story for our eye. What we have here is ambiguous noir, and the first real action noir. Quite an achievement. Quite an experience.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
- Jan 8, 2007