12 October 2008 | tritisan
They DO make them like they used to, only better!
What a wonderful surprise: Yesterday my sister calls me and tells me that there's a new film by the director of Brick, playing at the Mill Valley Film Festival. "I'm there!"
Even before we get in the theater, I know we're in for a different experience. A pair of toughs with metal detectors wave us down for hidden cameras and demand we turn our cell phones off. I'm surprised we didn't have to take our shoes off. Endgame Entertainment certainly doesn't want any leaks.
Once inside, the director, Rian Johnson, shows up just before the show starts, fresh off a flight from Abu Dhabi no less. He gives a short interview with Mark Fishkin (long time director of the festival), coming off as a very charming, self-effacing, funny and unpretentious fellow. I like him immediately. Hollywood has not corrupted him (yet).
Like Tarantino, Johnson has closely studied films and makes constant references and nods to The Classics, especially from the 40s and 50s. Unlike Tarantino, Johnson writes more original stories and has good taste and far gentler sensibilities. Obvious influences include: Wes Anderson, The Cohen Bros, Billy Wilder, John Huston.
The film itself? Instant classic. It's got all the elements you could want in a Hollywood-style movie: Charming characters, plot twists, tons of gags, an incredibly beautiful leading lady, sumptuous sets and locations, and an overall sense "gee-whiz-isn't-this-fun!"
And it's classy, too. It doesn't resort to needless, sensationalist sex and violence. The writer respects and honors the audience's intelligence, a all-too-rare occurrence these days.
You could tell that the actors had a blast with the sometimes subtle, sometimes slap-stick script, relishing their characters' quirks and foibles.
Overall, Brothers Bloom almost manages perfection. It's one fault lies in the resolution, the last 5 minutes where it's tone abruptly changes for darker. Without giving anything away, I feel that it was too heavy-handed, considering the generally light and wacky spirit that had predominated. The rest of the audience seemed to feel the same way, given the hushed mood as the credits rolled. If the producers have an alternate ending up their sleeves, I suggest they use it, even it has to be somewhat ambiguous.
Otherwise, I'm happy to contribute to the positive buzz. I really think Brothers Bloom could be a huge hit, even a timeless classic.