Monthly archives of “July 2008


Eastern Promises, David Cronenberg (2007)

Remarkably straightforward little story from Cronenberg, unmarked by any of the body/machine issues that usually drive his films, unless you count tattooing, but that’s really more of a plot point than a raison d’etre here. It’s kind of fun to watch him toy with themes of family, trust, and intimacy (which are of course among the hoariest around, but which are utterly new to him) like a Polynesian in his first snowstorm. But only kind of. Maybe I’m just still scarred by the utterly devastating Lilja 4-ever; it makes me very squeamish to see human trafficking made into a cartoonish MacGuffin.

On the subject of style. How to name the preternatural cleanliness of Cronenberg’s mise en scène? Even the location exteriors look like they’re on a sound stage, and the sound stage scenes look about as realistic as one of those old shots where the character sits behind the wheel of a car “driving” while a film of passing scenery rolls in the background. There’s even a scene just like that in the movie, where Naomi Watts is filmed riding her motorcycle straight at the camera. I’m too ignorant of the technical details to be able to conjecture how Cronenberg does this, but probably that’s not all that important anyway, since what I’d really like to know is how purposeful it is, and what intent lies behind it.



Wanted, Timur Bekmambetov. The Da Vinci Code meets The Matrix meets La Femme Nikita. Is AJ all that? Yes, she is.

The Question, Henri Alleg. More bravery in a month than I’ll muster in my life.

Shaun of the Dead, Edgar Wright. Documentary about contemporary English culture.

The Namesake, Mira Nair. Hackneyed narrative transposed onto inscrutable culture attempts to pass as original.

Strategic Air Command, Anthony Mann. Weird one from the great Mann. Made just two years before the Beckettesque desolation of Men in War, this film’s a hymn to the constant nuclear vigilance of the SAC. Some of Mann’s usual darkness definitely creeps in around the edges, but on the whole it’s pretty sleepy.

Operation Crossbow, Michael Anderson. I heart cable WWII flick. George Peppard infiltrates buzz bomb factory. Double crossing and Sophia Loren.

The Thin Man, W. S. Van Dyke. A marriage to aspire to. Makes your liver hurt just to watch.

White Heat, Brenda Wineapple. Delightful account of the correspondence between Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. My review is here.

Bush’s War. Brilliant, comprehensive documentary from Frontline covering the Bush administration’s machinations from 9/11 to now. Watch it online. Costs only your time and your lunch, which you’ll lose.