Films I Neglected To Review: ''Wake Up''By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 04/21/17 09:36:50
Please enjoy short reviews of the ''Donnie Darko'' restoration, ''Graduation'' and ''The Lost City of Z.''
Whichever version you pick, it is still astonishing to see how confident Kelly was as a filmmaker his first time out, both in his ability to conceive and execute such a defiantly one-of-a-kind narrative that deftly jumps from genre to genre without breaking a sweat and in his equally significant ability to tell it in a strong and interesting manner that is visually stylish without being garish and which finds him getting strong performances from an eclectic cast including the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, Katherine Ross and the cast-against-type Patrick Swayze as a creepy motivational speaker who becomes one of the demons that our anti-hero (Gyllenhaal) must slay in the 28 days before the world may or may not come to an end. Kellyís subsequent career as a filmmaker may have been a bit checkeredóhis even-stranger follow-up ''Southland Tales'' was a notorious bomb when it came out in 2006 (though it would develop a cult of its own) and he hasnít directed since the failed release of the marginally less strange 2009 head-spinner ''The Box''--but watching ''Donnie Darko'' again will both remind you of his prodigious talents and make you wish that he could get another project going as soon as possible.
Over the course of his first two films, ''4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days'' and ''Beyond the Hills,'' Mungiu has established himself as one of his country's most respected and innovative filmmakers for the way that he tells stories that are almost documentary-like in their specificity while still delving into universal truths. With ''Graduation,'' he has offered up a classically structured morality tale--perhaps too classically structured for its own good because it has a familiar and formulaic quality to it that winds up working against it. While his previous films had a sense of real life and energy to them, this feels more like a writer's construct with every twist, turn and speed bump arriving just in time to help move the narrative along. To be fair, the film still does work on some fundamental level because of the sheer directorial skill that Mungiu deploys to bring the material to life and through the strong central performance from Titieni as the increasingly beleaguered doctor. However, considering the power of Mungiuís previous efforts, ''Graduation'' cannot help but come across as being somewhat of a disappointment.
From a dramatic standpoint, ''The Lost City of Z'' is a bit dodgy at times--it never really calls into question his determination to uncover a race of people who presumably have no interest in being uncovered and the stuff involving the family that he leaves behind--including Sienna Miller as his long-suffering wife--is so cliched that you can practically read the lines along with the actors as they play them. And yet, while Grey's adaptation may be somewhat wanting, he more than makes up for it by presenting the familiar material in a visually stunning way as he and cinematographer par excellence Darius Khondji recreate the Amazon in Colombia to a stunning effect that is enhanced further by the decision to shoot the entire thing in the glory of 35mm instead of the cheaper and less vivid digital alternative. (The film will be presented on 35mm in some theaters and if one of them is near, make a point to see it that way.) The actors are also quite good as well--Hunnum does manage to capture some of the presumed madness of Fawcett, a nearly-unrecognizable Robert Pattinson pops up as his loyal co-explorer and Miller almost manages to make much of her boilerplate dialogue seem close to convincing. ''The Lost City of Z'' may not be the masterpiece that it clearly wants to be but in its finest moments, it has enough visual panache and a genuine sense of adventure to make it still worth checking out regardless.
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