Tag Archives: Recursive

CAPSULE: TRIANGLE (2009)

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Christopher Smith

FEATURING: Melissa George

PLOT: The mother of an autistic son reluctantly goes on a pleasure cruise with five other

Still from Triangle (2009)

young adults; the yacht capsizes in a freak electrical storm and the party is “rescued” by an abandoned ocean liner.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Triangle is weird, and frankly entertaining, but like Stay, it kept reminding me of other, slightly better, movies I’d seen before.

COMMENTSTriangle depends so much on its plot twist—which you will be highly unlikely to see coming until about the midpoint of the movie—that it’s difficult to talk about the film without spoiling it, though I’ll do my best.  Melissa George does a creditable job and was a good casting choice for the lead: she’s easy on the eyes, tough yet vulnerable, anguished in her misplaced guilt over “abandoning” her autistic son to go on the ill-fated pleasure cruise, and generally likable, all of which makes the film’s ultimate revelation about her easier to take.  The rest of the cast does a decent job in supporting roles, but it’s entirely George’s picture.  The direction is good: dramatic, suspense and action scenes are handled well, although there’s no single scene that sticks out quite far enough for the movie to hang a hat on.  The abandoned steamer—it’s never clear whether it’s a commercial ship or a luxury liner, although it does have a theater and a banquet room—makes for an atmospheric location on a mid-sized budget.  As noted, the mystery of the opening builds until about the midpoint, where things begin to get clear; then, it’s mostly a question of details, of following the premise where it will inevitably lead.  Unfortunately, where it leads is to a coda that creates more questions than it resolves.  It’s safe to say that the movie is more satisfying on an emotional level, as a metaphor for the difficulty of escaping a pattern of self-destructive behavior, than it is on a plot level.  Eventually, the script becomes too clever for its own good, gliding casually past the difficult paradoxes it creates, hoping the audience either won’t notice or won’t care.  That’s not always a problem in a movie, and along with the fact that the movie never tries to explain where it’s supernatural rules originate, it certainly adds to the weird factor.  But Triangle gives off the vibe that it wants to provide a satisfying and complete resolution, something that closes the loop, but can’t quite manage it.  When you get to the end, you may wind up asking yourself, where does this story actually begin?  With it’s cyclical structure that appears to wrap the plot up in a self-contained ball but actually falls apart on closer inspection, Triangle reminded me of a poor man’s Donnie Darko.  Compared to that adolescent angst flick, it’s more coherent but less original, less aggressive in its outrageous plot devices, less emotionally affecting, and lacking in star turns and impeccably orchestrated individual scenes.

Triangle is worthy of a recommendation.  But the film compares unfavorably not only to Donnie Darko, but also to the little seen Timecrimes [Los Cronocrímenes] (2007).   (To make things as twisted as one of these psychothriller plots, the original Timecrimes is being remade in English and is scheduled for a 2011 release, meaning soon enough we will see people complaining that Timecrimes is nothing but a Triangle rip-off).  It shares its central plot idea with the low-budget Spanish picture, and maybe even a little more than that: Continue reading CAPSULE: TRIANGLE (2009)

27. SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK (2008)

“I think the movie is fun.  It has a lot of serious emotional stuff in it, but it’s funny in a weird way. You don’t have to worry, ‘What does the burning house mean?’  Who cares.  It’s a burning house that someone lives in—it’s funny.”–Director/writer Charlie Kaufman

RecommendedWeirdest!

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton, Catherine Keener

PLOT: Caden is a community theater director in Schenectady, New York, whose marriage and health are crumbling.  When things seem their lowest—his wife abandons him, and he believes that he’s dying—he inexplicably receives a MacArthur Genius grant.  He uses the money to create a meticulous recreation of New York City inside a warehouse, filled with actors playing characters from his own life, including one playing Caden the director himself.

Still from Synecdoche, New York

BACKGROUND:

  • Synecdoche is the directorial debut of Charlie Kaufman, who has been the screenwriter behind most of Hollywood’s big-budget weird films in the past decade.  His scripting credits include Being John Malkovich (1999), Adaptation (2002), and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004).
  • Kaufman began the script for Synecdoche as a horror film to be directed by frequent collaborator Spike Jonze.  Over two years the script evolved into its current tragicomedy form, and, as Jonze was busy with other projects, it was agreed that Kaufman would direct, with Jonze co-producing.
  • Synecdoche, New York won the 2008 Independent Spirit Award for best first feature.

INDELIBLE IMAGESynecdoche is a movie that weirds us out more through the concepts and dramatic situations than through the visuals, but there is a lovely image of a tattooed rose that physically sheds a real dead petal as its owner expires.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD:  Charlie Kaufman.  More to the point, Charlie Kaufman unleashed; unlike Being John Malkovich or Adaptation, where weird and puzzling events are given a rational (if obscure) answer by the end, the weirdness of Synecdoche deliberately frustrates all attempts at a logical solution.  Hazel’s house, which burns and smokes for decades without being consumed, is shamelessly absurd.  The movie is an exploration of dream logic, a life journey that fractures time, space and coherence, where individual events do not add up piece by piece on a plot level, but resolve themselves on an emotional level.

Original trailer for Synecdoche, New York

COMMENTS: “There is a secret something at play under the surface, growing like an Continue reading 27. SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK (2008)