ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND. Michel Gondry, 2004. 108min.
What if you could erase memories from your mind? Would you benefit from the lost memories, or would you discover that those memories are all you have of yourself and those around you, and by losing those memories you're losing a bit of yourself? Eternal Sunshine offers those choices to its main characters, and Michel Gondry shows us the effects, brilliantly but subtly applying techniques that he has honed in music videos in the service of a film that, for the most part, runs in someone's head. Unfortunately, while the root themes of the film are intriguing, the script and the editing prove erratic and uneven, detracting from the main focus of the film. In the end, I had a love hate relationship with the film. I finally liked the film, but there were times when I thought that if I could erase certain parts from the celluloid, it could have been much stronger. Carrey was surprisingly good.
EUREKA. Shinji Aoyama, 2000. 217min.
A beautifully photographed study of people in search of themselves in the aftermath of violence, Eureka traces the lives of the three survivors of a killer's rampage on the bus they were riding upon. Hostages and witnesses to the murder of the other passengers (as well as the death of the killer by a police bullet), the three end up living together as a family of sorts, trying to understand what happened to them and how to continue living with their past. Remarkably, the director allows the film to unfold at its own pace, the camera carefully picking up on the details of their lives, recording their slow process of discovery as the corpses of young women begin to be found in their village. The film is highly observant, remembering small occurrences like where a boy leaves his gum to be subtly recalled and woven into a later scene as a man casually notices it under a railing and absently pries it loose. The gorgeous black and white photography belie their stark lives, as the camera perfectly composes each scene--at times the photography alone would be enough to keep one's interest--and the long silences allow the actors to portray their emotions on their faces. It is a fantastic piece of work, not the least of which for the time it is given to depict these lives, a necessary allowance. I can't imagine losing a single scene of the whole as even empty spaces and silences serve to inform the lives of the characters; the film proves completely absorbing. Similar in theme to The Sweet Hereafter (Atom Egoyan, 1997), a film that also concerns the ways in which people survive tramatic experiences (also as a result of a bus incident), Eureka also evokes The 400 Blows (Francois Truffaut, 1959) and, strangely, Escape to Wtich Mountain (John Hough, 1975). Ultimately cathartic, the film offers no simple solutions, and even the personal triumphs tend towards the bittersweet. Not a simple film to watch (or find the time to watch), but very well worth the effort. 5.5.01
THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL. Luis Bunuel, 1962. 95min.
A dark undercurrent pervades the start of the movie as servants depart a house for no understandable reason. The host has gathered friends for a dinner party and they arrive and enter the house. Twice. So is the remarkable setup that Bunuel establishes establishes where the guests are unable to leave. At once a low comedy and a scathing commentary on the bourgeois and our baser instincts, the film draws hours into days and then longer as the people continue to be trapped seemingly by their own inability to leave. Such strange forces at work outside prove to create a fascinating study of how manners devolve until the film becomes a "Lord of the Flies" of sorts in dinner jackets and fancy dress. To see him at work in a more surreal sense, definitely see Un Chien Andalou (1928), his first film co-directed with Salvador Dali. And another film which mines the dark undercurrent of bourgoise life is his very fine Belle du Jour (1967) starring Catherine Deneuve. 4.9.00
EQUILIBRIUM. Kurt Wimmer, 2002. 107min.
If the Matrix existed in the world of an Apple commercial, you might get something akin to Equilibrium. In a future distopia, war and violence have been eradicated. The method for doing so is an injection that the citizens of the world volunarily subject themselves to that effectively removes emotion. In a Fahrenheit 451 twist, art and anything that triggers emotionial attachment or feeling is banned and burned. In the outskirts of the city, a band of insurgents seeks to regain their own humanity, and those of the world at large, by sabotaging the plants and the big brother figure that controls the city. Christian Bale stars as a Cleric (one who upholds the quasi-religious arm that seeks out sense-offenders --those who feel) who comes to realize that feelings are what makes us human. The film tries for cool effects, as Clerics are taught gun katatas, which we are told improve marksmanship greatly, and there should be something neat about fighting hand to hand with guns, but somehow it all falls flat. The premise should work, but it's been overworked for too long, and in the end, even the climax seems a drawn out foregone conclusion. It's a film that should be cool, but unfortunately just plain isn't.