Mark Metcalf

A handful of observations

By - Mar 26th, 2009 09:00 am
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AUGUST RUSH

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I’ll put August Rush on the ring finger because it is a fantasy romance and I think of marriage that way lately.  I don’t really like the picture, except that the romance is mostly told with music, and Freddie Highmore, the child actor from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Finding Neverland, is the star.

A friend of mine started a play of hers with a quote from Kurt Vonnegut: “If I should die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD WAS MUSIC.”  I think this film’s embrace of music – and of the possibility that a human can be gifted beyond understanding – suggests the existence of God as well.

It’s the shots of people listening that give me that rush of emotion, that make me tear up and gasp.  It’s true especially in films about music, but I think in any film about art and artistic expression, the key moment is the appreciation of the action, the moment when everything is redeemed because the audience actually hears what is being played, sung, spoken, acted, or expressed and recognizes that something extraordinary is happening, that a window is being opened into a soul and a life is being exposed with grace and dignity.  My heart goes to the audience because, if Kurt Vonnegut is right, the artist walks with God, and in a way brings that as a gift to the listener.  The moments of recognition in August Rush gave me that.

GOLDFINGER and QUANTUM OF SOLACE

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The middle finger and the thumb …

I spent the weekend at an autograph show with Tony Curtis, Angie Dickinson and Shirley Eaton.  Shirley Eaton was the beautiful blond who betrayed Gert Frobe in Goldfinger, my favorite of the early James Bond movies.   I hope that one of my last memories will be of Shirley Eaton, dead and naked, lying across Sean Connery’s bed, painted gold.  If I’m still having erotic thoughts – and that is the hope – one of them will be of her.  Goldfinger was 1964 and she still holds up.  Fine featured and elegant, wearing gold tones, a very gracious lady and charming with the many fans that came to see her.

The early Bond films celebrated a particularly decorative notion of maleness.  They also celebrated the notion of the female as decoration.  The new Bond, starting with Casino Royale and Daniel Craig, redefines maleness and the position of the female in his life.  Craig’s Bond is a thug, a brutal man with the focus and concentration of a soldier machine who learns charm, social grace and maybe humanity itself when he falls in love with a woman. In the sequel, Quantum of Solace, which came out on DVD and Blu-Ray on Tuesday, he is set on revenge for her death at the end of Casino Royale. It’s a James Bond with human feelings and fast cars and million dollar stakes at the gaming table.

But Quantum of Solace fails because of its overcomplicated plot.  In the urgent need to merchandise the global rush to green the planet, it includes a confusing plot about stealing water in the desert.  If you look at the two films side-by-side you can tell how two director’s divergent approaches make a difference.  Martin Campbell in Casino Royale understands that the story we are really interested in is the story of the man, and then the woman.  The rest – international intrigue, super-organizations controlling the banking industry and selling guns to terrorists – that’s all window dressing, and we’re not really following it at all.  Just be sure the man and the woman get together, tie up the loose ends and keep the action moving and we’ll accept a hole or two in the plot.  Campbell does that.  Quantum of Solace’s Marc Forster appears to be worried that we won’t be able to follow the story as it spans the globe from location to location; he spends an inordinate amount of time making us listen to explanations of what is happening and why when all we really want is to be watching the man and the woman, or someone chase someone else.  He does have the disadvantage in this case of having the man interested only in revenge for the death of the woman he loved and only vaguely interested in the women that are still alive.  The women are more of a decoration as in the early series of James Bond movies.  I hope this trend does not continue.  I liked the new turn.

TO CATCH A THIEF

 

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The pointing finger … the original digit…

I’ll wager that To Catch A Thief is simply the most elegant, fun and sexy American movie there is.  I won’t wager much because I’m already thinking of others, but the scene with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in the hotel room, opening a bottle of Champagne, with fireworks out the window over the water, Grace Kelly painfully elegant and carved into a white dress, trying to seduce a reluctant, disinterested Cary Grant, is one of the best sex-as-a-fun-wonderful-game scenes ever shot.  The other one is the picnic scene in the car after a chase scene along the same road that Grace Kelly died on almost 30 years later.  The innuendo and double entendre as the two actors enjoy each other and the act of performing and playing the game is delightful.  It’s the kind of scene that makes you want to watch movies like it all the time.

This hand of observations will have to do without a pinky finger.

Categories: Movies, VITAL

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