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Friday, May 11, 2012


     roman polanski directing carnage

Have just finished seeing Roman Polanski's 2011 film, CARNAGE, the second time. I go into a Polanski film a little apprehensive of what I'm getting myself into. He has an edge that is borderline unsettling. His films make me feel uncomfortable, yet at the same time I sit in awe of Polanski's artistry. By the end, I'm blown away by another Polanski film. This one had the Polanski edge from start to finish. I laughed all the way through it, while it was no comedy. Two middle class couples in New York City. Jodie Foster and John C Reilly were a couple, Kate Winslett and Christoph Waltz the other couple. Winslett's ll year old boy hit Jodie Foster's boy with a stick requiring dental work. Foster, a conscientious middle class white woman on edge wanting to make the world better, Africa her focus. PC to the max. Her husband, John C Reilly, is a working man, a man full of white man opinions. Winslett's husband, Christoph Waltz, is a slick-tongued lawyer. They start their visit talking about the boys fighting. Each one had a different opinion on the matter. They started with coffee and advanced to liquor. The drama followed.

If you saw Polanski's Chinatown, you remember the scene where Roman Polanski, himself, acting a brief role, stuck a switchblade up Jack Nicholson's nose and pulled it out the side. Unforgettable moment in film. The unforgettable moment in this one is Kate Winslett puking, delivering a copious hurl onto the coffee table, a direct hit on Jodie's Kokoshka coffee table book, out of print, can't be replaced. A little later we see Winslett with her head in a bucket puking some more. She was overcome by a severe case of nervous tension. Evidently, Carnage was originally written as a play. Characteristic of a play, it all happens in one space, a New York apartment. Also characteristic of a play, it was brilliantly written. It was also an acting tour de force for every one of the actors. My respect for every one of the shot way up. Kate Winslett I found on the verge of average in Titanic, but since then she has become an accomplished actress. In Carnage she's placed opposite Jodie Foster and impressed me as never before with her talent as an actress. Jodie Foster became so real in her character, as she always does--the reason she's a great actress, it felt like I was watching this event happen through a keyhole in the door.

I noticed several Pinter phrases and ways of making verbal observations. They were not like imitations of Pinter by any means. Pinter has become the language of the modern man and woman in our time. He was the Shakespeare of London in his time, the last half of the 20th Century. I'd like to see Jodie Foster in a Pinter play. She was noted for her acting in her beginning, Taxi Driver, and became an obsession of that guy Hinkley who shot Reagan. She became a big star right away. The Hinkley ordeal messed her up a bit, but she came out of it whole. I liked her in Follow The River, an average movie, but she made it better than it otherwise might have been. But I have to say I appreciated her acting talent in Carnage more than in anything I've seen her in. Maybe I fully appreciated her the first time. She portrayed a frustrated white middle class woman to what I'd call perfection. I've seen women I know express their frustration in the same body language, same attitudes, same explosive urges too inhibited to go all the way. In the beginning, everybody was happy and putting on their best. By the end, facades had fallen away and it turned out everybody was miserable.

The interior decorating in the apartment had quite a lot to say visually about what was going on. Squares and rectangles everywhere. Sharp corners pointing every which way. Everybody was showing their pointed edges to each other. Using a mirror is one of my favorite Polanski stunts. In one scene we're looking almost straight into a mirror and don't see the camera. He used a rectangular mirror quite a lot for an added depth to what we're seeing. I felt like it was a visual tour de force as well. It was a directing tour de force too. Like every Polanski film I've seen before, this one is a work of masterful artistry. The playwright's name is Yasmina Reza. Evidently the play was written for London. It was filmed in Paris, but Polanski made it New York. I didn't think I could like any film of his better than I did The Pianist, the story of the Nazi occupation of Krakow, Poland, when Polanski himself was 8, making a visual feast of a film with a powerful story.

He was 8 when his parents were taken to concentration camps. He escaped by chance and worked with the resistance. Set on his own, an orphan suddenly, he became the man he is now, one of the great film makers of the last half of the 20th Century. Sharon Tate was his wife of one and a half years when Charles Manson and some others on acid killed everybody in the house, made a spectacle for the news, one of the most heinous of crimes. Manson got the name evil from the nature of the occasion, and will probably never be let out of prison. Polanski has said he wishes he'd been there and had died that night. He said the murder changed him deeply. Before, he was optimistic, and after, lives in pessimism about the nature of humanity. Polish/American writer Jerzy Kosinski wrote an account of the Manson slayings in his novel Blind Date, as seen in the mind's eye of someone who would have been there had his luggage not been lost by the airline. He had to wait overnight before he could make his transfer to Los Angeles. Polanski has been through a lot, especially growing up in Krakow in the heat of WW2 an orphan. It gave the artist in him a depth he might not otherwise have had. Like Dane director Lars von Trier, Polanski can plumb the depths and isn't afraid to go there.


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