21 October 2006

Succinct Film Reviews: The Prestige Edition

The Prestige, ponderous, but good, Chris Nolan doing his best M. Night Shyamalan impression.

That was the short version, now the longer (completely spoiler free) . . .

I liked this film, I wanted to like it more, though. Everyone in it is great, but it still lacks something. It either should have been more serious, or more frivilous. It hangs uncomfortably between, it's not thought-provoking enough for a serious film, yet it's also not spritely enough for a popcorn picture.

The many misdirections and tricks used in the filmmaking have been done better elsewhere, but that doesn't mean that this film screws them up completely, but it all just carries a hint of tricks for tricks' sake, which can get annoying.

What to like; the cinematography, the acting, David Bowie as Nikolai Tesla, Scarlett Johansson in turn of the century attire (if any modern actress was meant to be trussed up and spilling out of corsets, she's the one).

What not to like; the central conceit, the pacing, Hugh Jackman's teeth (distractingly good for someone of that period, he needed some snaggle-toothed falsies to fit the period better).

This film requires patience to enjoy, and your patience won't be entirely rewarded in a satisfactory manner, yet it's still a film that is commendable, watchable, and entertaining enough to recommend.

Could have been better though.

For a far better use of the competing "secret" diaries plot device I recommend reading Tanazaki's The Key. A brilliant and disturbing book.

(An Americanized Southern Gothic version set somewhere back in the 30s or 40s would be brilliant. There have been two film versions of The Key in Japan, the first one in 1959 was a Golden Globe winner, but has never been released on DVD, and I don't know if it's any good, the second one was directed by someone whose other films are crappy exploitation pictures so it probably focuses on the sensational aspects of the work and not the amazing psychological interplay between the three main characters)

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