For Reel

The Game (1997)
July 20, 2016, 9:14 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: David Fincher
3.5 Stars
The GameAlthough critics of the film often point to the ending of The Game as being utterly implausible, what is so unusual about David Fincher’s sophomore effort is that its dealing with reality is tenuous from the very beginning. It’s a gutsy move for a film to begin with several pronouncements that the game of the title is a phony experiment, and then try to mine suspense from the resulting chaos. One is practically begged to watch every moment with the uncertainty that it could all be a rouse—a problem to the sense of narrative stakes to say the least. Does it matter? Perhaps it is perfectly valid to watch the film from a distance, admiring the artifice of it all and routing for the hero not to get to the bottom of it, but to learn a lesson. It is here that The Game takes a radical left turn from something like Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, which constructs a Kafka-esque nightmarish scenario and cruelly but relatably suggests that the insane twists of fate are just as dehumanizing as life in an office environment. The Game‘s title alone allows a certain bemused detachment—even if one goes along with Michael Douglas’ horrifying descent into potential conspiracies, the title refers to the pleasures of a tightly-constructed narrative, with Fincher openly savoring in the unreality of it all.

Henry Fool (1997)
August 16, 2012, 7:46 am
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Director: Hal Hartley

In size and ambition, Henry Fool positions itself as Hal Hartley’s opus – a modern folk tale that borrows a few literary archetypes (the burgeoning author and his mentor, the erudite drifter) and weaves them through a narrative that is concerned with, among other things, the state of art criticism, the growing conservatism in America, and the influence of the internet on modern culture. James Urbaniak, fittingly expressionless throughout much of the picture, plays the disaffected garbage man whose tutelage under the titular derelict embodied by Thomas Jay Ryan leads him to great success. If, in scope, Henry Fool is a far cry away from Hartley’s Trust, he again excels through one-on-one character interactions, a naturalistic visual palette, and a fascination with language and the possibilities of dialogue (one of the picture’s best scenes involves Ryan explaining the difference between there/their/they’re: “They’re the doughnut people.”) Like Martin Donovan, Ryan has impeccable instincts in dealing with Hartley’s blunt, highly-stylized dialogue – his Henry Fool is unspeakably pompous and foul, but Ryan brings so much charisma to the larger-than-life character that resisting his charms proves fruitless. The direction that the film takes in its latter half is not nearly as strong as the earliest moments between Urbaniak and Ryan, and Hartley fails in attempting to bring a sense of vulnerability to the outrageous Henry, but the occasional misfire is compensated for by the strength of the acting.

Gattaca (1997)
April 17, 2011, 9:32 pm
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Director: Andrew Niccol

A staple of today’s high school biology classes, Gattaca predicts many of the 21st century debates regarding the ethics of genetic engineering. The film succeeds beyond the thrills expected of its genre through the thoughtful presentation of this feasible futuristic utopia, however as an action picture Andrew Niccol also finds a lot of success – most memorably in the fantastically edited sequence wherein Jude Law struggles up a set of stairs using only his arms. Shot by Slawomir Idziak, who collaborated with Krzysztof Kieslowski on some of his best pictures, the film’s memorable, vacuous setting is juxtaposed by the warm sunsets of the outside world. The film’s only significant struggle is its central murder mystery, which, beyond not being of much interest to begin with, pays off implausibly and with little impact.