For Reel


Modern Romance (1981)
September 12, 2012, 4:07 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Albert Brooks

Unlike Woody Allen, there is little that is charming about Albert Brooks’ on-screen persona. Like his East Coast counterpart, he is neurotic, self-obsessed, and delusional, however whereas Allen was identifiable through his humorous observations (he made you believe that everyone else was crazy and he was the sane one) and a knowing awareness of his faults, Brooks’ characters seem oblivious to the fact that they’re walking disasters. In Modern Romance, his second outing as a director, Brooks tests the limits of his audience’s patience as he chronicles the journey of a man who never realizes his faults, rather the contradiction of his neediness and his unwillingness to commit is always in play. Yet, the spectacle of his self-destruction is something to behold – early in the picture, Brooks stumbles through his apartment drunk and on Quaaludes in an extended take, indecisive as to what his next move will be and making conversation with a cockatiel and various inanimate objects. Without frequent cutting and restricting the space by having the camera strictly following Brooks, one can’t help but feel claustrophobic – not trapped so much by space as by a man and his embarrassing downfall.



Real Life (1979)
September 12, 2012, 4:02 pm
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Director: Albert Brooks

Albert Brooks’ disarmingly prescient first feature is a biting response to PBS’ groundbreaking reality series An American Family, a program often credited as being the first of its genre, and one tinged with controversy due to its dalliances with the topics of divorce and homosexuality. With confrontational sarcasm, Brooks argues that the act of documenting reality is a myth – inevitably, even the most careful of filmmakers are intruding, and the subject’s knowledge of the camera leads to behavior that perhaps best reflects the ways that man acts under surveillance. Beyond the blanket satire, Real Life is a prophetic look at filmmaking in the digital age, with the feature’s longest running gag involving the ridiculous helmeted digital cameras that the crew members wear. Filmmaking is not only more mobile, but it is also unrestricted by personnel (or lack thereof) – early on, Brooks dismisses his gaffers and assistant directors, favoring a small crew for the intimacy he needs. Fascinating as the feature is, it stops just shy of masterpiece when the admirable concept wears thin. Regardless, the picture marked the emergence of a major figure in contemporary cinema – a much grittier, manic Woody Allen, never afraid to make the audience wholly unsympathetic towards his self-aggrandizing alter-ego.