Transformers Adoration (Weekly Links)

Movies I reviewed for the Herald this week.

cheri

Is that a giant robot in the distance, or the inexorable tread of time?

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. “From one stupefying situation to the next.”

Cheri. “A lurking empathy for their foolishness.”

Adoration. (Dead link; review below)

by Robert Horton

Canadian director Atom Egoyan is fond of pondering situations from multiple perspectives, and when he’s in the groove (“The Sweet Hereafter,” for instance), this method can be a way of opening up the world in a bigger way.

With his new film “Adoration,” Egoyan’s approach misfires, I think. An interesting central situation dissipates in the fragmented storytelling.

That central situation involves a Toronto high-school kid named Simon (Devon Bostick), who reads a speech to his classroom one day. A narrative of Simon’s (now dead) parents, the tale involves terrorism. When the story gets out on the Internet, both Simon and his teacher (Arsinee Khanjian), who strongly encouraged him to share the story, come under scrutiny. There are some (rather mild) surprises in the aftermath of this, but the most important thing is that Simon’s tale raises the hackles of friends and strangers alike. It also upsets Simon’s uncle Tom (Scott Speedman), who’s been raising Simon since the death of the parents. Most of this information comes to us in bits and pieces, and we can’t be quite sure who’s telling the truth.

The film keeps returning, for instance, to Simon interviewing his hospital-bound grandfather. The elder man bears a grudge against Simon’s father, who was Lebanese, blaming him for a family catastrophe. Egoyan sets up a series of issues that need to be addressed, and a set of prejudices that need to be dealt with. Unfortunately, these mostly resolve just about exactly the way you’d expect them to, based on the first 20 minutes of the film.

Since the beginning of his career, Egoyan has taken an interest in the way the new media fractures reality and sometimes muddies the truth. In this film, those devices include cell phones, cameras, and Internet chat rooms abuzz with opinions. None of this is quite enough to energize the static atmosphere “Adoration” creates. At times it’s as though this movie is suffering from depression.

The film’s best performance comes from Scott Speedman (“Underworld”), who always seems like a determined actor trapped in a leading man’s body. He breathes physical life into the somewhat airless spaces of Egoyan’s world.

Tulpan. “A wry, funny intelligence guiding us.”

Treeless Mountain. (Dead link; review below)

by Robert Horton

Films about children usually need to rise above the level of their young heroes, the better to give perspective on the world at large. But not “Treeless Mountain.” This is one of those rare movies that stay right at the level of the kids in question—almost to a claustrophobic degree.

A Korean-American director, So Yong Kim, shot “Treeless Mountain” in her native South Korea. It follows the travails of two very young girls whose mother takes them to live with her cranky sister-in-law. The kids are 6 and 4 years old, and are played by the utterly naturalistic Hee Yeon Kim and Song Hee Kim. Even though their age difference is slight, the two girls express distinct personalities: the older one watchful and solemn before her time, the younger one still innocent and cheery.

Something unpleasant has happened with the girls’ father, an unnamed issue the mother seems to be attending to. Perhaps because the two girls don’t know the details of this, we don’t need to either. Eventually the aunt gets tired of tending the children, so she drives them out to the country and deposits them with their grandparents. Since the film is basically one detail after another about what a child sees, the shift from city to country is huge. The change to the countryside is almost like a release of tension, a loosening of the tight world of pavement and small rooms. The colors change, and birdsong enters the scene.

This is all skillfully done, but it would be misrepresenting the movie to suggest that it adds up to anything like a traditional story. So Yong Kim, whose previous film was “In Between Days,” is not interested in building suspense or providing the usual rise and fall of drama. Don’t expect a big resolution. Perhaps this film is just about adapting on the fly: the kids adapting to the new environments they find themselves thrown into along the way, and the audience adapting to a different kind of movie-watching experience. None of which is academic. When “Treeless Mountain” comes to its logical but sudden ending, the emotional effect is sneaky. But strong.

Plus a Rotten link: Mark Rahner and I interviewed by KPTK’s Jacques Pugh about the comic book: here. Our bit starts about halfway through.

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One Response

  1. Here’s an interesting thesis: What if Transformers ROTF is the greatest art film ever made?

    http://io9.com/5301898/michael-bay-finally-made-an-art-movie

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