Posted by: dougery | June 26, 2012

Collage Review #1: Drive / Moonrise Kingdom

Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t just sit around watching movies all day. I also play video games and listen to hipster music! But back to that first sentence for a moment. The one about movies. Because I love them and really should make more time for them instead of say, reading about memes on the internet. Which is why I was so proud of myself to have watched not one but two movies over the weekend. Please, hold your applause, three readers. Anyhow, this was s random pairing if there ever was one. Thus Collage Review was born. The principle of collage being some fancy-pants artist type mashes together two objects and BLAMMO, all sorts of interesting things emerge from the way said objects talk to one another. I suppose I could have called this Comparative Film Review or some junk, but the word collage is several degrees cooler than comparative.

So yeah, it was Saturday night and since my wife and I are so cool that we were home for the evening at 8:30pm, I fired up the old Wii and scrolled through Netflix’s instant offerings for something that would entertain us both, a difficult assignment. I’d been meaning to see Drive for a while now, it played for a day and a half in the Berkshires last year, in a theater that was an hour away and waaa waaa I know but still. I knew relatively little about it other than that scorpion jacket and a vague idea that it was genre-y and violent. I think I sold L on it when I told her it featured Ryan “Hey, Girl” Gosling. I’m just kidding. She’s more of a Ron Perlman woman.

All jesting aside, I was completely unaware of the loaded cast. Bryan Cranston! Albert Brooks! Carey Mulligan! Joan from Mad Men! Ringers, the lot of them. Also, a terrific visual style, the retro pink cursive opening credits and that score (A real human being, and a real hero…)! If the devil’s in the details then Drive is infested with beelzebubs. The long pauses, the pace of the plot, the tension and the way the violence just comes pouring into the film after so much stillness, as if so many things had to be in place holding all of that blood back.

Hey, Girl. I’m about to stomp a goon’s head into a gooey red paste

Juxtaposed to this was the film L and I went out of the house to see the next day, Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. Another detail-centric hyper-stylized movie with a deep cast. Just swap in Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton and Frances McDormand (I consider Bill Murray to be a piece of Wes’s used furniture and less an actor at this point) and replace the 80s electro with Mothersbaugh’s classical noodlings and there you have it. The violence in Moonrise Kingdom, such as it is, is used to comedic effect as this is a romance, albeit muted one.

I am always overwhelmed by the costumes and mise en scene of Anderson’s stuff. With the exception of Tenenbaums (and only then, I think, because I saw it first) it has felt to me that Wes has more fun designing the books on the character’s libraries than say, the plot. Usually this is perfectly fine for me but this time around I reached my twee-threshold. Several of my friends (and many professional critics) reach their own personal Wes Anderson twee-threshold at some point during his filmography. The good news is that many persevere and are able to enjoy his movies once more. But there’s always one that hits a sour spot. Maybe this is mine.

Anderson’s child characters are often much more mature than his adults, and the protagonist runaways here are no exception. Maybe what Anderson is saying is that we grow up to be strange and broken and kind of sad in order to deal with a world that is all of those things. Or we become this way to not deal with it, I guess. Evidence of this estrangement–all of these folks are sequestered on an island and the only communication with the outside world is through a laborious telephone switch board. Children share more intimate dialogue, via hand-written notes (also landscape paintings… and a few nudes). I liken Anderson’s fascination/focus on ‘romantic’ not-quite-adults to the bent M83’s music has recently taken. Well, at least since Saturdays = Youth.

I say this because while it is useful to dig into how we learn how to engage each other romantically and tween/teen romance has its place it does lend itself to a nostalgia that can be cloying and a little creepy. The alternative in this arbitrary film pairing, of course, is the relationship Irene and ‘The Driver’ share in Drive. One that is as doomed as it is poignant. At least in Drive the screenwriter is content to let long silences drag on and do the heavy lifting whereas Anderson tends to lean on the oh-so clever (or precious, whatever) turn of phrase.

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