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Lucius
Posted on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 10:43 am:   

Has anyone out there seen this movie?

I caught a screener last year and have been waiting ever since for it to hit the theaters in Portland (it didn't, at least I never saw an ad), and now I find it's going to be out on DVD next month. It got some good reviews, lousy distribution and featured Ralph Fiennes' best (by a mile ) performance in the title role. The source material is the Patrick McGrath novel.

Some audience reactions have labeled it "Too depressing," but if you don't want to see a depressing movie, then don't go to see a movie about a schizophrenic, unless, of course, you'd care to drown yourself in the Disney version of the disease, the feelgood schizophrenia of "A Beautiful Mind."

I was going to review "Spider" when it came to Portland, but since it missed us here in the great NW, I'll just say I hope some of you rent the DVD. This is Cronenberg working in miniature, the way he did in "Dead Ringers," but more so, and I'd have to say it's my favorite film of his right now, though I have an abiding affection for "Videodrome."
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RFW
Posted on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 11:50 am:   

I think I remember hearing about it, but it never came anywhere near hear, but then neither did eXistenz (or however you spell it).

I'll look for it a the lame-ass video places around here.

Robert
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 12:59 pm:   

July 29th, Robert. That's the release date.

I got those CDs you burned. Thanks. Haven't listened yet, but I'll get to 'em soon.
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Ellen
Posted on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 01:29 pm:   

It came out in NY but I never got around to seeing it. A friend who did see it in a screening didnt' like it (not sure why).

I do plan to see it one of these days. On video. Or DVD whenever I upgrade.
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Lucius
Posted on Monday, June 09, 2003 - 02:57 pm:   

Mostly people who don't like it say it's too grim or depressing. Cinematography is incredible. Another reason people don't like it -- Fiennes has hardly any dialogue. But, hey, I thought it was very good.

You can get all region DVD player now for under a hundred bucks from Daewoo. It's time to upgrade, Ellen. :-)
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John Thompson Jr.
Posted on Wednesday, June 11, 2003 - 01:13 am:   

It's sad that a director as talented as Cronenberg has problems getting his films seen.
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Daniel Read
Posted on Thursday, June 12, 2003 - 03:07 pm:   

I saw it here in Atlanta and enjoyed it. It played an arthouse here for a few weeks, believe it or not. It was indeed depressing, but as you suggest, Lucius, this is not necessarily a bad thing. This is definitely the creepiest thing Cronenberg has done since Dead Ringers, but it's not nearly as creepy as I remember Dead Ringers being. Fiennes does an excellent job playing a pretty messed up, but sympathetic and ultimately likable character. The plot is one of those trick plots, a la Momento, where you don't know what the hell is going on really until the end. Even though I'm tiring of these kinds of movies, Cronenberg pulls it off nicely and it did not bother me. The black and white works very well, and the scenery and overall mood reminded me somewhat of Eraserhead. I recommend checking this one out.

Dan
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, June 12, 2003 - 03:27 pm:   

Hi, Dan...Atlanta must be an enlightened place in some ways. I'm glad you got to see it and that you liked it. I thought the film, considering Cronenberg's reputation, was astonishingly neglected.
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Daniel Read
Posted on Friday, June 13, 2003 - 07:19 am:   

Atlanta is indeed a great place to be an independent movie watcher. We have four different theaters that regularly (and in some cases exclusively) get indpendent movies. I try and go as often as I can. There have been several really good ones this year so far, including Spider, but also City of God and Lost in La Mancha.

I think Cronenberg must have become accustomed by now to commercial neglect, even after his movies make big splashes at film festivals. He just likes to ill people out, which is of course what I like about him. Hopefully his investors will make money on the DVD so that he can keep making them.

Dan
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, June 13, 2003 - 08:07 am:   

Dan,

Cronenberg for sure deserves better. I wish to God he'd sell out for one movie and get some real backing for his next. But maybe he doesn't know how.

How'd you like City of God? It was a little slick for me. A little too exploitative. But the guy knows his camera.
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Daniel Read
Posted on Friday, June 13, 2003 - 01:30 pm:   

I liked City of God. The exploitative aspects of it did not bother, I guess because I often enjoy that with cinema. (I can see you having a different take on that, though, given the extensive travelling you've done in that part of the world and others like it. Perhaps you've seen first hand the types of things they're exploiting? I am not the most internationally well travelled person.) I guess there's a fine line between exploitation and realism, and the location of the line is open to interpretation.

I very much enjoyed the characters, and found them to be nicely multi-dimensional, even the bad guys. I thought the movie depicted well for an outsider what it must be like living in such circumstances, with the main character trying to break out and rise above, and most other characters too smothered to even consider the idea. This is a common theme with many American ghetto movies, and I enjoyed seeing it in the Brazillian context. The movie was also balanced out by a good amount of comic relief and happy, hopeful moments.

The camera work was indeed excellent. I really liked the way he stayed close in with the action. I'm not much of a student of cinematography, so I'm often at a loss when it comes to expressing my appreciation or dissatisfaction with camera work.

I'd like to see this one again.

Are you a Coen brothers fan, Lucius? Miller's Crossing finally came out on DVD a couple weeks ago, and I purchased a copy but have not yet watched it. One of my favorites of their's. #1 on the list would be The Big Lebowski (probably my favorite comedy period; John Goodman deserved an Oscar), Raising Arizona, then Miller's Crossing, and probably Blood Simple after that. I like 'em all, except The Hudsucker Proxy, which confounds me to this day. I'm still on the fence about The Man Who Wasn't There.

BTW, Lucius, I've been enjoying your movie reviews on electric story for awhile now. No one can rip a movie to shreds like you. :-)

Dan
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, June 14, 2003 - 12:45 am:   

Hi Dan.

I just got back from watching Tonya Harding box. I'm very confused by the experience.

For me, the Coen Brothers are two movies: Blood Simple and Barton Fink. Miller's Crossing and Fargo tie for third. I liked the first half of Raising Arizona. Beyond that, I don't connect with them too well.

I think I'm too wiped out to think. Back tomorrow.

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David G.
Posted on Tuesday, January 06, 2004 - 11:29 am:   

I really loved this movie, no question about it. I've always been a huge Cronenberg fan, although I think his work veers off into gimmickry from time to time (albeit fun gimmickry). It was real refreshing to see Cronenberg doing an intense, highly-nuanced character study like this. IMHO, this is one of world cinema's great underappreciated auteurs.
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Lucius
Posted on Tuesday, January 06, 2004 - 11:35 am:   

David, yeah, it really sucked SPIDER didn't get a wider audience. Wonder what DC's up to now.
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David G.
Posted on Tuesday, January 06, 2004 - 01:30 pm:   

The Mighty IMDB says he is doing a film called PAINKILLERS, but there's no other information on it.

Does anyone else think VIDEODROME was a neglected, visionary work of genius that predicted the existence of "cyberspace"?
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Lucius
Posted on Tuesday, January 06, 2004 - 01:33 pm:   

I don't know enough about the history of science fiction to have an opinion -- but ut's number two or three on my list of Cronenberg flicks, depending on the day...
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David G.
Posted on Wednesday, January 07, 2004 - 06:33 am:   

I've always been a big fan of Rabid, as well.

Anyone notice that whenever Cronenberg predicts something in a fictional movie, it has a way of coming true (ie, sexually-transmitted monsters = AIDS, urban plague hysteria = SARS, anthrax, etc., alternate electronic reality = cyberspace...) He's really quite a little visionary, that one...
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Evan McClanahan
Posted on Wednesday, January 07, 2004 - 12:59 pm:   

Just saw this yesterday. Wasn't quite what I was expecting. Well filmed and well acted, with some beautiful direction in there. Still, all told, it seemed to me more an experience than a narrative.
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Lucius
Posted on Wednesday, January 07, 2004 - 01:14 pm:   

I'm not sure I quite understand the distinction, Evan. Why isn't it a narrative...or less a narrative than you expected? Why is an experience ( I assume you're talking about YOUR experience, as in, wow, it was an experience!) necessarily something you derive from something other than a narrative? Or, if by "experience" you're referring to Spider's experience, why isn't his POV, which is similar narratively to SIXTH SENSE, a form of narrative? The film is understated. It's a small story that doesn't lend itself to typically Hollywoodian hyper-emotive narrative, but it seemed very much a narrative to me. Obvioulsy the plot is not very complicated, but SPider's journey back to the scene of his mother's death is echoes the narrative of many novels and films. Perhaps you're saying that the mise en scene obscured the workings of the plot? But that struck me very much in keeping with the story told. Anyway....
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Evan McClanahan
Posted on Thursday, January 08, 2004 - 11:08 pm:   

I'm not really sure what I meant to say. Don't get me wrong, I liked it immensely. It just seemed to me that it was a story half told, and I wasn't entirely sure what was going on at the end. Maybe it was watching it in the morning, when I'm surely not at my best, but I found the relatively quick string of huge revelations at the end a bit off on the pacing. I'm not sure where I would have wanted more, though. I was a great portrait of an extremely confused individual, but perhaps the narrator was a bit too unreliable for me to get the most out of it? I'll have to give it another watch here sometime.

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