Beginnings and Endings

Good Afternoon. It is I Gigi the parti poodle…
And me Tucker the Maltese. I am here too…
Sit, mongrel and stay! Can you believe this? Anyway, I Gigi, parti poodle extraordinaire…
Tell them about the coffee! Tell them about the coffee….
You insipid…okay! Yes, I will tell them about the coffee. Lap dogs! Can’t live with them can’t…anyway, my novelist who likes tea also occasionally partakes of coffee and came across an interesting recipe on how to make ice coffee. Not being a drinker, she had to buy a martini shaker in order to create this concoction. So, what she does is she brews the espresso a little stronger than usual using a little more coffee and a less water. She puts ice, syrup, milk and the coffee all together in the shaker. Then she shakes the whole thing up till it is cold. Then she pours the contents over in a glass over ice. She likes to add a little whip cream to finish it off and a ring of caramel or chocolate sauce on the top.
It is nummy nummy!
The word is scrumptious you inane…oh, here is my novelist!

One of the most frustrating films I have watched (or rather re-watched) lately is Enemy. Everything about this film should work. It is an intriguing concept. It is well acted (especially by Jake Gyllenhaal). It is cerebral. It has great mood. And I wanted very much to like and recommend it. But the problem is it starts and ends oddly.

Now to be fair I have not read the novel it was it was based on called The Double by Jose’ Saramongo which might be outstanding. From what I have researched the film is rather loosely based on said book as opposed to say No Country for Old Men (based on a novel I did read) in which the Coen brothers stuck to the story well with excellent results.

One major issue in the film Enemy is the use of spiders and what they are supposed to represent. Spiders, from what I understand, are not used in the novel at all. It is something the screenwriter and director decided to incorporate. The problem is they do not really incorporate them well and when they do use them it creates puzzling results thus making the film polarizing. Some people like it and some people do not. I like the middle of the film immensely and was riveted by it more so than many other thrillers. But the ends, especially the ending are a mess.

Not to give too much away the film is about a history professor in Toronto, Canada who is depressed and bored. He has a winsome girlfriend but does not seem to be interested in her. She is merely a diversion from his repetitious doldrums. He is not interested in anything really. He gives his lectures on totalitarianism; he goes home and hooks up with his girlfriend. He gives his lectures on totalitarianism he goes home and hooks up with his girlfriend. He gives his lectures on totalitarianism he goes home and hooks up with his girlfriend…until one day. On that day he sits in a university break room with only one other person occupying the space, a man who, through dialogue finds out our professor does not like movies. Just the same he suggests a film called Where There’s A Will There’s A Way. The professor takes the man’s advice and rents the film and watches it. He does not think much of it until he wakes up in the middle of the night and realizes thanks to his subconscious one of the lesser characters in the film a bellhop is his doppelganger. And from here starts the journey of the professor attempting to hunt down his twin.

From what I read the director wanted to use the image of spiders to represent femininity. Okay, I can run with that. The spiders represent danger and entrapment. And I am sure the idea that some female spiders like the Hogna Helluo wolf spider eat the male after mating is to be considered here. But if you are going to do that you have to make that a lot clearer when you show the female characters from the beginning. Perhaps I missed it, but I did not see anywhere where the female characters represented spiders…except the bizarre ending. Yes, the film starts out with a phone message from the professor’s mother who has seen his apartment and found it wanting. And that’s all good and well. But when we do see the mother there is not an obvious allusion to spiders. There is not an obvious allusion to spiders concerning his girlfriend either nor the wife of his doppelganger.

In contrast if you watch the film Vertigo (based on the French novel Vertigo by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac which is an excellent read), for example, in one earlier scene the lead Scottie sees the other lead Madeline sitting on a bench observing a piece of art after he has followed her there. When Scottie looks at her, Hitchcock closes the camera in on Madeline’s hair which is swept up in a swirl that appears to be spiraling downwards. We realize that the swirl has two meanings: female sexuality and entrapment. Scottie is a confirmed bachelor and so his vertigo is not just one of heights it is one of falling prey to love. But in Enemy we do not get those clear motifs. If the enemy in Enemy is women (mother, wife, girlfriend) as opposed to his doppelganger, it needed to be much clearer both in the writing and the costumes, the set pieces etc. Then his ending (which I will not give away) would make sense and have a stronger impact.

I took a class once on how to write an ending to a film and these are the four things they said were crucial to a good ending:

1. The ending must be surprising, but inevitable.

2. The ending must be filled with meaning that has been well setup.

3. The ending must express and resolve the main conflict in some way.

4. The ending must be organic to the story.

The defect in Enemy is number two and because of number two number three as well. Had they written those two parts better the film could have been a home run.

While you’re waiting for my next post check out my novel Chicane on Amazon.

STREAM OF THE WEEK: THE INTERVIEW and THE GIFT-Netflix

Now here are a couple of suspense films which start strong and end strong. The first one is from Australia and the second was written, directed and co-stars an Australian. Both films are superb. One of the reasons I was hoping to tout Enemy is what it has in common with these two films: more substance less blood. It is difficult to find a modern suspense these days that is not bloody. Suspense should more about the tension than the explosion. But I think a lot of films like to use gore to mask over the blasé storytelling. Neither of these films does that and they are more riveting because of it.

The Interview is a smart cerebral film from 1998 that essentially takes place almost entirely in a police station. The film was co-written by the director Craig Monahan and Gordon Davie who also served as the films technical consultant as he was a police officer with the Victoria Crime Squad for sixteen years. The film starts out with a broke man living in a sparse apartment after his wife has abandoned him. Suddenly, his apartment is broken into by the police. They handcuff him and drag him off to the police station without much information as to why. After arriving there he is put into a room where his is interrogated by a Detective Sargent and his assistant, a younger detective. The detectives tell the man a car has been stolen and they are looking for the thief…or is that really what they are after? The movie keeps you guessing what is really going on and who the real puppet master is all the way up until the end. The DVD provides an alternate ending.

Australian actor Joel Edgerton wrote, directed and co-stars in The Gift, one of the best suspense films I have seen in a long time. Edgerton is superb in all three arenas here. I must warn you, however, this is a controversial plot so some viewers may take pause with it. But it is brilliantly executed just the same and an absolute must see. The film starts out with a young couple, Simon and Robyn (played dazzlingly by Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall respectively) buying a house with lots of glass windows. (Now there’s foreshadowing). Something has gone wrong in their lives recently and they have moved from Chicago to California to start their life anew. As they are purchasing housewares to adorn their new abode Simon runs into Gordon better known as “Gordo” an old classmate of his from high school. Robyn does not know Gordo or his relationship with her husband…but she is definitely about to. Unlike Enemy, The Gift uses all its motifs and clues clearly and to full effect twisting and turning and then twisting again until its brilliant climax. I highly recommend this film. Do not miss it!

SMART MOVIES FOR SMART KIDS-A SILENT VOICE-Netflix
A Silent Voice is a beautiful and languid animated film that has something directly in common with one of the other movies I am recommending this week but handles the subject matter a little differently. It is for older children; I’d say about 12 and up and contains one harrowing scene. The film is in Japanese with subtitles. Shoya is a twelve-year son of a hairdresser. He and his buddies do not have a care in the world until a new girl named Shoko enters their class. But Shoko is different because Shoko is deaf. Shoya finds Shoko’s disability mildly annoying at first. But his annoyance turns into viciousness and cruelty until Shoko is finally forced to move away, an act which forces Shoya to rethink and change his entire way of living.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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