See an outstanding film, The American!
Chiang Mai movies update, Saturday, October 23, 2010
by Thomas Ohlson
In The American,
After just having seen The American again, and truly enjoying it, I just had to make an attempt to make its appearance here not quite so much of a loss for the theater as it seems it is. I discovered yesterday, at my viewing, from the boxoffice personnel, that this film had a not-so-grand-total of 75 patrons for the whole last five days of its first regular run last week when it was showing five times a day – and that’s including a Saturday and a Sunday. Hardly enough to pay the rent, I would think! No wonder good films have a hard time in Chiang Mai!
And it is a good film, and well worth your spending the time with. Even better on second – or in my case third – viewing (but the first time in a cinema).
The photography alone is worth the price of admission. It is truly gorgeous. It also has the presence of two fascinating and beautiful women, including some quite uninhibited lovemaking with one.
It’s only being shown twice a day now, and will surely be gone on Thursday, so I really urge you to see it. Times, 4:30 and 6:45 pm at Vista, Kad Suan Kaew.
The American: US, Drama/ Suspense/ Crime – 1 hr 45 mins – In English and some Italian. Rated R in the US for violence, sexual content, and nudity; 18+ in Thailand. At Vista only, and with thanks to them for bringing such an interesting and non-mainstream film to Chiang Mai. Generally favorable reviews: 61/65 out of 100.
In the last issue I was describing the use of the Z-shaped diagonal composition in the frames of the film, and during my last viewing, I was amazed at just how many strong Z-shaped diagonal formal elements there were. One could have a game, I’m sure, on who can find the most Z’s! Just a part of the appreciation of the outstanding photography in the film.
The director was an highly-respected still photographer before taking up movie-making, and the influence shows, but the photography is a team effort; he is working here, as in his first feature, with cinematographer Martin Ruhe.
Rotten Tomatoes consensus: As beautifully shot as it is emotionally restrained, The American is an unusually divisive spy thriller -- and one that rests on an unusually subdued performance from George Clooney.
IMDb viewer: It almost felt to me that Mr. Butterfly was in Hell and doomed for eternity to repeat an existence where he is tormented by paranoia, loneliness, and regret and just when he thinks he's found love and hope, it's over. So it was in the beginning of the film, and so it was at the end.
To a certain extent films like this shouldn't be viewed as depicting a chronicle of events but more like bearing witness to someone's nightmare.
Broken Projector, Gautam: A Very Private Gentleman - Anton Corbijn’s The American (2010) is a very impressive film. Wearing a premise of an assassin on vacation, the film manages to avoid the usual suspects of this genre of films. There isn’t any greater purpose to the reasons why a certain character in the film is supposed to be killed and it is never mentioned who the targets are. The American is not your usual spy thriller per se; it is a deeply rooted, personal film on a man who is finally ready to let in an intimate relationship.
The film takes a very atmospheric tone, one that is not easily apprec
iated by the usual American audience. From the first shot of the film, an establishing one of a cabin in the wintery German woods suggests the tone of the rest of the film. Corbijn’s emphasis on pinpoint photography and incredibly well done compositions are the strengths of the film.
In his review of this film, Roger Ebert compared George Clooney’s performance to that of Alain Delon’s in Le Samourai (1967) and there couldn’t have been a better comparison. Perhaps, one can recall Robert Redford’s performance in Sidney Pollack’s Three Days of Condor (1975), one of the better films from the 70s Hollywood sub-genre of Political thrillers. In fact, just having a look at the poster for The American can give someone a feel of the 1970s.
The film carries a very European flavor to it. In the first ten minutes, it moves from a snowy Swedish countryside to railway stations in Munich to the streets of Rome to the Italian countryside. Corbijn sets the film in a hilly town in Italy with an estimated population of less than 300 people. The entire weightage of the ‘thriller’ aspect of the film comes from just characters walking though the stony streets, ascending and descending endless stairways perhaps referencing the various circles of Dante’s Inferno.
Clooney’s turn as the excellent mechanical genius and weapon maker is a breath of fresh air for the ageing actor. Although, the initial promos suggested that Clooney just slid-in from Michael Clayton (2008) and Up in the Air (2009) without even changing his suit, his performance proves to be worthy of praise. He carries the film well, with minimal dialogue and purely by his body language. The film, a mild adaptation of the novel A Very Private Gentleman requires his character to be bordering on a Bond-like performance but he somehow manages to bring some heart into it. The presence of the two principal female leads- played by two very beautiful women- Violante Placido and Thekla Reuten also adds to the whole Bond-like feel to the film although, Clooney’s character is anything but a pick-up artist.
A significant and central aspect of the character is his skill at assembling weapons. The scenes where Clooney’s character is working on developing a customized rifle, perfected to his client’s needs are perhaps the most exciting scenes of the film. The precision and craftsmanship almost fetishizes the presence of weapons in the film.
The film also finds a great footing in its excellent score by Herbert Grönemeyer, returning from a 17 year-long exile from composing film scores. Throughout most of the film, there is unsettling silence in the places where a Hollywood film would work its audience to an aural build-up and when there is a backing of the score to the scenes, it is subtle and never too forward. This only makes the score even less noticeable as a separate entity and blends it well to the stunning visuals one sees on the screen.
Movie Line, Stephanie Zacharek: This is a character study of a man who, it first appears, has no center — he finds that center even as we do, and watching Clooney wander toward his character’s lost self is one of the great pleasures of the movie. Clooney overplays nothing — he appears to show shifts in emotion by changing the shadow in his eyes rather moving the muscles in his face. Even his hair, a salt-and-pepper mix, is stranded between two wholly different lives, the then and the now.
Director Anton Corbijn: “My career for over 35 years has been as a portrait photographer; filmmaking is a new adventure for me. I’m still finding my voice. I feel that where The American does parallel Control is in the idea of trying to change one’s life; how can you maybe make good after doing wrong? Can you overcome things that might be in you which define you?”
Vista – Kadsuankaew
4th Floor Kadsuankaew Shopping Center
Telephone: 053 894-415
For the week beginning Thursday, October 21, 2010. Program changes again on Thursday, October 28.
The American (18+)
1 hr 45 mins (English/ Thai subtitles)
US, Drama/ Suspense/ Crime – Terrific movie! Go! But don’t go expecting your usual thriller. This is just the opposite. This is a slow and moody introspection – a musing on what is happening in the mind of this assassin, played by George Clooney. It’s a foreign art-house film rather than a Hollywood thriller. Some will love it, some will find it boring. I find it slow but fascinating. The filmmaking is near perfection, superbly directed by Anton Corbijn. The photography is gorgeous, the acting mesmerizing, and the puzzles intriguing. If you have ever enjoyed the Japanese warrior masterpieces, don’t miss this one. Rated R in the US for violence, sexual content, and nudity; 18+ in Thailand. Thanks to Vista for bringing such an interesting and non-mainstream film to Chiang Mai. Generally favorable reviews: 61/65 out of 100.