Sunday, January 21, 2007

Children of the Unknown White Male

"Children of Men" is edge-of-your-seat, lip-biting, hand-clenching drama, a film that flies by fast because the action doesn't stop, like a big-screen episode of "24" without commercials. Although one of its most promising features is a solid foot in reality; grit and grime cover the locations and as time goes on, build in realistic levels on the characters as well. For example, Clive Owen's character is woken in the middle of the night and forced to run into the night without his shoes; during the remainder of the movie, the lack of appropriate footwear is subtly woven into the plot. (I was especially thrilled to see this, as one of my many issues with "Titanic" was how the hell Kate Winslet's character, after hours floating in the ocean, endless time swimming through the flooding levels of the upturned boat (or did it just seem endless to this viewer?), running through flooded hallways, is rescued with her shoes intact and on her feet. )

I love Clive Owen; he was the only bright spot I could find in "Closer" and he's deliciously grubby and hot (yes I said it) here, too. Julianne Moore plays a much smaller role than the trailers would lead you to believe, but she did manage to do that same thing that annoyed me in the terrible (terrible terrible) "The Forgotten," which is to go on the run with her long red hair flying free and noticeable. Wigs, hat, hair dye, really is it so hard?

I know I read the book by P.D. James that this movie is based on, but it's one of those that I made myself give away after reading, so as to keep my bookcases from bursting at the seams. I didn't remember it very well as I was watching the movie, but came home and glanced at a few pages on Amazon, and think I do remember, but the book covers more time and explores the political arena more closely. The film, set in 2027, doesn't feel like that distant a future, really, and the sets are designed to feel like a time that we ourselves could reasonably still inhabit. I think the book felt more like "1984," with more political structure and society restrictions, while the movie is pure anarchy. I'm talking out of my hat, though, since I will need to read the book again to even know if my memories are real.

Ah, memories: I rented "Unknown White Male" and watched that this weekend, too. It's a documentary about a man who finds himself on a subway in Coney Island with no memory of anything. Who he is, where he is, anything. His entire 37 years of life, of memory and experience, wiped clean. The film follows him (with footage he himself shot, and that of one of his childhood friends, who made the documentary) as he tries to re-learn everything again, even the simple pleasures of how Italian food tastes or what the ocean looks like. It's interesting and a bit unnerving, as the doctors never do definitively pinpoint what caused his amnesia, nor does it reverse itself during the course of the movie, even as doctors predict it will eventually.

Both are definitely worthwhile.


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