Saturday, November 01, 2008

Movies : "W"

"W" is an interesting and a worthwhile film to see, especially while he is in office still. Stone and Hopkins portrayed Nixon as having become quite mad, but the madness of Bush II is only hinted at here, and the hard edges are somewhat respectful (except for his eating/chewing scenes) and this may be in part due to its close at the end of the first term. It seemed to me that you had Josh Brolin playing a conception of Oliver Stone playing President Bush. But that gets us into the area of the semiotics of Garbo, i.e. Barthes, and all of that, when Manny Farber's NEGATIVE SPACE, termite art, is more appropriate here. Ellen Burstyn is wonderful as Barbara Bush, and you couldn't ask for a more pert Laura than Elizabeth Banks, and Thandie Newton's Condi in love brings up the question of D.H. Lawrence's "trust the art not the artist" the first attack on the idea that intention is at the heart of the work of art. Not knowing any of the players, one might inquire of Mr. Stone if his Dr. Rice was his idea, or a collaboration. In some sense of course it had to be a collaboration, film being a synthetic art, except in the silent purity of, say, Brakhage, and some of "the new american cinema" of the 1960's, a kind of film concret, with its roots traced back through Cassavetes' SHADOWS and early Godard to so many of the great silents, and certainly, after that, LES ENFANTS DU PARADIS. But the Stone film is more in the tradition of what a soft-edged J.P. Melville's ARMY OF SHADOWS would be like. Without motivation delineated, however, except in the straight Freudian Father-Son EAST OF EDEN mold. Being hearing-impaired, I couldn't catch more than two-thirds of the dialgoue, even with hearing aid, so there are aspects of the finished product I cannot comment on unless I want to get the eventual DVD and see it captioned, or at least in more private setting. Nevertheless, the Rove character (Toby Jones) seemed somehow right. Dreyfuss as Cheney requires a bit of consideration. But the VP's "no exit" strategy the film purports to historicize, radicalizes the perspective. The role of the President was made to order for Paul Newman. Hud comes to mind. No actor of our time, not even Brando, took possession of so many starring roles and made them his. You'd have to go back to Jimmy Stewart, Gary Cooper, Randolph Scott in RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY, Wayne in THE SHOOTIST. From Arthur Penn's THE LEFT-HANDED GUN to an extraordinary masterpiece of American cinema, Robert Rossen's THE HUSTLER, with Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie, George C. Scott to such William Goldman/George Roy Hill films as Butch Cassidy; or, even better, THE STING, also of course with Robert Redford, Newman's work became iconic. It's a Field of Dreams upon which W plays his baseball hero fantasies. It's not investigative as JFK was, and it lacks say, Hopkins, as Rumsfeld, and hedges its bets a bit, and skips over 9/11 except for some of its consequences, but it's much more than a simple biopic.