. . . but we could say a few more words about Anna Karenina. In my review, I praised the performances of both Keira Knightley as Anna and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Vronsky. But I was troubled by my dislike of the characters and by my emotional detachment from the world of the movie. I blamed this partly on the innovative staging of the scenes on what appear to be actual stage sets. While interesting, the device serves to heighten the artifice, and keep the viewer at a distance from what should be an emotionally involving drama.
Now, however, I am re-evaluating my thoughts on Knightley’s and Taylor-Johnson’s performances. I don’t believe them in those roles. I believe Matthew Macfadyen in his role as Oblonksy, and I believe Jude Law as Karenin, but bot Knightley and Taylor-Johnson feel too 21st-Century. Knightley was excellent in this same director’s Pride & Prejudice, and in other costume dramas, as well, so I’m not sure why she can’t do a Russian princess of 1874.
Or maybe I’m wrong about her performance, and I’m just reacting (negatively) to the mise-en-scène. Hmmmmm . ..
What I am sure about it is my reaction to the next film.
We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011)
I loved Lynne Ramsay’s first feature, Ratcatcher. Filled with precise compositions that framed the working-class world of 1970s Glasgow in stunningly bleak parameters, Ratcatcher was a marvel of cinematic efficiency, and a pleasure to watch, even though the story was a downer.
Ramsay’s second feature, Morvern Callar, was less of a marvel, and much less precise. I admired Ramsay, however, for taking a chance and making a messy portrait of a woman who suddenly finds herself free to remake herself. It reminded me a bit of Kieslowski’s Blue, only with greater chaos. I didn’t enjoy the film, but I thought it was worth watching. That, and the soundtrack was pretty kick-ass (I own it and still listen to it frequently).
Now – 9 years later (ahh, the film world is harsh on women who do not make hits), Ramsay is back with her third feature, We Need to Talk About Kevin. I really wish I liked this. I tried to convince myself while watching it that I could like it. But no amount of wishing helped. The simple fact of the matter may be that I was only destined to like one film by Ramsay, and that was her first.
I could write my own review, but Ty Burr of the Boston Globe has written down exactly what I would have written. Enjoy!
To end on a brighter note, here’s one more film which I just watched on Netflix tonight (available instantly):
A Cat in Paris (“Une vie de chat“) (Jean-Loup Felicioli & Alain Gagnol, 2010)
This is a sweet, affable, and fast-paced (and short, at just over one hour) animated film about a girl, her cat, and her cat’s cat burgler. The rough hand-drawn animation is a nice contrast to today’s constant digital perfection, and quite beautiful. The story is simple – there are good guys and bad guys, and one bad guy who’s really a good guy – with a happy ending and only cartoonish violence. It’s a lovely children’s movie, and even if it’s nothing too special, I’m happy to have seen it, and recommend it to families (especially families who own cats).