Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The delirious edge of the year

Our Christmas night was a slight variation on the tried and true Chinese food and a movie Christmas tradition. (This tradition was an old standby for my family back in Connecticut.) An Indian restaurant we like in Silverlake, Agra, was open. Afterwards, we went to see "No Country for Old Men" in Pasadena. The theater was packed with others spending their day off like us, out at the movies, celebrating the holiday in a determinedly non-religious manner.

I was a little ambivalent about the movie. It was definitely beautifully shot, excellently executed, well acted (Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin were all fantastic), but I was left unsatisfied. It's all well and good to show a lot of empty, barren landscapes, to produce feelings of emptiness and senselessness, but so what? A.O. Scott, in his review, wrote:
And the minutes fly by, leaving behind some unsettling notions about the bloody, absurd intransigence of fate and the noble futility of human efforts to master it. Mostly, though, “No Country for Old Men” leaves behind the jangled, stunned sensation of having witnessed a ruthless application of craft.
Yes, psychopathic killers are intransigent, and the results of their work bloody, and often absurd. Who cares? But as Scott notes, that's not the point of the film. It's meticulously, superbly crafted, producing an atmosphere of almost unbearable suspense and tension. That's what it does. So much so that I was too jangled to pay attention to the rambling soliloquy that comes at the ending. I was too worried that someone would be suddenly blown away.

This last week of the year is more about a mood for me than anything else. It's a slow, often boring, time of the year -- if you're not off on a trip to somewhere exotic. Everything's closed, most people are out of town visiting family -- there's not much to do. You wake up, with nothing on your schedule, drink your coffee, do the crossword puzzle, look out the window at the cars pulling up at neighbors' houses, and think back on another year that's passed, behind you forever.

1 comment:

MK said...

Ah, but the "rambling soliloquy" at the end is the culminating statement of Tommy Lee Jones's character's constant proximity to actually resolving the case without ever actually doing so. He has all the clues at the tip of his tongue and never actually puts them together. It's kind of like the anti-Usual Suspects: it's not funny and the cop doesn't manage to put the pieces together at the end.

I agree that the movie was more a show of superb craftsmanship than a great work of art. I was happy that the movie ended when it did, though. I don't think I could have stomached another self-administered surgery with the guy's bone sticking out.