This week, Cineast provides previews of the new films Jurassic World, Love & Mercy and A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence.
Jurassic Park was a Steven Spielberg film through and through. Sure, it had a lot of thrills and chills, but it also took its time and focused on character—Spielberg has a genius for economically revealing very specific individual character traits in his films, and he always casts exactly the right actor for the traits he’s looking for. His best films are not really conventional blockbusters, but are often sneakily subversive. Spielberg’s like Hitchcock that way, and you watch his genre films, like Hitchcock’s, not just for the goose bumps, but also because of the quirky people that populate them. Who can forget Jeff Goldblum, in Jurassic Park, perfectly embodying the slightly sleazy but brilliant mathematician Dr. Ian Malcolm who knows that disaster looms over the whole, absurd project? It’s great stuff. One has some hope for Jurassic World, but all the evidence suggests that we’re in much more conventional genre-film territory, with a reliance on sheer scale of disaster to provide the entertainment.
Love & Mercy
Biopics about musicians are always a mixed bag. On the one hand, it’s nice when a filmmaker goes to the trouble and expense of dramatizing a musician’s life, but on the other hand the work that musicians do is very often so non-dramatic that the filmmakers feel compelled to dress it up. Often, they do this by trying to isolate that mythical, precise moment of musical creation: Beethoven suddenly coming up with a famous melody, Hendrix finding his true calling as a front man, the Doors coming up with “Light My Fire” in a beach cottage, Sam Phillips coaxing Johnny Cash into baring his soul in a Memphis recording studio. In this the filmmakers wind up doing their subjects a big disservice, discounting the hard work and practice that actually went into these artists’ success—the blind alleys explored, the bad alternatives discarded, the toil of creation—and attributing success to lightning bolts of genius striking. Thankfully, Love & Mercy is more realistic, and it doesn’t shrink from portraying the struggle that Brian Wilson, the resident genius behind The Beach Boys, went through to live up to his own potential—and to keep up with his The Beatles, his perceived rivals.
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
With a title like A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, what else can we expect but a deadpan absurdist comedy from Sweden? Shot with the affectless flatness of a Wes Anderson film and employing a Beckett-like repetitiveness (especially when it comes to telephone conversations), the film will likely be a hit with the hipsters.