Though he wrote one of the more harrowing rape scenes in popular fiction, Stieg Larsson clearly had more on his mind than sensationalism. It’s a little jarring to learn, for instance, that the original title of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo translates unambiguously from the Swedish as Men Who Hate Women. It’s a confrontational (and, you’d think, curiously uncommercial) phrase, but it’s a clear signal of the seriousness of Larsson’s intent. Violence against women is neither titillating or simply a convenient fear factor to work some urgency and shock value into a story that’s primarily about Swedish industry, Nazis, 40-year-old crimes, and who gives a shit. (It does serve that function, of course.) In this book, and in the two that followed it, Larsson means to indict his own nation for its attitudes toward women.
Opening with an understated, mood-setting vocal performance of “The Missouri Waltz” as a soundtrack for imagery captured deep, deep within flyover country, Winter’s Bone hinges largely on the execution of a simple idea — it’s a formula mystery story set in rural Missouri.
My review of True Blood: The Complete First Season is online at FilmFreakCentral.net.
There’s something refreshing about True Blood, a show that approaches the idea of loving the undead with healthy helpings of humour, viscera, eroticism, and subtext. The tongue-in-cheek storytelling and routinely bloody tableaux aren’t especially remarkable, but True Blood is pretty packed with sex, even by HBO’s standards. Over the course of True Blood‘s first 12 episodes, we learn that Bon Temps, Louisiana, and environs are home to not just a handsome Civil War vampire but also a plucky telepathic waitress and a shapechanging bartender, as well as assorted “fangbangers” (humans with a thing for screwing vampires) and addicts in thrall to V juice, the street term underscoring the intoxicating, potency-enhancing effects vampires’ blood has on humans.
Zodiac is a film to lose yourself in. Directed by David Fincher with a perfectionist’s eye for performance and an obsessive’s attention to detail, it’s also the director’s first film that’s primarily about people, instead of its own impressive ideas. That’s not to diminish the impressive accomplishments he’s made to date, especially in the modern classics Se7en and Fight Club, but to underscore how Zodiac intensifies and deepens the connection between technical facility and sublime impact.
Michael Haneke’s latest shot across the bow of the bourgeoisie is a suspenseful yarn about a middle-aged French couple who find themselves under surveillance by person or persons unknown — videotapes start showing up at their doorstep, some of them accompanied by crude, vaguely threatening drawings that seem to make all too much sense to the husband who quickly attempts to take matters into his own hands.
This sounds like the kind of thing that would have delighted Hitchcock, and Haneke’s execution crosses one of Hitch’s riveting narratives with the forbidding clinicism of Kubrick. The result is almost spectacular in its pure showmanship and simultaneously devastating in its formal control.