Even today, after years of documentary camerawork in HD have made stunning nature photography seem almost de rigueur, there’s a startling beauty to some of these images, like the vivid two-shot seen underneath the opening credits in which an improbably expressive spiky fish looks quite pleased to share screen space with co-star Jacqueline Bisset.
I’m not sure when, exactly, Olivier Assayas became an eccentric – I
catch any warning signs in Late August, Early
September; then again,
I was a bit discomfited by Irma Vep, which was as much an
essay on the filmmaking industry as it was (or was not, quite) a compelling
narrative. With 2002’s Demonlover, a weirdly moralistic screed
involving global corporate intrigue, sexually explicit anime and Internet
porn, he veered into reactionary territory, dramatizing the dehumanizing,
exploitative power of the Web in much the same way David Cronenberg
once made a scary monster out of cable television in Videodrome.
How does Neil Jordan keep getting better and better? When he made The Crying Game, the ultimate gimmick film of the 1990s, he was already pretty good, having put Mona Lisa under his belt years before, not to mention a terribly serious (I’d say too serious) horror film, The Company of Wolves. He followed The Crying Game with a terrible misfire, Interview with the Vampire. I skipped Michael Collins, fearful of spending 133 minutes stuck in a dark room with a director I now thought of as “Hollywood” Jordan. But 1997’s The Butcher Boy is a surprisingly wonderful picture, full of playful narrative tricks and yoking a truly sardonic sense of humor to a killer performance by a very young actor. Of course, he followed that up with the wretched In Dreams. And then followed that up with the lovely, understated The End of the Affair. He’s a stylist who must have gained bucketloads of experience from his dreadful pictures, thereby helping him keep the good ones on target.