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Burn After Reading (2008)


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The caricaturing is the point.

Yes, but they have to be interesting caricatures. I didn't find these particularly interesting. They just felt like variations on better caricatures from better Coen films.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I won a copy of the soundtrack CD from Landmark Theaters last week. I've listened to the soundtrack twice. I'm not thrilled. I own a few other Carter Burwell soundtracks for the Coens' movies, but this one is more atmospheric, with no discernable melodies or themes. Still pretty cool for free, however.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Always full of surprises, Michael Sicinski jumps for joy, and gives the film a 9/10. But, unfortunately, his review cuts off in mid-sentence...

This was an instance in which I actively scoured other reviews, just looking, looking for some clue as to how anyone would begin to talk about this movie. And I guess it's pretty predictable. Ooh, it's mean, ooh, it's misanthropic, oh dear, the characters are cartoonish, my my, but there's next to nothing at stake in this empty little contraption. WHO. CARES. This film is endlessly, uproariously funny, and never stops generating new dimensions of witty stupidity for its four, or is it five, maybe six tragicomic fools caught in the dual snare of mislaid non-espionage and pseudo-urbane canoodling. So what if it has no "heart"? It never struck me as being actively mean, in the way that Todd Solondz or Neil LaBute movies or certain Alexander Payne movies are, wherein character foibles are clearly intended to skewer actual living individuals of a certain class background, educational opportunity status, or gender. These people don't exist. And yet, somehow, miraculously -- perhaps because Joel and Ethan have just come off of No Country and have been flexing different muscles at the gym -- Burn After Reading is gloriously tamped down in the outsized-caricature department. This is the anti-Ladykillers, and maybe that goddamned unwatchable trainwreck was just what they needed to cleanse their systems of those Gilliamesque whiz-kid toxins. So yes, John Malkovich is a preening horse's ass as Osborne Cox. Yes, George Clooney is one big macho malapropism as Harry Pfarrer. Frances McDormand is a daffy, lusty

Aaaaargh! Where's the rest of it?

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Victor Morton loves the film ... and responds to our very own SDG:

This universal idiocy is why BURN is the ultimate demystification of the spy movie. The genre has depended on the omniscient The Man for at least the 50 years since the scene in NORTH BY NORTHWEST where Leo G. Carroll explains George Kaplan to a roomful of spooks. Always, the premise has been that somewhere there

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Finally saw this the other day, and must say that I really liked it. A lot! The way they use the espionage caper to serve a film that is primarily a morality tale, IMO, about the breakdown of relationships in today's hyper-paced world is masterful. I mean sure, there may be some subversive political stuff going on, and sure there's some seemingly non-sensical parade marching by, but I think it's all about relationships falling apart in today's world, and asking are we learning anything from it. Malkovich obsessed with his work, Clooney obsessed with sex, McDormand obsessed with the beauty myth. It's all one big misunderstood caper, and it's not getting anyone anywhere. I think more folks are going to come around on this one after the whirling dervish of it settles.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Saw this last night.

My first impression is that this will improve on a second viewing. What I liked about it (apart from the laughs and Pitt skewering his own cool so absolutely) is that, for once, this was a film I had absolutely no idea where it was going, and what's interesting, is that, like the Lee-Jones character in No Country, we get an authority figure in exactly the same position. So I find Morton's comment above particularly interesting in that context.

And man the film is scathing about the beauty myth. I mean that's basically the engine of the whole film, McDormand's desire for beauty not only blinds her to the love that is in front of her, but also propels Pitt's genuine desire to do the right thing into this whole messed up nightmare.

And Swinton's character is probably not what you want to see less than an hour before you find yourself in the back of an ambulance with your sick daughter (she is OK now).

Matt

PS - Oh and I find Malkovitvh's character interesting too - part vanity, but that's fuelled by his own desire to find legitimacy when his job is cruelly taken away from him. I'm interested to know what others thought about the importance of his job. He clearly thinks it's important, but am I right in remembering that it basically turns out to be very low level?

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