Saturday, January 13, 2007

I think it was in The Proposition that I first noticed Danny Huston and I thought to myself, "Another interesting and talented person named Huston? Surely not another of Walter Huston's talented descendents." And yet he is--now there's Walter, John, Angelica, and Danny.

He's good at being abrupt and sort of cerebral. Aside from The Proposition, where he played an intellectual psychopathic outlaw, he was also memorable as the Austrian emperor in Sophia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, and as a rich art collector in Children of Men.

His scene in that last movie is one of its most striking, partly because it's quiet and sort of brobdingnagianly elegant in the midst of a movie that is otherwise an impressive, breakneck exercise of overlapping Orwellian dystopia with brilliantly humanistic action sequences.

Children of Men does a marvellous job of maintaining tension without fatiguing the viewer to the point of losing herhisits suspension of disbelief. A lot of the ads compare the movie to Blade Runner, but it's not quite that good, and indeed a different sort of movie. Blade Runner may in many ways seem to be a credible glimpse of the future, but the movie's not really about trying to predict the future. Blade Runner's about existentialism and dark fantasy, while Children of Men is solidly a tale of humans reacting to the very credible future the movie creates. It's about politics and the ways in which an insurmountable and inexplicable catastrophe can produce totalitarianism through people's willingness to be led away from grim reality. In fact, in many ways, Children of Men is the movie V for Vendetta ought to have been.

In their rush to create anti-Bush propaganda, the makers of the V for Vendetta movie missed the comic book's message about humanity's fear of deadly chaos driving it to create a firm system of Knowns. Though while the V for Vendetta comic pits the impoverished totalitarian state against an agent of anarchy, Alfonso CuarĂ³n's protagonists are more in the camp of vague hope and intrinsic optimism for human nature. Perhaps there's even a spiritual element, as the idea of a miraculous pregnancy to save humanity seems clearly allegorical.

But fortunately (for me, anyway), the movie's more about how people react under the stress of desperate adventures, which is a lot of fun. Clive Owen's great as always, and so is Claire-Hope Ashitey as the pregnant woman. Danny Huston's brief scene is interesting--as a well placed government official, he's used his wealth and resources to save works of art from ravaging mobs, so his otherwise austere white home is decorated with Michelangelo's David and Picasso's Guernica. A pair of pet oversized dogs completes the impression rather nicely of a home I bet the film's art designer would probably have designed for himself.

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