Friday, September 28, 2007


The other movie I saw yesterday was David Cronenberg's violent post-Sopranos mobster mash Eastern Promises,* a recent addition to the director's latter-day tradition of preventing the auteur trappings of his earlier career in an attempt to introduce a surgical leanness into the storytelling. Kudos: it's a bold thing for a successful artist to simplify; I'm interested in his experiment even if the initial results have felt more like practicing than moviemaking. At the beginning of Eastern Promises, a bleeding woman staggers into a pharmacy in some Russian quarter of London. She's rushed to hospital where she dies one minute before she delivers an unhealthy baby girl. Night nurse Anna (Naomi Watts), in an effort to locate some family for the baby, steals the Cyrillic diary out of the corpse's purse and takes the law into her own hands. It isn't long before she stumbles into the restaurant headquarters of the local Russian don while attempting to translate the indecipherable book. Here the narrative splits in two, following the unnecessary and meddlesome cipher Anna on one hand while discovering the oriental mysteries of alluring Russian black hats on the other. Besides cultural mythmaking (in this case, the glorification of Russian prison and criminal cultures), there is very little to darkly comic portrayals of the gangster point-of-view that cannot be seen on HBO. The white hats are supposed to illustrate the dangers of an accidental brush with ruthless villains, but that story soon peters into predictably rosy earnestness. Can nothing save this movie? How about one virtuoso performance by Viggo Mortensen as the checkered thug Nikolai, immediately out-done by Armin Mueller-Stahl as the syndicate leader? Also, the graphic violence really gets under the skin here. One brutal sauna knife fight has to be seen to be believed, speaking of skin. [Cavin]

Then, a 0 sided conversation ensued...

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