October 25, 2003

The Art of Disarticulation

M113.jpgThis afternoon, PCC tuned out the predominantly wretched reviews and saw Jane Campion's new film In the Cut with CCC. Now, there are several things that intrigued PCC as she sat in the semi-crowded Sunshine Theater and waited for the film to roll. Of course, there's the fact that PCC thinks Ms. Campion is damn talented. Enough said. And then there's question of America's Sweetheart. Like an alcoholic trying to sober up, Meg Ryan is desperately trying to walk the dramatic path. She plays Frannie Avery, an ascerbic English teacher in New York City who inadvertently holds the key to a gruesome slaying and dismemberment of a prostitute at a local bar. Things get complicated when the lead homicide detective on the case, the disarmingly attractive and scruffy Mark Ruffalo, takes an interest in her. Did PCC mention that Frannie is both obsessed with sex and terribly repressed?

Of course, repressed female sexuality is old hat for Ms. Campion (anyone remember The Piano?), and as CCC noted, Ms. Ryan has also built a career for herself out of trying, and often failing until the climactic final scene, to find a man and get married. Granted, Campion uses drama to dramatize her themes of sexual turmoil, while Ryan has, except for 1994's When A Man Loves a Woman and 1996's Courage Under Fire, resided in RomanticComedyVille. So perhaps a more apt, and explanatory, title for Campion's new film would be something along the lines of "In the Cut: In Which Meg Ryan Finally has Sex". And boy, is there a lot of sex. And nudity. And violence. And every combination of said elements imaginable. Perhaps this is PCC's own fault, but she had a very difficult time seeing Frannie as a character; instead, PCC saw Meg Ryan playing Meg Ryan. Through this rather distorted lens, the full frontal nude scenes with Ryan and Ruffalo took on a disconcerting voyeuristic quality, as if PCC were peeping in the window of Ryan's private window. Not that PCC doesn't admire on some level the fact that Ryan wants to exercise (develop?) her acting chops and try her hand at a dramatic role, but there has been entirely too much press over the aforementioned sex scenes. While sex definitely plays an integral role in the film, PCC thinks that all the buzz about a naked Meg exaggerated these scenes until it was impossible to see them as a part of the narrative.

Overall, PCC is still mulling over the merits of the film. The "moral" of the story was more than a bit anti-feminist -- women can't survive without men. And Ryan's portrayal of the troubled Frannie was a bit too distanced for PCC's taste- sex is such an intimate activity, even for a woman like Frannie who tries to be academic and detached from it all, and Ryan's performance didn't feel "close" enough to the subject matter. But the cinematography was wonderful, at least 90% of the time, though PCC and CCC agreed that the reliance on out-of-focus shots was a bit overdone. The film made PCC feel unsettled and a bit dirty (in the physical sense, since the odor of Campion's fetid NYC practically jumped off the screen and into PCC's nose). Yet there was something intrigiung about it all, even if the values articulated weren't necessarily ones to which PCC subscribes.

Posted by jordan at October 25, 2003 11:07 PM