October 4, 2005

Shana Tova from Viggo Mortensen


In case you were keeping track, Cinecultist is a good observant Jew -- even when it means using a precious vacation day so that we can attend Rosh Hashanah services. Going to High Holiday services is like visiting the dentist (which is next week actually) or voting, it's good for you. However, once the services at NYU's Kimmel Center concluded it was still only 12:30 pm. Thus we assured our Joshie that it was perfectly kosher to observe the rest of the Jewish new year's day with lunch and a movie.

After twin cheeseburgers at Chat n' Chew, we scurried over to 19th Street for a screening of A History of Violence, David Cronenberg's much lauded new feature. During lunch, CC mentioned that if ever we had the opportunity to meet the Canadian director our first question would be something along the lines of, "Mr. Cronenberg, how come you're so fucked up and awesome?" Dead Ringers and those gynecological instruments, not to mention Videodrome with Debbie Harry and video cassettes that eat you? Come on! So needless to say, we had high expectations for the flick.

It's certainly an intriguing film, though we're still not sure we loved it to death. A modern day Western, it plays with the tropes of the gun totting genre as two bad men come to town and the simple family man takes them down while protecting his way of life. There's also a bit of play with the gangster genre as William Hurt plays the oddest, most vaguely WASPy mafia kingpin we've ever seen on film. There's a lot of suspense in the picture, that point when CC got up to use the restroom was more because we needed a little break from the tension than that we were so desperate to pee. Viggo's great in this as the family man Tom Stall, as is the always solid Maria Bello who plays his wife, one of those poor actresses who's been poised for breakout status far too long even as she delivers one quality performance after another.

Cronenberg paints his story here with broad strokes and primary colors. He appears to want to spell it out but achieves this without being simplistic or pat. As our friend Ilana pointed out to us the other day, this movie is in a way about the history of violence in movies and thinking about it now, we can see Cronenberg touched on all the classic permutations in his plot. The bully, the sheriff, the noble man, the ass-kicking wife are all present and accounted for. Our only problem with the film may be the inconclusive ending. With so many emotions stirred up in this small town family, how can they possibly go back to their idyllic past life? Like any good story, that final scene at the dinner table made it impossible for CC to imagine what could come next for the Stalls but still desperately wanting to know nonetheless.

Posted by karen at October 4, 2005 11:42 PM