Sunday, February 24, 2008

Mos, Michel, and Fats Waller

This movie Be Kind, Rewind, it was not without it's faults. The writing was a little flat at times, and the Jack Black Schtick has gotten a little stale if you ask me. The whole thing kind of reels on it's way through the early narrative movement, but once it finds its feet, it hits the grounding running with a cheshire grin that never left my face from that moment on. The first sweded film begins the wonderful lo-fi, mash-up hilarity. The happy amusement just compounds as the process becomes more communal and inclusive, and still this movie has so much to say that is meaningful in the national discourse about modernity, race, capitalism, community. It is wonderful to be able to laugh and feel the warm glow of goodness exemplified. It is a joyful presence in the world that this film brings.
Gondry's imaginatively brilliant production design makes this film a new brand of movie experience, and he brings us into a kind of film-making process that would make Cocteau proud. He encloses us in a world of smiling bizarrity that is so unique to his films but which has been realized in the most strikingly profound way here. The sets and his characteristically bizarrely simplistic special effects are the main characters here, and yet they complement and underscore the actors without overpowering them. The blend is so well met that you just delight in the whole thing.
I must also say something about the performances of Melonie Diaz and Mos Def. Certainly Mos's Mike is an extension of his work as Ford Prefect much in the same way that Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow was an extension of his work as HST, but Def actually builds on his earlier characterization and gives it a new depth, whereas Depp seems to turn his Hunter character into a caricature. This is quite the feat for such an unseasoned actor in a movie that without his grounding might easily have spun out of control. The balance of poignancy and inanity was very delicate with this piece, and it is his work that makes that balancing act so incredibly, heartwarmingly fulfilling.
Melonie Diaz's Alma plays counterpoint to Mike's brilliance and nervousness and Jerry's over the top hamming in such a way that it really does provide a kind of alacrity to the film that is also crucial in building toward the necessary balance. She gives her character such humour, charm, steadfastness, and warmth. It is just an exquisite performance, and is another piece of the mad, mad puzzle that was this wonderful film.

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