The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Release: Friday, May 8, 2015 (limited)

[Theater]

Written by: Felix Herngren; Hans Ingemansson

Directed by: Felix Herngren

Believe it or not, this ungainly film title actually leaves details out. So does the promotional poster.

Sure, a 100-year-old man does climb out a window. And (spoiler alert) he does disappear . . . well, relative to the perspective held by those we meet at the film’s open. Our geriatric protagonist is Allan Karlsson (Robert Gustafsson) and he appears very unhappy in his current state, confined to a tiny room typical of most retirement homes. It’s his birthday, but before the congregation of staff and fellow residents can send him their well-wishes he’s out the window and vanished. And so begins a desperate search that will entail local police and gang members.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared develops mostly through flashbacks, and because it does the title succeeds in misrepresenting the significance of current events. Confusing isn’t the right word, but misleading seems a better fit. The story is far less concerned with the here-and-now as it is in delineating the old man’s life experience. We occasionally resurface in the present tense as Allan makes his way nonchalantly from point A to point B, from B to C and C to D. While each point bears little geographic significance they serve as opportunities for Allan to explain the events in his life that have come to define who he is. Surprisingly there’s much more to him other than his fascination with blowing up everyday objects.

Landmark moments — his castration at the hands of a cruel doctor; his role in J. Robert Oppenheimer (Philip Rosch)’s Manhattan Project and subsequent involvement in the Second Great War, where he befriends Albert Einstein’s “less intelligent twin brother,” Herbert, during his time spent in a Russian gulag; his greater rises to prominence thanks to his shoulder brushings with Vice President Harry Truman (Kerry Shale) — serve as the backbone of this bizarre tale. Played exclusively for laughs, they characterize the whimsical fabric of the narrative while suggesting how miraculous history can sometimes be. The movie never aspires to be profound; it’s far too clumsily comedic to actually be taken seriously, but on occasion it does inspire thoughtful reflection. Relative to Allan’s life, if he never developed an affection for blowing things up, would he necessarily have found himself in the positions he does later in life?

When not busying itself in the affairs of the past, The 100-Year-Old Man depicts an amusing cat-and-mouse game ongoing amongst Swedish police and thugs. The former attempts to link a bizarre murder/kidnapping to the 100-year-old man, while the latter is trying to recover some 50 million (Krona, I presume, even though the currency is never specifically mentioned) that Allan has taken via a comical mix-up at a train station early in the film. The result is a complicated and wildly unlikely misunderstanding leading to the involvement of a British brute (played by the one and only Alan Ford), that, strangely enough, is more satisfying than a good deal of the backstory presented.

Unfortunately the film’s structure loses its novelty fairly quickly. Running nearly two hours in length, the adventure overstays its welcome, dragging in more than one place and indulging in frivolity to the detriment of our diminishing goodwill. More often than not, though, The 100-Year-Old Man serves as delightful entertainment featuring an atypical protagonist. It’s historically inaccurate, harmless fun.

Recommendation: The third-highest grossing Swedish film of all time somehow found its way to Knoxville, Tennessee. If you can get your hands on this little ditty, I recommend you do so. It’s funny, heartwarming and bizarre in equal measure and while it won’t linger in the mind much longer than a couple of days I feel pretty comfortable saying it will be worth your while . . . for those who are fans of things that are just a little bit off of the beaten path, anyway. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 114 mins.

Quoted: “If you want to kill me, you’d better hurry because I’m 100 years old.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

The Grand Seduction

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Release: Friday, May 30, 2014 (limited)

[Theater]

The theater where I went to see this film didn’t serve nearly the appropriate amount of my favorite lager. They also failed to carry appropriate beer-drinking mugs. So, making do with what I had, I found myself toasting the events on screen with a luke-warm plastic cup filled with a swill of Coors Light.

The Grand Seduction is one of those films whose infectious spirit is so great you won’t notice yer actively participatin’ in the singin’ an’ drinkin’ an’ dancin’ ’til yer bein’ forcefully removed from the theater because of the racket ya be causin’.

Unfortunately, the above wasn’t an anecdote; at no point in my moviegoing career have I ever been escorted from a cineplex. (Have any of you?) Point is, there’s little you can really do to avoid being seduced by this eccentric little film. Its hooks will be in deep thanks to charming performances delivered across the board. Spearheaded by the great bearded Brendan Gleeson — whose Irish heritage will likely have you confused about where this film is supposed to be set on more than one occasion — the cast’s efforts certainly help overshadow a story that is largely lacking in originality or plausibility.

The French film La grande séduction debuted at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival to such a warm reception that an English language version was immediately suggested; it’s popularity all but demanded it. After several setbacks including directors dropping in and out of the project, the current film finally was fleshed out with an appropriately eclectic talent pool in Gleeson, Taylor Kitsch, Gordon Pinsent, Liane Balaban, and Mark Critch.

In a brisk hour and forty minutes we are stolen away to the remote harbor of Tickle Head, a place so insignificant Newfoundland barely even wants it. It’s an extreme northern locale whose downtrodden appearance and sparse human population is frequently mined for comedy, often very successfully. But the movie lies within Gleeson’s Murray French, a man whose joviality belies a spirit slowly crushed by lifelong hardship. When the town mayor abandons his post for better job prospects on the mainland, Murray starts spinning a web of lies in order to make Tickle Head a more attractive place for the young Dr. Paul Lewis (Kitsch).

Why, pray, does this little outcropping home to barely more than 100 need a good-looking, wealthy townie for a doctor?

Well it’s all a part of the deal Murray’s trying to secure with a major oil conglomerate that has tentative plans to bring a factory to the area. The good people of Tickle Head sure could use the work. Instantly Murray sets about fabricating a number of stories and overhauling the community to the doctor’s liking — he even requires everyone to embrace the sport of cricket, and suppress their passions for a real sport, like hockey. Finding a scene this year that’s more intrinsically hilarious than watching a group of disoriented old men in white and pink linen attempt to master this obscure skill by the edge of a sun-dappled cliff is going to be a real challenge.

As Murray continues to stage his grand seduction for the doctor, who continues to struggle with being away from his wife and familiar surroundings, the lies become more significant, eventually posing something of a moral conflict for Murray and they start to spiral out of control. It’s a tipping point for the credibility of the script, as well, unfortunately. How much of this are we really meant to take seriously? At times the silliness swells to a point where its understandable that the entire production need not be taken seriously, though this is not entirely the case. There are a few moments of genuine human drama peppered throughout this farce, though it’s easier to take The Grand Seduction at face value as a straight comedy.

Despite it’s tendency to venture into cliche territory, this adaptation has a huge heart. Good luck not cracking a smile, at the very least. And remember, for a film like this its always a good idea to bring a frosty mug from home. The people of Tickle Head openly invite you into their homes, and it would be rude not to bring offerings. Just sneak them into the theater in your pockets or something.

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3-5Recommendation: I recommend this film with the simple assumption that you enjoy laughing at movies, and laughing at a lot of different things. Humor runs the gamut from rib-tickling slapstick to dialogue that’s at once self-aware and self-depricating. A film based in such a remote location usually always feels like a “refreshing” experience, and this certainly proves to be a byproduct of watching this one. Although it’s a fictional place, Tickle Head feels as real as any small community you’ve ever traveled through or spent time in. Come get to know these people, they’d love to meet you. And I almost guarantee you won’t regret meeting them.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 113 mins.

Quoted: “Who here has a case of creeping Athlete’s Foot. . .? Frank?!”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

Tim’s Vermeer

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Release: Friday, January 31, 2014 (limited)

[Theater]

Tim’s Vermeer is the documentary that does not discriminate. It does not care how far-removed a viewer is from their high school art course, nor about how much the stigma attached to a genre like ‘art documentary’ limits the potential total audience. Despite a title that might suggest something complicated, perhaps even pretentious, it doesn’t have extremely lofty ambitions (other than to expose its ambitious subject), nor the intention of seeking the approval of the artistic world at large. It does, however, aim to be as stimulating as possible to those who lay eyes upon it — and by the ear of Van Gogh, it succeeds!

Behold the story of Texas-based inventor and the most recent example of me being tricked by a Santa Clause look-alike, Tim Jenison. (Not sure if it’s more the facial hair or his general jolly attitude that gets me more confused. Or his ability to magically create and fix things. Really, there are many parallels.)

With only a brief introduction to this endearingly eccentric man, it’s not long before we understand that, while this documentary certainly focuses on his life, it features only a small part of it. Tim is the type who enjoys staying constantly busy, overseeing the operations of NewTek, a software company he himself founded some years back, all while discovering all sorts of obscure projects and puzzles to work on in his spare time. Not to mention, he is a father and husband.

Where we come in is at a point in his life where he’s taken particular interest in the work of Johannes Vermeer, a 17th-Century Dutch painter most known for his ability to create photo-realistic images well before the concept of the camera had been introduced. Tim’s main objective is to attempt to explain how Vermeer was able to produce such stunning beauty and accuracy so early. Did he use technology to guide his vision or did he simply define the term savant? Tim’s focus turns first towards devising a system of mirrors that would allow him to simultaneously paint directly onto canvas underneath a reflected image of his subject. Sort of like tracing, only without lines being in place.

The experiment itself is difficult to explain clearly, but suffice it to say the results it produces are remarkable. Luckily for Tim, his painting skills are more than passable for a supposed first-timer. His ability to pick up on any number of trades and skills that his current obsession requires is one of the more entertaining and impressive aspects on display. So he’s not a painter, who cares? He’ll try anyway until success is within reach, and then keep trying once its surpassed. The man’s dedication, though it does border on obsession, is something to admire, truly.

In order to solidify his argument — did the famed Vermeer indeed lean upon some sort of technology to accomplish photorealistic paintings? — Tim makes the ultimate goal of recreating ‘The Music Lesson,’ one of the artist’s more intricate pieces. Featuring a woman playing at the piano in the corner of a very small room and a man (presumably the instructor) watching on, the colorful and exquisitely detailed portrait exhibits many of Vermeer’s signature marks including a sophisticated usage of soft, natural light.

Speaking of sophisticated, as our fearless leader faces up to the task of replicating such an image, he recognizes the unique challenges associated with it. His studio set-up will need to be more complex given what and where he will be painting. In order to ensure accuracy Tim rebuilds the room featured in the painting, converting a small section of a Texas warehouse into the space exactly as originally presented. It’s an extensive process in itself, but one that pales in comparison to the daunting prospect of the physical painting — something that ultimately takes Tim a little over four tedious months to complete. There is a statistic at the end of the film which summarizes the length of the entire Vermeer project. Something just over 1,000 days pass since Tim first conceives of the idea. At one point, Tim takes off of work for a week or two to travel to Holland for research. So much for this being a side project.

Narrated by Penn Jillette of illusionist duo Penn & Teller fame, the documented experiment moves along at a brisk pace, and despite seeming like an odd choice for a narrator, Penn never strays from being pleasantly conversational. Actually, it’s less surprising considering the magician’s healthy skepticism tends to balance out Tim’s almost unhealthy optimism. While not necessarily for everyone, there is an addictive quality to what is being filmed that should win over more than just art aficionados. What he obsesses over, we become obsessed with too, as we want to see the finished result. Instead of ostracizing those unfamiliar with Vermeer and the craft itself, Penn’s narrative, along with Tim’s enthusiastic ramblings, are just general enough so as to clue everyone in on what they need to know. And while it avoids condescension, some patience may be required of those well-versed in the medium as they may find a little bit of retread in the simplistic presentations.

Tim Jenison may be a bit of an oddball, but he may also have experienced his breakthrough. His epiphany with the mirrors appears to be less of an invention and more of a rediscovery of a centuries-old technology. His ability to recreate the elaborate oil-on-canvas piece serves as potentially the most convincing bit of evidence that this could have been the method Vermeer relied on in his day. However, without any documentation on the man no one can know for certain.

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4-0Recommendation: Though obscure, this documentary is chock-full of fascinating insight and personality. Tim Jenison is one interesting character and it is good to have met him. For anyone with the slightest interest in art, I highly HIGHLY suggest Tim’s Vermeer. Lightweight, informative and humorous to boot, it’s a quirky little gem that deserves international exposure. The discoveries made herein need to be made more public.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 80 mins.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

Prince Avalanche

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Release: Friday, August 9, 2013 (limited)

[Netflix]

Mumblecore may not be a lost artform, but it’s pretty clear it’s on the fringes, particularly when the recent entries are as minor as this.

David Gordon Green, after directing more mainstream, sillier things like Pineapple Express, The Sitter and Your Highness, switches gears by creating a story dependent on actual, fine-tuned performances and not upon ridiculous set pieces and poop/fart jokes. He manages to avoid being pretentious with his shoestring budget, though it’s not much of a surprise to see such a divided audience opinion of Prince Avalanche

One of the main reasons the film carries great potential to be off-putting is the extremely slow pace. Seriously. Snails probably would learn a thing or two about slowing down if they could watch this movie. (That’s not to write snails off as being snobbish, by the way; I just think A) their weird little eyes are too small and B) even if they could comprehend this, they would get bored.)

But for us humans, because the film also zeros in on an obscure, isolated job like highway maintenance — Alvin (Paul Rudd) and Lance (Emile Hirsch) are responsible for applying all the road markings to a recently repaved section of road in the wake of a destructive wildfire that wiped out a good portion of forest land — there is not a lot to grab a hold of in terms of dramatic material. Plus the fact that extended moments of dialogue-free, panoramic shots of the nondescript environs dominate the narrative early on doesn’t help those who are seeking something to identify with.

When you factor in how Rudd’s character is first presented, this film seems to be making every effort to avoid becoming a crowd-pleaser. (Whoops, did I mention earlier that this film wasn’t pretentious? That might have been a bit of a lie.) Green, though, is able to find a modicum of success in his experimentation. There is a quirkiness to this weird little romp, a very natural humor that makes this story absolutely believable, even if inaccessible (or pointless) to some.

Relying on some nuanced performances, his small-time Avalanche attempts to differentiate between the concepts of ‘being alone’ versus ‘being lonely.’ He goes about this by presenting two starkly different personalities in Alvin and Lance, who show that while both concepts don’t sound favorable, one is definitely worse than the other.

A mustached Paul Rudd truly enjoys the solitude; he claims to be able to focus his downtime into gaining what he considers valuable skills, like learning foreign languages, and that being away from people — like his girlfriend, Madison who is also, by way of holy-shit-it’s-a-small-world, Lance’s sister — actually helps him better himself. Compare that to Hirsch’s whiny, materialistic Lance, who has slightly less ambitious stupider . . .we’ll just go with different goals and desires, like going into town on his days off and looking for some girls to take home with him. He’s clearly less satisfied with his employment and, hence, the lonely one.

Yet, there’s a monotonous amount of road-paintin’, and silence-havin’ — I think at some point, a bee gets to chew some scenery — all of this to get through as this simple albeit earnest story slowly gains traction. This is a movie filmed through cameras virtually ingrained into the trees and the mud and thickets through which we see this movie unfold. You have to give credit to Green and his right-hand man, D.O.P. Tim Orr for literally absorbing the environment in which they are in. At the same time, I cannot blame those who end up feeling a little insulted by watching a movie that literally takes place on the shoulder of a road.

Ultimately, Prince Avalanche is a decent film that perhaps treads the line between immateriality and art-house a bit too closely at times. The performances are too good to ignore though, and there is a warm conviction with which these two loners eventually come to embrace their statuses in life. The low-key affair is also dressed in a gorgeous soundtrack by Explosions in the Sky and David Wingo, which, it can also be legitimately argued, the film relies on a bit too much at times.

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3-5Recommendation: Experimental at best and inconsequential at worst, Prince Avalanche is not a film for everyone yet those who do crack its hard outer shell shall reap the rewards of its heartfelt message and will appreciate the quality of the two oddball performances. It’s also a good one to check out for yet another different Paul Rudd experience.

Rated: R

Running Time: 94 mins.

Quoted: “So when you say something negative and insult the other person… You’re really just showing that other person what an unsure-of-yourself-type person that you really feel like you are.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com