Movie Diary, 3/OK, now I'm gonna tell you guys about the other movies I've seen in the last week or so. Part of this post is gonna be way hilario7/09.
First: I saw "Kurt Cobain: About A Son" yesterday. Not a bad documentary, really, but not that amazing. I'd say they had a better potential concept for the movie than they ended up with in actual execution. It's narrated by Kurt himself, with his voice taken from the tapes Michael Azerrad made while interviewing Kurt for his book "Come As You Are." The narration is always interesting and entertaining to listen to, if a bit painful at times. In particular, I got a little upset listening to Kurt talk about how glad he was that he kicked heroin, because if he'd continued on it, he'd probably have lost everything. And of course, he relapsed, got back onto heroin, and ended up losing everything, as a nearly direct result. That was a pretty bitter irony, and it made me sad. For the most part, any emotional resonance conjured by the movie was subtle, and I think their using Kurt's voice as narration really helped with that. That was definitely a strength of the film. The visual aspect was not as strong, though. The parts of the movie that depicted places that Kurt was talking about, or used footage or still photos from his life, worked well, but I guess they didn't have enough of that stuff to fill in an entire 90 minute movie, because there were also quite a few shots of random people, just focusing on their faces or whatever. I have NO IDEA what this was supposed to represent. The people weren't people who figured into the narration (or if they were, they weren't explained as such), and there wasn't really any connection between the visuals at those points in the movie and the audio. Worse were the parts when it showed people walking on some street or another sped way up, so they were moving really fast. Both of these techniques, used reasonably frequently, seem like they're just there to fill space that was left in the visual part of the documentary. They really could have and should have come up with something better for these parts. But whatever, it was still a decent movie, on the whole, though nothing outstanding. Don't run out and find a copy or anything, but if it's showing on Sundance one afternoon (which is when I saw it), it's worth checking out.
Next, briefly: In the last week or so I've seen volumes one and two of "The Black List," which is an HBO documentary series that really just consists of interviews lasting 5 minutes or so with a series of black people who are famous or highly regarded within their chosen fields. For the series, they interviewed everyone from Slash to Chris Rock to Colin Powell to Susan Rice to Bishop T.D. Jakes. The series switches without warning from rappers to doctors to priests to politicians. I didn't find any of the interviews to be boring, or unintelligent, or in any way lame, which, given the diversity of the interview subjects, was almost surprising. But they all had something interesting to say, and I found the series to be quite entertaining. I felt like I learned some things from it, too. If you have HBO, this is worth seeing.
And finally, at greater length: The other movie I've seen in the last few days, which I saw the night before last, was called "When Nietzsche Wept." It's a film that tells a fictional story about a bunch of real people, and specifically focuses on the attempts of Lou Salome to get psychiatric help for Friedrich Nietzsche. I'm not sure how much of it has a solid basis in history, but all of the main characters really existed, and the story that's told about them in the movie is a good one, regardless of how closely it follows history.
I'm not entirely sure that "When Nietzsche Wept" would be considered a successful film by everyone who sees it. By 20 or so minutes into it, I found myself thinking that it truly is an "art film," and this impression became more solidified as the movie progressed. It obviously had a decent budget behind it, and the period-piece details of the film were well done and very realistic, but it was not a realistic movie on the whole. I remember reading something about Paul Morrissey's disdain for realism in acting when I was reading up on "Andy Warhol's Frankenstein" recently, that Morrissey thought that such pretenses towards behaving like normal people in films were a waste of time, and that actors should go ahead and be dramatic, get intense and chew the scenery or whatever, which influenced his direction when he was making "Andy Warhol's Frankenstein" and his other films. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that "When Nietzsche Wept" director Pinchas Perry felt much the same way, as the actors in this film tended to take more of a classical theater approach to their roles. There were also quite a few hallucinatory scenes in the film, some of which were defined as dream sequences but others of which were not. All of these scenes served an effective purpose in the narrative, but you the viewer have to be willing to accept that there are points in this movie when the director chooses to explicate a character's emotional state through these strange metaphorical scenes that are not intended to be part of the film's narrative, and I know that there are some people who might have a problem with that. I thought it worked quite well, though.
Really, I just liked this movie. I found Armand Assante's portrayal of Nietzsche to be fascinating, and the character of Dr. Josef Breuer, the doctor who Salome asks to help Nietzsche with his depression, to be equally so. Breuer's young friend, Sigmund Freud, plays a secondary role in the film, and some of what he and Breuer learn from Breuer's work with Nietzsche apparently has a big influence on Freud's later psychoanalytic work. Or, so the film indicates--again, I can't vouch for its historical accuracy. Anyway, in order to get Nietzsche to work through his own issues, Breuer convinces Nietzsche to help him, Breuer, work through some issues in his own personal life that are making him depressed and causing him to be distant with his family. At first, Breuer tells himself that this is just a technique he's using to get Nietzsche to open up, but before long, it becomes obvious that Breuer's in just as much need as Nietzsche is, and the film turns into a story about two troubled men who help each other work through their problems. I don't want to spoil the whole thing, but I will tell you that the ending was very moving for me, personally. There's a lot of discussion of loneliness and the difficulty of finding friendship and love in the world that I felt was pretty dead-on, and hit very close to home for me.
For me, there was a lot to like about this movie. The plot, and the emotional issues it dealt with, were very engaging, but I also really liked the directorial style, including the unapologetic tendencies toward artiness. The historical elements were interesting, and made me want to look into the actual historical basis for the film, and the philosophical discussions between Nietzsche and Breuer (and, occasionally, between Breuer and Freud, or Breuer and Salome) got me interested in reading some of Nietzsche's writing, which I've never read. I felt like it was a pretty accurate examination of the effects of loneliness and depression on a person's life, and just how important such things can be (even though we often act like they matter but little in one's day to day life). And finally, on a much less serious note, the actress who played Lou Salome, Katheryn Winnick, was drop-dead gorgeous and nearly made me faint every time she was onscreen. (Apparently she's going to be in the film version of Philip K. Dick's "Radio Free Albemuth" that's coming out later this year, as if I needed any more reason to go and see that movie.) Pinchas Perry has apparently done very little other than this movie, but I'd definitely be willing to check out any future work of his.