At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003


Code Inconnu--My first Haneke film. The title refers to the password required for entering the apartment building of Parisian actress Anne (Juliette Binoche). Aloof Anne's blunt technique for preventing people from getting too close to her is to change the code. In this loosely woven tapestry of distinct but tangentially connected plot threads, the Unknown Code become metaphorical for other instances of marginalization or exclusion--an illegal immigrant is sent back to Kosovo, an Afro-French youth is harassed by Parisian cops, etc. The film can get boring because Haneke's static cinematography makes Eric Roehmer look like James Cameron. The camera will gaze unmoving at, say, Anne ironing clothes, or a tractor plowing a field, for what seems like minutes. This reaction to the Hollywood aesthetic was too exaggerated for my tastes, yet the realism pays dividends, as in a confrontational scene between Binoche and some Arab youths on the subway which was made all the more tense by the cinema verité style. Excellent acting. Can anyone tell me what the scenes of deaf children drumming are supposed to tell us? Now I'd like to see Haneke's La Pianiste because Isabelle Huppert does a great job playing severely repressed women, at least based on her performance in Huit Femmes.

Being There--Peter Sellers again plays an idiot mistaken for a genius; but unlike the Pink Panther, simpleton gardener Chauncey makes no pretensions to brilliance. Confined to the house of his master since a child, Chauncey finally has to make his way in the world when The Old Man dies. A traffic accident puts him in the company of a rich and influential family, who take Chauncey's simplicity and innocence for profundity. Although the movie starts sluggishly, I enjoyed seeing Chauncey's improbable rise to fame. Warning: the last shot is almost hokey enough to ruin the whole film.

Zelig--Jazz age nostalgia, jokes about masturbation, neuroses, and Judaism--the usual Woody Allen routine, with a clever gimmick to give it some freshness.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Health News

Recently I've been posting news stories about the health benefits of some of my favorite beverages. Felix, however, spotted this sobering (yuk yuk) story about scientists who detected a link between moderate alcohol consumption and brain shrinkage. On the bright side, coffee may help prevent colon cancer. So at 50 I'll be prematurely senile but tumor free.


Another good article debunking Kill Bill and the Tarantino myth generally, this one from The New York Review of Books.