At Home He's a Tourist

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

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Kinsey--This hagiography of the patron saint of pansexualism has many of the stock elements of the genre: a long-suffering martyr, caricatured villains, and heavy doses of didacticism. Still, the portrait of the famous sexologist isn't completely whitewashed--occasionally Kinsey comes off as a single-minded fanatic blind to basic human values like love and fidelity. Liam Neeson's performance is compelling and the plot is well-paced. The movie is clearly an apologia for sexual diversity, however (a couple of teary interviews between victimized homosexuals and Kinsey seem inserted as blatant public service announcements for the bumper-sticker formula "Silence=Death"), so Christians will react negatively to the underlying ethos. Not to mention that Kinsey's father, a censorious preacher, is played by John Lithgow with an exaggerated prudery that borders on the comic--the usual Hollywood stereotype of the evangelical. Recommended with reservations.

A Very Long Engagement--Jeunet seems to be running out of ideas: in many ways this is simply Amelie in dramatic mode. Aside from the presence of Audrey Tautou and two other actors from Jeunet's previous film, the writing in both movies is strikingly similar. Tautou again plays a pensive young woman, Mathilde, whose search for a missing person leads her on a round of interviews and fact-gathering. Again, Jeunet foregoes the hard work of realistic characterization by relying on physical and mental quirks to make his personages distinctive (Mathilde is crippled, plays the tuba, and makes superstitious deals with God). Again, Jeunet is easily diverted from the main storyline and follows the backstories of various minor characters. This sort of gimmickry is more effective in comedy, I think, than in drama. There are a lot of very pretty shots of the French countryside, at least, and one segment about a woman who commits adultery to get her husband off the front lines was poignant, straightforward drama without the usual Jeunet trickery.