Saturday, September 13, 2008

TIFF 2008 reviews: Achilles and the Tortoise

This’ll be a short one. I actually would have traded in my ticket for Achilles and the Tortoise if I’d remembered that same-day exchanges weren’t permitted, and I nearly walked out after nodding off a couple of times during the screening. Which isn’t to say that A&T is a bad movie, far from it. There’s a reason Takeshi Kitano’s in the Masters program, and I’m a big admirer. But only four hours sleep Thursday night and the oppressive sweltering heat of Friday afternoon were not making me the most receptive audience member, especially for a stoic Japanese parable about the compulsive need to create “art” in a world that just doesn’t understand genius. I will say that it’s an oddly lopsided movie for Takeshi, who usually maintains a much more consistent tone in his films (I can’t recommend Hana-Bi enough for anyone who wants to see him at the peak of his directing abilities). The first half is a grim tale of a child’s obsessive need to paint as outside forces strip away all creature comforts. The second half is a wacky comedy about the child (grown up and played in the last act by the director) and his repeated bungled attempts to break into the art world, first with a college gang of zany abstractionists and then as a solo act abetted by his long-suffering wife. The only real aesthetic link between the two halves is a recurring theme of various people in his periphery committing suicide in front of him, usually ending with a pool of blood spreading around their head. So, really, just your typical Japanese comedy. (***)

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