Monday, August 30, 2010

Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer

I have a theory about movie titles, (don't we all) buttressed by my time at the Digital Shelf, that posits: some titles can sink a perfectly great film. Two quick examples: "Sexy Beast" and "Dirty, Pretty Things". Both fantastic films, neither remotely erotic or sleazy, but who wants to come home and say, "Honey, I picked out a great film for us tonight, "Sexy Beast!". Those film titles are fine for their films, just make the selection difficult in a world of easy choices...

The Ghost Writer title has a different problem, though it is a perfect title, and the movie itself fits the title on at least 3 levels, but it is so generic I added the "Polanski" to the review title. His association with the project brings all kinds of unrelated baggage from the "know the man, know the work" and the "the work should stand apart from the man" camps, but this is a blog, not a thesis.

Roman Polanski, like Woody Allen, can't just make a movie anymore, but they can't not make a film, either. They both have too much to say, too much craft, to stop. We should be thankful. This review is about "The Ghost Writer", but feel free to apply it all to Woody Allen's superb "Whatever Works".

The Ghost Writer stars Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan as ghost and subject respectively. Pierce Brosnan will always get the Bond reference, but Tailor of Panama, Matador, and now Ghost Writer demonstrate that the brand can be extended into new territory...a great performance. Ewan Mcgregor isn't Tom Hanks, but to drive across continents with Charlie Boorman, snare Cameron Diaz and train Darth Vader bespeaks an everyman as everyman as Forrest Gump and Jim Lovell.

Ghost Writer is set largely in the ghost town of Martha's Vineyard in the wintertime. The modern architecture of the summer cottage with the bold but cold lines of the modern art that be-spectacle every grey surface, the slate gray sanded beaches and grey  clouded skies, and the shiny black rain splotched BMWs speak volumes to the ghosts(and spooks) in and around this film.

The Ghost Writer is as thoughtfully paced and shot as the other "thriller of the summer", The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." Both films bring a decidedly cerebral and European feel to the cineplex, and expect the audience to keep up. The rewards for doing so last a lot longer than the bon mots  the new breed of romcom, sitcom and superhero fare deliver.

I do think TV pacing and dialog rhythm have intruded as far as should be warranted into the movie format. Tv is not Cinema. I want my films, and I want them on the big screen, shot by masters or upstarts, but with passion, not accountants, calling the shots.

Stay tuned for reviews of "Youth Without Youth" and "Tetro" by Coppola,  but never fear that I've gone to the darkside. B13U and Ong Bak 3 still play on the ol' video shuffle(oh wait, that tech isn't here yet)...

Meanwhile track down "The Ghost Writer" and feel like you've eaten at a restaurant instead of a drive-thru.

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