Sunday, July 31, 2011

Roman Polanski and the art of the extremely uncomfortable

OK, I'm more than a little slow. I knew Roman Polanski's next movie was titled "Carnage," and I've seen the Tony award-winning play by Yazmina Reza "Gods of Carnage" while on vacation with my family in Minneapolis, but not until now did I manage to put the two together.

In my defense, why in the world do they have to keep shortening movie titles to as few characters as possible? Martin Scorsese, of all people, found the title of one of my favorite books, "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," so odious that he had to cut it all the way down to simply "Hugo" for his Thanksgiving offering. But was "Gods of Carnage" really so long that people couldn't digest it on a poster? Sheesh.

But I already digress. Polanski's "Carnage" has been chosen to open the New York Film Festival on Sept. 30, and for many reasons, the play is just a perfect fit for his style of filmmaking.

First, a bit about what the movie and play are about, and who's starring in the flick. Reza's play (and hopefully Polanski's movie) takes place entirely in one New York City apartment, where two groups of parents are gathered after one child has acted out violently to the other one. I'm just guessing from the photo above here, but I have to think John C. Reilly and Jodie Foster play the parents of the wronged child, and Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz the other couple. Take a second to digest all that star power in one small room.

The setting is key, because in that tight space, the often scathing words aren't just weapons, they're WMD's, and the "Carnage" is immediate and brutal. And, thankfully, Reza's whip-smart play is also devastatingly funny, as when the character to be played by Reilly (again, I assume) explains how he used to be in a "gang" when he was a kid. It's not a comedy of manners, but of pretty much the complete lack thereof, my favorite kind.

In relation to the best of Polanski's movies, it fits in perfectly. The most direct correlation is to "Death and the Maiden," in which Sigourney Weaver traps and torments Ben Kingsley in Polanksi's take on the Ariel Dorfman play. In that and his most recent flick, the political thriller "Ghost Writer" (well worth an immediate rental if you haven't seen it), among others, the tension is not just kept high, but ramped up to the point of suffocation throughout, giving his best movies a very claustrophobic feel.

And that, in short, is why Roman Polanski's "Carnage" is definitely a movie to keep an eye out for when it opens hopefully wide enough to reach even my little corner of the world on Nov. 18. And I'll leave you today with, courtesy of collider, eight or so short clips from another movie I'm certainly looking forward to, "The Help," the movie based on Kathyrn Stockett's insanely popular novel and starring Emma Stone and Viola Davis, set to come out as some relief from the usual August slog on the 10th. Enjoy, and have a great Sunday. Peace out.


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