Sunday, November 16, 2014

Whiplash - Sundance Festival film

Whiplash is essential a two-character movie, the young, aspiring drummer and the violent, demanding, deceitful, possibly diabolical teacher who pushes the young man to the point of being abusive  -- as, finally the young man's father realizes.  The film finally asks if this is the way to unlock the passionate needs of a talented artist.  It is an old question, it seems to be answered positively -- although not with out much negativity. 

The film doesn't offer much nuance in this duel and I hope there will be much discussion about the validity of the premise.  As a film it is dynamic, has enough of Andy's family (really just his father), and just enough humanizing of the tyranical teacher, Fletcher, to keep us enthralled. Finally, who can't fall for this kind of story?  Andy has the talent and in the long final scene overcomes the diabolical trickery of Fletcher to thrill the theatre audience and even the cold hearted Fletcher.  Finally it is the age-old quest story, the young knight overcomes the forces of against evil and prevails. 

Recently I saw the other much talked about art film now showing, Birdman.  A very different film, a different kind of dementia at play. In Birdman a has-been actor, schizophrenic.  The script was wildly imaginative, untterly unbelievable, messy, violent and self-deluded. The reviewers feel more positively.  I don't believe a minute of this movie and it doesn't raise any new questions. I know actors/writers/directors can be ego driven to the point of insanity -- but they don't manage to get their  indulgences on Broadway.  The whole script seems a fantasy, not only his flying sequences.   Whiplash left me with a head full of music (albeit not a kind of music I normally listen to) while Birdman left me wondering at the sick egos we are told inhabit the theatre --  which I think is vastly overblown.

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