Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Behind the Candelabra

It was Memorial Day and I celebrated by watching Behind the Candelabra - the new Soderbergh experiment. I call his films "experiments" because he has that snowglobe-director style of perpetual motion genre, never quite settling into one. He's a less masterful version of Ang Lee, but they are neighboring provinces in the game of Risk.  It is both enticing and admirable to watch a director kind of "work out" his kinks cinematically over the course of a career.  However, I have a love-hate relationship with Soderbergh because his concepts keep charming or intriguing me all the way to the box office and then I leave deflated or disappointed. The Girlfriend Experience? Please. A dump in a toilet could act better than Sasha Grey and MAYBE since the movie is entirely CARRIED by her it might be a good idea to cast an ACTRESS who has perhaps a little LIGHT behind her dead, dead eyes.  Hey, maybe she's considered the Garbo of Porn but Steven's "crossover" worked as well as a zombie and a chicken falling in love.

Also, Bubble - a super low budget indie flick starring no one, but apparently it was the first film to be available for immediate dvd purchase at the counter when you've....just seen it...I mean, maybe you wanna buy the movie you just saw cause.....you loved it so much.  And you wanted to take it home TODAY.  To watch LATER.  Or, immediately again if that is what you prefer. My question is: DID ANYONE BUY THAT FILM? I don't even know anyone who saw the damn thing except myself and an ex.  It might be worth calling him just to recap our vague feelings about a film from 8 years ago. I actually remembering liking it at the time, but not enough to be a proud owner afterwards. Also, that's when dvds were like $20.

Don't even get me started on The Informant. Yes, I walked out on Matt Damon. He was sending me on a fast train to Snoozeville and I hate fading in public. And you cannot make me watch The Good German again no matter how loyal I am to a Clooney flick.  A message to all directors: never ever shoot Tobey Maguire in black and white. His eyes were so bulbous and vacant, they had a natural 3D component.

All of this sounds like a Soderbergh hate party, but it ain't. Look at his credits on IMDB - there are a ton of good films all with astounding differences and risks that may or may not have been successfully sussed out.  But he is creating, doing, pouring, shooting, writing, producing, directing his passionate little heart out with projects that obviously aren't the easiest Hollywood sells. Who, I ask you, wasn't a little bit queasy imagining Michael Douglas and Matt Damon as star-studded (not crossed) lovers in a Swarovski whirlwind that is the story of Liberace?  Well, curiosity prevailed on that one.

MAN, first I must point out that Matt Damon just gets better with time. Six-seven years ago, someone proposed a seemingly common argument that Damon was better than DiCaprio and I scoffed mightily.  But I see the wonderfully connected strains, like gleaming golden threads, in his performances.  In Behind he is subtle - almost subdued - but very, very present and also marvelously committed. Michael Douglas comes across as everything you might expect him to be except that he is LIKABLE batting those deep brown eyes like they are swimming with innocent intention and not mixed with perversity.  He is a charming Liberace, but not overly so.  He doesn't really have all the right words, he just has lots of flamboyance (period-appropriate), talent, and luxury - lots and lots of luxury.  

Matt Damon mirrors the starlet who just moved to La-La.  Drawn to but entirely unsure of this extravagant, wigged man who may indeed be genuinely enamored, but is also very old and incredibly horny. We cringe and flinch when Douglas is near because he looks like such an ancient chic freak.  Plus we all know what he really wants - and what rich, famous Liberace wants? He gets. Such is this story - and Damon is sucked into a world that changes him completely and literally.  No, he literally gets plastic surgery in this film and the make-up is just fabulous, darling.  Mad props to that department.

Behind the Candelabra successfully reveals a sad transformation at the hands of the rich and powerful. A case of someone fair, grounded, moral and good being called by a siren and slowly sailing to her shore, only to have his head snatched off in a scorpion's instant.  If you date someone famous, or at least that deep into their own career and persona, beware that you will NEVER be - or at least stay - a true priority. The self is first in this case nearly every single time.  But Damon was being pursued by a skilled hunter on the hunter's land.  In the hunter's own LAIR even. So he didn't have much of a chance coupling that with, you know, LOVE - that darn concept, always obscuring everything.

I will keep watching Soderbergh's work.  He is one of the few true directors we have today despite not always executing with greatness, but he has his moments. And those moments are available for immediate purchase or download on your itunes.  PS, in staying true to his cat's cradle of media games, Steven made this film for HBO but it will be theatrically released come June 7th. PSS, BRILLIANT casting with Rob Lowe (and in general). Nice work, Carmen Cuba.

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