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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Saturday, January 08, 2011

entry arrow5:31 AM | Serious Comedy

A completist always runs into this dilemma: you love with passion a certain author or filmmaker, and you are compelled to read every book he has written or see every film he has made -- which includes the stinkers, of course. And so you are left in the end with a kind of a broken heart. Noah Baumbach's Greenberg [2010] and Woody Allen's You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger [2010] are certainly not stinkers -- I have a feeling I may have to go over them once more, in the future, to get what subtleties I may have missed -- but both films, made by directors I worship, left me cold.

I love Baumbach's Kicking and Screaming [1995] and The Squid and the Whale [2005], and even to a certain extent Margot at the Wedding [2008]. I get his sensibility and his world of middle-class angst quite well, and he writes and shoots his stories with an intimacy that I find fully-formed and human, and we see all this come into play as well in Greenberg, and yet and yet. The film is a perfect condensation of a typical Ben Stiller character -- a wound-up man ready to explode, and here Stiller junks the comedy that usually accompanies such characterization and goes full on with the dramatic mode. His Greenberg is a lost former-would-be rock star, now a carpenter and living for a month in his brother's Los Angeles home where he confronts old ghosts, old loves, and new possibilities -- and we feel for him despite the fact that he is pretty much an unlikable character. It is a brilliantly realized character-study. And yet and yet...

Most of everything Woody Allen has made I have seen, and I love most of them with a passion. In You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, he takes us to London to explore matters of God, faith, fidelity, and the cruel twists that life gives us, and peppers this examination with some of the best thespians from both sides of the Atlantic, all of whom act out scenarios that paint this notion: life has a way of aborting our full expectations of good fortune, and so no one can really ever be happy. It is a serious film with a funny bent, and ends with a tease that becomes more profound because of a certain unfinished feel to it. And yet and yet...

I have no answers to why these two films left me cold. Maybe it's just me expecting a little too much.

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