The melody haunts my reverie
del Toro is something special. In the last year I happened upon Hellboy2 and Pacific Rim - Both were excellent.
There is a clean copy of the Goulding film on YouTube . I watched it a couple of month's ago.
Thanks, Roy. I had never seen the 1947 version and watched this film mostly because of my affection for del Toro’s Shape of Water. I found it so depressingly dark it took me a day or two to shake off, which probably means I was in the wrong headspace when I saw it, since that usually doesn’t happen for me.
I agree with most of this take, especially the performances of Collette and Strathairn, who both could have gone very broad but didn’t. I found Blanchette’s femme fatale so over-the-top it nearly upended the whole film, and at first couldn’t figure out how we were supposed to believe Cooper’s Stan could get rumbled by someone practically holding up a sign that says, “I am nefarious.” But I think it helps to explain that when we view Stan as more damaged and compulsive rather than as a pure conman.
(Good to know Strathairn is in this; he does the pained look better than just about anyone else on screen.)
I wanted to catch this when it came out, but we had elderly relatives visiting for the holidays and I didn’t want to chance a crowd. Sadly by the time they left the film was already gone from my local theaters. Whoever decided to put this out against No Way Home and at Christmas I’ll never understand. But that it was basically doomed at the box office is appropriate, I guess, given that the studio did everything it could to quash the 1947 film too. I picked up the original last year from Criterion and if dvds are still a thing you do, I highly recommend it. Not only does the film look gorgeous but there are also tons of extras going deep into the book it’s based on and the production history of the film.
As you say, Roy, the production design of the film is fantastic. And of course it's a killer cast - even the smaller roles with great character actors like Richard Jenkins (always happy to see him), Jim Beaver, and Tim Blake Nelson. As for Cooper, if they gave an Oscar for best acting in a single scene he would win by a mile for that ending. He absolutely nailed it - the hair stands up on my arms just thinking about it.
The link with "dollar-book Freud" goes to the same terrific Alicublog post as the one with Bradley Cooper's acting, but it's only correct in the latter case, and I really need to know what the Welles quote is (and what you did with it)
I also enjoy Cooper as an actor, but he was far too old to play this part. An actor in his mid- to late 20s would have been more appropriate.
One of the subtle differences from the 1947 film and the 2021 film is Stanton's response to the carney boss offering him a "temporary" job as a geek. Power's response in a almost world weary tone is, "Mister, I was made for it." This is a throwback to when Clem explains to Stanton that geeks aren't born they are made. But it also displays how Power's Stanton views his predicament as not really his fault, that it is other people who failed him or screwed him over as to why he is in such a dire situation. Cooper's response to the carney boss to the same is offer is that of a broken man who knows he is were he is because of his own avarice and hubris: "Mister, I was born for it."
There is more than a hint of self-pity in the statement but also a reaction to Lilith's cutting remarks to Stanton when he realized she had been two-timing him: That he was not a suave confidence man but a striving grifter, "an Okie with straight teeth." He didn't fool people; the people wanted to be fooled. Stanton needed to believe he was a suave confidence man to fill the massive hole inside of him.
In the end, Cooper's Stanton comes to the conclusion that he is irreparably broken by both his childhood traumas and amoral actions, and a geek was what he was always going to end up becoming.
Great review, I'm sure I enjoyed it more than I'd enjoy the movie. And am I weird if my main takeaway was, "Well, I've GOT to see the original, now that I know Joan Blondell is in it!"
I thought it was a technically great production, both in story structure and color theory, but I didn’t get that sense of immersion where the world goes away and you are living inside the movie like happens in a truly great film. I couldn’t stop thinking about the mechanics of both the story and even more so the color grading.
I wasn’t very interested in the story much deeper than the technical aspects of the structure. I liked how it seamlessly, for the most part, played against viewer expectations of what was going on, resulting in a series of mild surprises, all of which made sense in the world the writers were constructing. But I didn’t care about the characters, which may be ok in noir, but I didn’t find them that interesting either, which is not. I didn’t see the ending coming until around the line where he said the job was temporary, but in hindsight it was inevitable, a clear sign of great writing.
I was even more impressed with the color. I did some work with a sideshow awhile back and put a lot of thought and practice into getting the color to be emotionally accurate. Del Toro’s sideshow palette was not far off from mine, nor from the reality of the experience. Color photography is much more difficult than black and white and the majority of great color work is fairly close to being mono-color. Consistent shades of red, yellow, blue and green color Del Toro's sideshow, both inside and out. Then it goes all gold and black when the Bradly Cooper character comes up in the world and does his act in fancy spaces and wealthy psychiatrist offices. The color tells a story by itself and it is very successful at complimenting the narrative. It’s very difficult to maintain that level of discipline throughout a film that long, but they aced it.
And I did find it interesting enough that I wanted to see the original movie and read the book, which sounds like it might be the best out of the three.
Anyway, I enjoyed your take. I tend not to think much about acting on my own, so enjoy the takes of those who think well about it. In this case, I only thought about it to the extent that I noticed they were acting, which from my perspective is not a good sign. I also tend to miss a lot of references that are obvious to deeper thinkers, so I appreciate that aspect of your reviews as well. I have to pay a lot more than a dollar for for dollar-book Freud.
On a totally different note, I watched Titane last night. Too bad it wasn’t nominated for best picture as I really would have been curious to read your review.