RogerEbert.com — The 9th Life of Louis Drax

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie ReviewThis is a very strange, little movie. I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about it, but I liked it a bit more than I didn’t like it, if that makes any sense. I appreciate what it’s trying to do in mixing Hitchcockian suspense with magical realism. It works, and it doesn’t. My RogerEbert.com review.

Read the review here

3 Comments on “RogerEbert.com — The 9th Life of Louis Drax

  1.  by  A Friend of Harry Lime

    As soon as this film ended I came out and checked the certification, as the pitched seemed to be Donnie Darko for nine-year-old’s, and yet in the UK no one under 15 can see it. Children’s films with dark undertones are not unheard of but this one goes to such dark places I have to wonder who the target audience was? Now I have a great affinity for cinematic oddities, so I appreciated it for its imperfections and shifting tone, but I really can’t see this gaining mainstream acceptance in the same way Donnie Darko did. Having said that, after a summer in which we had Jason Bourne which made every effort to be as unoriginal as possible, I’m glad that someone is trying to be idiosyncratic even if that does mean shooting of its boxoffice legs.

  2.  by  Brian O' Hanlon

    Re: How Things like Anticipation can be Generated

    Christy,

    I thought the observation in a recent batch of movie reviews (the one in particular on the airplane crash movie), was a valid one. That, the ‘tension’ in a movie is created, by all of the characters being so calm, going through their routines of flight plans, procedures and so on. I got to watch ‘Gravity’ lately, after ages of not seeing it. ‘Gravity’ was a movie, that I was saving, until a point where it had gotten a number of years old, the hype about it had all died down and I could simply view the movie, on it’s own merits.

    It’s this thing now, in modern cinema that so many speak about – a movie that costs ‘X’, and the whole thing costs ‘3X’, because the marketing and promotion of the feature film costs twice as much as making the movie. So it is a real issue, with a movie like ‘Gravity’, where you don’t know if you get the opportunity to enjoy the movie on it’s merits – because there is so much hype surrounding it (the ‘2X’ part, as opposed to the ‘1X’ part), at the time of it’s release in movie theatres.

    And, honestly, I think that that more than anything has stopped people from going to movie theatres these days – people prefer to wait for the movie to appear in a DVD box – or streamed from a service or something. Like, if it is an adult-oriented movie project, with a real story to tell, people may prefer to view the work on it’s own terms – minus, the grotesque, ‘in your face’ promotion, that’s informing the audience almost, how they ought to interpret the work, before they’ve even seen it.

    I honestly believe this, and the ‘2X’ reaches a threshold, where it begins to operate in reverse, and becomes the enemy of the ‘1X’, instead of it’s friend and supporter.

    The reason that I mentioned ‘Gravity’ as a movie (and I know a lot of great movie critics and makers, have their problems with the work by Cuaron), is that it does manage to build up a dramatic tension – in the way that you described about the airplane crash movie – even though ‘Gravity’ as a movie, is filmed in this weird, echo-y, vacuous-ness of outer space, acoustical environment. You can heard the words of the space men and women echo off the insides of their helmets, and the air sounds from their breathing apparatus etc.

    To conclude further upon the above – I’ve made the point many times to people who enjoy movies here, and do reviews of them for a living etc – that some of the best violent action movies that I’ve come across, don’t actually rely on a lot of action and violence to get that message across, about a character or an event. In fact, here again, one had observe the opposite at work often, some of the more terrifying and jarring experiences of that theme of danger, violence and menace in the movie medium – can be achieved, with quietness, calmness and slow, methodical decision-making on the part of characters.

    I’m reminded here, of work in the movies by directors like Luc Besson years ago – where the experience of things happening very violently and fast – had been augmented by the movie directors decision, to show us events in a way that slowed them down, and took a lot longer for action to play out. I’m not an expert of other media, like stage plays, opera and concert performance, but I’d imagine that the better film directors can learn things from how composers work in those other media, to generate real tension and apprehension.

    In a way, if one reads the above, perhaps the overall point that I’m making about the medium of cinema, and the art of cinema if there still is any left in what gets projected inside a black box theatre – is that sometimes the same tension and emotion, that the viewer may experience – starts before they even enter the theatre building itself, to view a movie. It’s when you’re walking down a street, through a city on a way to a cinema – and one has some anticipation of what one may enjoy – on this larger screen.

    The point that I’m making, is that at some point, a guy who worked in a soft drinks company selling millions of cans of soda water – probably looked at cinema as a business – and decided, you know what, this ‘product’ has been under-hyped. We need to over-hype it, so that when the person is walking down the street, they’ve already had this movie product inside of their brains, for a week before hand – and they will feel their lives will not be complete, until they’ve attended a projection of this movie, in the theatre and paid up their ten bucks like everyone else.

    I would contrast that though, against an experience, like the one’s that I remember a long time ago. One might be allowed to visit a movie theatre of a weekend, or Friday evening, and one was allowed to confront the material, the work, on it’s own terms – with a lot less of the hype. Sort of in the manner I described, when I viewed the movie ‘Gravity’ on a DVD, several years AFTER it’s release in the theatres – when all of the hype had existed around it, and around it’s Oscar nomination potential.

    I remember that I really took stock of the fact, that I had acquired a DVD of the movie gravity, and with trembling and awkward fingers, I inserted the disc into the player, and waited in anticipation to see the opening splash screen. By the time that I eventually got to view the entire length of the movie, I had already experienced the tension, that exists in that movie – and in a very quiet way too, instead of the usual over-done, over-blown way that some imagine – that tension gets generated. And I realized in the week that followed, and from the pleasure of viewing that movie ‘Gravity’ on it’s terms, rather than on the terms of some ‘product promoter’ for that project – that I can gained something more like the old experience of viewing the work in the theatre – even though I’d inserted a DVD into a player, and viewed it on a smaller screen.

    The obvious point being, though the smaller screen, was never able to convey the size of vastness, of space as the large theatre could do – the story in the movie ‘Gravity’, and it’s characters was still strong enough – that, I gained a sense of the tension and enormity of the events, from the acting and so forth. I really don’t know however, how many people involved in ‘selling’ of movie production work nowadays – look at the work, as something like a soda can product – that one has to promote the heck out of, in order to distinguish oneself from the pack, for a very short amount of time. What promoters of movies don’t seem to understand, is that sometimes the ‘2X’ actually starts to work against them, and makes the investment in the ‘1X’, actually amount to a lot less, than it otherwise should. B.

  3.  by  Brian O' Hanlon

    Additional Note – Danger, Suspense and Anticipation

    Christy,

    Came across another interesting movie, discussed by the panel upon it’s release a number of months back, that also featured Ben’s great sit down interview with it’s director – Jodie Foster.

    I haven’t made a decision to sit down and view ‘Money Monster’ yet, but no doubt that I will do, and enjoy it as much as I did Cuaron’s ‘Gravity’ work. It is worth while thinking about that observation, made about Clint Eastwood’s airplane movie recently, on What the Flick review – an idea of developing anticipation and tension – by way of observation, of the characters who are played in the movie, by the actors, going through the procedures that they have been trained to undertake, in a situation that presents danger.

    That is, the audience becomes aware of a presence of some danger, because the central characters within a story, suddenly become so focused and concentrated on doing their tasks, exceptionally well.

    I made the point, that a director such as Luc Besson working a long time ago, was capable of bringing his audience into the middle of an action scene, by means of slowing things down, and explaining the events carefully to the audience. Matt in speaking in the reviews, has often been critical of the Bourne movie director’s employment of the natural camera perspective, as a technique to involve an audience in the immediacy of the moment – the ‘real time’. There is however, in cinema, other means to achieve that, which have been used by talented practitioners of movie direction in the past – that don’t involve the shaking camera.

    Namely, the question that a movie such as ‘Money Monster’ asks to me – is what would it have looked like, had a director such as Anton Corbijn – accepted a challenge, to be part of a project like ‘Money Monster’?

    In the movie ‘A Most Wanted Man’, not dissimilar to a movie such as Eastwood’s ‘Sully’ starring Tom Hanks – the audience is treated to the pleasure of being involved in the story. In that way, we can enjoy the characters that are played by Hoffman and Wright, going through their normal and time-tested procedures – in their endeavors to locate ‘the bad guy’. The characters played very well by McAdams and Dafoe, act as counter-points parts – they are lawyers and bankers who find themselves in over their heads – and as parts in the movie, they serve to render into sharp relief, the levels of calmness and contemplation as acted out by Hoffman/Wright in the story.

    What we find in ‘A Most Wanted Man’, is the idea that people follow the procedures, and plan things carefully, at times where the highest levels of ominous threat are present.

    In the movie, ‘A Most Wanted Man’, we observe a lot of very quiet and pedestrian scenes, in a movie which is all about conflict, disasters, impending danger and efforts to gain protection from the same. In this movie, there are extended, full conversations in several parts of it – as the agents working in the background – wrestle in trying to make decisions, about what to do.

    In ‘Money Monster’, is seems as though it’s makers had intended to speed things up, and engage an audience by means of action, movement, location changes etc. We’re treated to the full tool kit of devices, and ways to try and develop anticipation and sense of danger. The movie by Foster, even weaves into the dialogue, such old chestnuts like Alan Pakula’s ‘follow the money’. However, the question that that Jodie Foster project asks for me, is how would Anton Corbijn have approached it? Indeed, for that matter, how would Clint Eastwood as a film director have developed the story, and the characters likewise?

    Ironically, Anton Corbijn also entered into the area of Hollywood historical, biographical films – with a movie about James Dean – that looks interesting too. However, after seeing a movie like ‘Hail, Caesar’ not so long ago – I’m wondering if the high standard set by the Coen directors and scriptwriters – with that project, where George Clooney acted in a leading role – will make Corbijn’s project on James Dean, look less spectacular and interesting.

    It is interesting though, to see several movie directors taking on that challenge though, of taking movie audiences behind the scenes of the old Hollywood movie making industry.

    I’m a fan of the Bourne movies that Paul Greengrass and others have directed. However, the points made by Matt, Christy and many others on the panel – do have relevance, in terms of criticism of the ‘action’ and suspenseful movie – and what are the various ways, that directors, actors, scripts and projects, can generate these emotions of suspense and danger, within the movie viewing public. B.