|It's All About Love
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Claire Danes, Alun Armstrong, Sean Penn
I don't really go to all that many press screenings here in dishevelled Crapatia. Mostly because the invitations I do manage to get involve some other nations' ideas of dodgy fun. You know, stuff like Jackass and Johnny English. Which is all fun and peaches, but if I can spend the time prepping my little indie feature, which costs way less than the average East European campaign for any of those titles, then I just stay at home. Working with my actors. Or just bemoaning the lack of funds.
Which is kinda why I did finally stray to the screening of 'It's All About Love', the new megadollar movie by Thomas Vinterberg. He's the dude who started out in the same cheapo way. Being Danish, he acually got involved with a bunch of other impoverished (yeah, right) Scandinavian directors back in '95 and created the Dogme Manifesto. Which postulated making films the 'pure' way, without postproduction cleanup, artificial light, score, or anything else that might be expensive. And they promptly became the talk of the continent for all of 3 years. Until they got the budgets to start making movies the good old-fashioned way.
Vinterberg - who so impressed Spielberg with his DV-cam family drama 'Festen' back in the day - makes here a thoroughly expensive scifi drama of the Wim Wenders artsy kind. Sort of philosophical and lyrical, in the vein of Until the End of the World. I guess. You can't really miss that, since the main character - Joaquin, on his best behavior here (no gratuitous snot) - constantly muses about his world in voiceover. A world in which there is global freezing going on. And in which Uganda experiences random gravity loss. Africans on TV saying, "We're not angels. We're ordinary people." Does he have a take on the phenomena which could bring us some kind of insight into it all over and above the confused scientists? Um, not really. See, he's more of a poet.
Which would still be quite dandy if the director didn't fancy himself an even bigger poet... Vinterberg is all for CG effects of planes flying through blizzards, carrying Penn, who is even more philosophically inclined than his screen brother Joaquin, but can't really give us a more profound insight then "it's all about love". Freezing airports and
gravity-defying Ugandans. Oh, right. If we actually had seen a movie about this, however artsy, it might have been intriguing.
But noooo. We actually spend time with Joaquin and his wife Elena, a Pole (not North Pole! As in Polack! But not Sydney! Who has two "L"s in his last name anyway! Sigh... a woman from Poland) played with a constrained accent by Claire Danes. She's a world-class skater and they're divorcing and she wants to retire, and there is a lame-o plot involving their newfound love (duh) and East-European girls who look like Claire sans surgery or genetic engineering, but are actually Crapatian and great skaters too and stuff (Claire actually speaks passable Crapatian in a scene or two). Poor girl. She actually had to perform twinning shots with 4 versions of herself in some instances. You know how hard that shit is to pull off, digital FX or no digital FX? But this whole plot is so absurdly lame that you can't help but yawn. And it has Alun Armstrong as Claire's manager, and you get no cookies for figuring out he'll turn out to be a bad guy eventually. Since the whole plot is of the not-so-prime-time-TV school of originality. But no matter - we can slap the "it's all about love" title tag on any amount of lazy scriptwriting and call it Art. And there will be enough confused people in Europe to hail it as profound.
I dunno. Give me a world in a grain of sand, and I'll call you profound. This world, wrapped up in some left-of-brain scifi concepts, actually has an entirely hollow core. Despite the most valiant efforts of the actors involved...
I wonder how poor wee Thomas actually managed to pitch this as a viable movie on any level. It's not commercially viable, and I don't really think he'll be able to win over too many artsy intellectuals. But then again, knowing some Danish producers... Sigh. This is the kind of pretentious confusion that gives European art cinema a thoroughly bad name. Even though it's all taking place in America and Canada, is in English, and might actually wade its way to a theater near you. Or not. Rest assured, you won't miss much one way or the other.