Tag Archives: Joaquin Phoenix

Why vice is nice, but not when it’s Inherent

5 Feb
Joaquin Phoenix bogarts that butt in Inherent Vice

Joaquin Phoenix bogarts that butt in Inherent Vice

After Foxcatcher left me cold, here’s one that left me just baffled: Inherent Vice. I love everything Paul Thomas Anderson has made. Magnolia: magnificent. The Master: masterful. Let There Be Blood: bloody brilliant. He even managed to make a good Adam Sandler movie (Punch-Drunk Love).

But this…

It doesn’t help that Inherent Vice is from a novel by Thomas Pynchon. His books always seem as though they must have been a lot more fun to write than they are to read, and they are patently unadaptable. Cool stoner comedy can work – just look at The Big Lebowski – but I’m not positive this is even pitched as comedy. It’s certainly not funny.

The killing non-joke is that the entire movie is exposition. I’m not kidding – the entire movie consists of Joaquin Phoenix, wasted in both senses of the word as the stoner detective, going up to a succession of people and being talked at. Each one telling him some other thing about some other person we have no interest in and some other plot point that makes little sense and would hardly matter if it did.

It’s worse than that famous King Lear quote: “Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” There’s not even any fury, and the sound is so bad you can hardly hear what Joaquin is saying half the time. Worse, you suspect that’s a blessing.

How it garnered any raves I have no idea. Please, someone out there – tell me you liked it. And tell me why. I genuinely want to know.

Hollywood Costume: why clothes maketh the man

22 Jan

Animal Charm: great costume design for our terrorista fashionistas

There’s an old expression that, to understand someone, you need to walk a mile in their shoes. This is what many actors do. Literally. They find the character through the clothes.

That’s why the V&A’s Hollywood Costume exhibition, which closes on Jan 27 (tickets sold out online but still available on the day), is such an eye-opener. “There’s no doubt costume is character,” says Martin Scorsese in a video interview. “You can feel the transformation.”

There’s Matt Damon’s grey clothes from Bourne: simple, utilitarian, designed to blend into a crowd. They made 25 identical outfits due to the abuse received in the action sequences. At the other end of the scale, there’s Marlene Dietrich’s exquisite dress for Angel, on which a score of embroiderers worked for two and a half weeks.

And, best of all, Indiana Jones’s outfit. “A cultural icon is born when the character can be instantly recognised in his silhouette,” says costume designer Deborah Landis. The designer has to bear in mind practical as well as aesthetic considerations: the famous beaver-felt hat was given a specially short brim to allow the cameras to see Harrison Ford’s eyes.

My own revelation came on the featurette I co-wrote with director Ben Charles Edwards, Animal Charm, starring Sadie Frost, Sally Phillips and Boy George. In the opening scene, Frost’s character is kidnapped by terrorista fashionistas objecting to her promotion of fur. (See trailer here: http://bit.ly/y78KML.)

We wrote the scene as “three women in balaclavas”. But when it came to filming, it was decided that these ex-models would wear something more daring: knitted balaclavas by Piers Atkinson were procured, with full make-up and attached wig. Stylish, provocative, more than slightly sinister, they became a defining image of the film.

It’s a timely reminder that even character, as Joaquin Phoenix pointed out in his gracious London Critics’ Circle Award speech this week (bit.ly/10D8sra), is a collaboration. Critics sometimes write as if the director is the only person who matters. They are the person responsible, of course, and it’s their vision, ultimately, that is being served. But they are only as good as their team: costume, lighting, cinematography, sound, score, editing, actors and, yes, writers.

One reason I predict great things for Ben Charles Edwards (talent, youth and fearlessness apart), is that he knows how to get the best from that team. When last we met, he was a whisker away from getting funding for his first feature, written by the brilliant musician Al Joshua of Orphans & Vandals. If so, it will be one to watch.