Friday, February 02, 2007
The walls come crumblin' down
In order to honour a request that I not sound so cheery in my postings here, a vent.
I found out today that the book on Fortress Louisbourg my publishers had requested I do back in July and I only got started on now has been "put on hold" due to their financial difficulties (My financial difficulties being of no concern to them whatsoever). Though I wasn't too keen on the project, I was looking forward to having something large scale to sink my teeth into. On the bright side, it saves me from having, in the course of my research, to untangle a bookfull of sentences like this: "The chief official of the colony was the Governor, and next to him in rank was, in Isle Royale, the Commissaire-Ordonnatuer discharging the functions which, in more important colonies, as Canada, in the provinces of France, and in quasi-independant states such as Lorraine during the reign there of Stanislas of Poland, were those of the Intendant." Wait a minute - Stanislas of Poland was in charge of Louisbourg? What?
Anyway, this was more of a blow than I was expecting. My mood has not been helped by the fact that Strasbourg is suffering under the effects of a near total UN-sanctioned embargo on sun and blue skies, niether of which have been seen around these parts in many moons. The Moon is still visible, as the flotilla of clouds enforcing the boycott disperse at night, when there is no danger of sunlight seeping through, only to resume blockade duty before dawn.
In an effort to escape my funk, we did go out to see "The Illusionist" last night. I realize it's not playing in North America anymore, so a review of it will have little relevance to anyone other than my overseas readers (both on 'em!). It was really only ok. Amynah and I saw "The Prestige" a few months ago, which was far superior, so it's what you want if you have a limited budget for obsessive magician-themed period flicks.
The Illusionist had Edward Norton (the titular magician), who I generally like, Paul Giamatti (a policeman), who is pretty awesome as a rule and Jessica Biel (Norton's love interest, engaged to the Crown Prince played by Rufus Sewell), whose job was, like a magician's assistant, to stand around a look pretty.
I won't give the plot away more than the basic set up: Boy from wrong side of the cart-tracks falls in love with a Duchess. They're torn apart. He goes away and learns magic, returns years later with a new identity when she's about to be married to a high born, but thoroughly bad man. What will happen? Who will care? The ending was telegraphed from the start and when the "twist" is revealed it's done so in a way that leaves you yawning rather than gasping. Basically, it was free of any realy tension at all.
To summarize: it's set in Vienna - Vienna's pretty. It had magic - magic is neat. There was a bad guy, suitably villainous. Giamatti grunted a lot. Norton affected an accent that might charitably be described as "distracting." As I'm not feeling particularly charitable I will describe it as the result as everyone associated with the filming of this movie having done so with cotton balls in their ears. This had to be. Otherwise someone - if not the director, then the gaffer or the coffee wrangler - would have told him to stop, for the love of God, and just do the tried and true faux-British accent American actors are supposed to do whilst striving to convey European.
Norton's accent did manage the neat trick of distracting from the dialogue, for which I am grateful. However, no amount of prestidigitation could hide gems like when a post-coital Norton, describing his Oriental wanderings to Biel spoke thusly: "I saw a lot of amazing things, but I never learned a true mystery - the mystery of why my heart could not let you go."
Unfortunately, the movie was not quite bad enough to really supply me with the joy really shredding a film can do: Norton (despite his accent) is sympathetic, Rufus Sewell nearly stole the show without being a scenery chewing cartoon and Giamatti was wierdly charismatic as usual. The magic tricks were fun to watch, though the whole proccess didn't have the whole "insider" feel that made "The Prestige" so enjoyable. Biel was there, on screen, performing her function of looking good while remembering her few lines. It's hard to criticize her for not bringing anything to what was really a cipher of a role. Phillip Glass' score was ok, though one did notice it, which is probably not a good sign.
In short: Not a bad rental, if part of a three-for-the-price-of-one special.
(NB: Lest anyone think that I only see bad movies here, I have seen both "The Departed" and "Stranger than Fiction" recently and enjoyed them both immensely. But where's the fun in writing about that?)