From the department of 10 minute reviews...
Last night I saw The House of Sand and Fog, a textbook tragedy in that a good, honorable man's situation and human failings lead to his complete and total undoing. Ben Kingsley emerged so clearly as the protagonist - due both to his performance and the script - that it was almost tough to tolerate Jennifer Connely's character, who's a real fuck-up. Almost an antagonist--not the anti-hero that I think (?) was the script's intention. Connely herself gave a good performance, but her character simply had more agency than it deserved. Her most sympathetic moment was her brief, spot-on revelation: "My father worked 30 years to pay off this house and it took me 8 months to fuck it up."
It's a very good movie, with one major flaw that almost derails the entire effort. The villain in the story is a philandering cop who abuses his badge and goes from Daddy dearest to deranged criminal in a week's time. His part is crucial, plot-wise, to get us into the tragic third act -- and sadly he's the weakest character in the script. That was a big problem for me, because it made me feel like I could see the man behind the curtain--the writer--who's not telling a true story of human suffering, but is actually a sadist who'll do whatever he can to make sure his audience suffers through his grueling plot machinations. As soon as I felt those machinations, I pulled back.
But maybe it's odd to demand that your tragedies be realistic. The Greek tragedies are very telegraphic, and though they never made me weep, I think they were supposed to have that effect on the Greeks--that's "catharsis," right? But actually, I'd have to go back and read them, because it could be that while they're highly stylistic, from a human behavior point of view they're very precise.
And The House of Sand and Fog clearly worked as a tragedy for many in the audience. A woman two rows ahead was openly sobbing, leaning on her boyfriend's shoulder, her hair mussed and her shoulders shaking. I *was* in low-blood sugar mode, it should be pointed out, which does put a chill on my empathetic abilities - and still I did shed a tear or two. But I tend to be a wailer, and I wasn't anywhere near it.
It was also an invested crowd. The theatre was barely a mile from the L.A. neighborhood that has the largest concentration of expat Iranians in the United States--all people who fled from the Shah as did the story's protagonist.
The third act holds one of the most arresting sequences I've seen in a movie in the last year -- right up there with the Pipping singing/Feromere (sp?) sequence in the new LOTR.
posted by Sara 2:07:00 PM
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