Wednesday, June 08, 2005

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Make Movies Anyway

How to do a lousy job of attempting to make meaningful your largely shallow film by dressing it up in the 'knowing' techniques of postmodern pastiche and meta-commentary: The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. Wow, since when did having a bunch of (awkwardly) shifting surfaces give anyone license to throw symbolic devices at the audience like a teenage delinquent hurling rocks at passing automobiles? So you're trying to tell us that Mssr. Sellers feels that he's lacking a real self underneath the Clouseaus and the birdy num nums? How about a mirror with... no reflection! Better yet, how about putting us in a movie soundstage within a movie soundstage and having Geoffrey Rush just tell us that his character is an "empty vessel"! Is Sellers enamoured with the girl-attracting powers of glistening automobiles? Just replace the shiny cars with shiny girls! Is there an incestuous undercurrent in Peter's relationship with his mother? Make it an overcurrent! Put them in the same bed with the lights off! And since you're taking these enormous, potentially audience-alienating liberties, throw in some other ideas and see if they work (they don't): use 'authentic' 35mm pathe footage, throw in some needlessly herky-jerky 'real life' handicam shots, cast Stanley Tucci as Stanley Kubrick!

And how are we to believe that there's no real Sellers anyway? The Peter we're presented is an insecure, needy, selfish, womanizing fuckup (who's comedic gift seems both secondary and slippery) - real enough to do real damage to real lives (so we don't buy it when Rush assumes the role of every important castmember in some ultimate display of Sellers solipsism). And when he consults celebrity psychic Nathan Lane, the ease and obviousness of his manipulation just makes him looks uncharacteristically stupid, and even the most caustic movie viewer fails to identify. They could've made light of many of these problems by not insisting on some kernel of tortured-self Meaning - a play of differences isn't much fun when nobody's laughing.

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