Hello Happy Peppy Cineastes. Beau here again (I recently wrote about The Exorcist) at the request of Nathaniel to discuss the delicious new trailer of Joe Wright's Anna Karenina starring pretty British people in fur coats.
I like Joe Wright. With the exception of The Soloist, which didn't grab me, he has delivered a fairly fascinating filmography. Pride and Prejudice sauntered across the screen, lackadaisically, in love with the prospect of love. A true achievement, it managed the rare feat of cinematic adaptations of beloved novels by satisfying the devoted Austinphiles, while causing those of us less inclined to 19th century romantic literature to swoon in spite of ourselves. Atonement, a much more problematic feature, still holds in my memory thanks to its exquisite craftsmanship (that emerald dress!) and the sweltering chemistry between McAvoy and Knightley. Even Hanna proved to be a fascinating film... [more after the jump]
Hanna was all at once an action picture, a fairy tale, a coming of age story and a young woman's burgeoning sexuality come to the brimming point, where she declares herself a woman by putting a bullet in one. Seven years in, Wright's style is natural, organic, sensual, and romantic enough to already have a signature to it. This looks to be no different.
Needless to say, what's on display here in terms of aesthetic value is remarkable: the costumes, the lensing, the lighting all steal from the best. It's like a cinephile guessing game, to spot the influences (ranging from Doctor Zhivago to I Am Love to Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast to Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette) in each scene. There is a sense that he directed each of the characters to treat love like a disease, and when one contracts it, one loses his or her footing, a sense of anchored gravity to their desired(?) path. The acclaimed playwright Tom Stoppard is adapting Tolstoy, and one can only hope that he imbued a sense of the abandonment and absurdity of risking your life for the satisfaction of desire.
Aaron Johnson - For all the dissenting opinions out there about Knightley, one thing you cannot say about her is that she doesn't sell the romance. This new co-star, however, has yet to sell himself as an equally formidable scene partner. His upcoming role in Oliver Stone's Savages could change this but with the recent castration of Stone's naturally politicized and controversial style, it's hard to assume it will. The scenes in the trailer... I still find it difficult to imagine that you would give up Jude Law for this boy playing his best dress up.
Knightley. Ten years ago, you wouldn't have imagined this stunning beauty to become one of the most divisive actresses of her generation. I have friends who adore her and others who can't stand to watch her. I'm a firm member of the former camp, primarily because of her work with Wright, but what she did last year in Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method astounded me; for all the performances I've seen in all the pictures I've watched in my quarter century of life, I can hardly remember a performance so captivating and yet so off-kilter, so unlike anything I've seen. It rendered the natural charisma of my Fassy dull, and stole the film from Mortensen in a way I've never seen. Knightley is as confident and dedicated an actor in Method as any in her generation. Perhaps more so. Still, to this day, I can't decide whether that was one of the best performances I've ever seen, or one of the worst. What I can say, is that it required an actor of considerable merit and courage to deliver something like that. Whatever the result of her new work in Anna Karenina, I know for certain it won't be dull.
Wright knows how to light her, dress her, turn her into melancholy iconography. She makes sadness look beautiful, and he knows it.
I'm a firm YES on this. Ambitious? Check. At risk of being a colossal folly? Yup. Unique? Indeed. And that's all I need.
What say the readers? Were you not entertained? Will you look forward to Knightley's onscreen demise with the same tenacious fervor you held for Paris Hilton in 'House of Wax'? Or are you ready to get punch drunk and lose your footing to Wright? Let's hear it...