Steve McQueen probably hated Django Unchained. Where Tarantino’s Django Unchained toyed with history’s facts to make the horrors of slavery a plot point, 12 Years a Slave is a film about a torture perpetrated on millions of black men, women and children. McQueen’s third feature isn’t interested in the audience’s comfort or catharsis, and tells a story full of vicious, hard violence and fractured souls. McQueen brings you as close as he possibly can to the horrors of antebellum slavery, not shying from bloody truths, and ultimately reminds us that far, far too often, history’s mad men and their ugly horrors go unpunished and unredressed.
Tag Archives: Michael Fassbender
Playing witness to a long-standing director’s career can be fascinating, especially when said director enters his twilight years. While few of them would ever admit to it, any artist who has found an enduring critical success must eventually look at his oeuvre in terms of “legacy”, measuring his work against that of his peers and cinematic kin. For Ridley Scott, this self-evaluation brought him back to the bleakly-industrial and brilliant Alien, and a desire to see that world augmented. Like any artist with an eye trained on his own mortality, Scott chose to build on his Alien world existentially, and the resulting epic is Prometheus; a film somehow both ceaselessly mesmerizing and utterly baffling.
There’s a better version of Shame on the cutting room floor. Somewhere in the hours of unseen footage shot by Director Steve McQueen exists a film that lives up to the hype. A film less ambiguous, with a concrete arch, and character exchanges that don’t feel piecemeal. A film less dependent on intuition and more respectful of storytelling. A film not so thoroughly entrenched in a mood. And that would be a hell of a film to see, because Shame is built on some pretty powerful stuff as it is. The performance of Michael Fassbender will certainly get everyone talking, and almost as certainly garner a nomination. And there are things McQueen does as a director that prove he deserves the job. But the unfortunate reality is that Shame is only some of what it should have been, and simply not as good as it could have been.
2011 is unarguably the year of Michael Fassbender. Magneto in X-Men: First Class, Carl Jung in A Dangerous Method, a sex addict in Shame, and here, the moody, haunted Fairfax Rochester in Jane Eyre. Having seen two of his four performances, it’s assured that Fassbender will be around for the long haul. As Rochester, he is in flux; a vacillating romantic unable to have the thing most important to him.
The story of Jane Eyre is familiar to anyone who took high school English: a young woman (Mia Wasikowska) with a bleak past is hired as a governess to the ward of Mr. Fairfax Rochester (Fassbender), a man twice her age. Though she is well beneath his class, the two share an undeniable connection. But Mr. Rochester harbors a secret which keeps the young woman at arm’s length, and eventually drives her away. In this gothic romance, Director Cary Fukunaga has raised the stakes, creating an environment so bleak, love seems to be the only path to unqualified contentment.
There are essentially three elements that matter in this iteration of Jane Eyre: the performance of Fassbender, the performance of Wasikowska, and the atmosphere created by Fukunaga. The two leads spend much of the film sizing each other up, their ornamental dialogue a sort of sparring. These scene towards the beginning of their relationship are arresting, if for no other reason than Fassbender and Wasikowska have a true chemistry. The brooding Rochester is intimidating, but also apparently a bleeding heart. And Jane Eyre has an elegant toughness that evolves the novel’s proto-feminism for a more contemporary time. Her quick tongue offers up some of the best lines in the film, and Rochester is never shy with an equally clever rebuttal. Fukunaga’s setting meanwhile is mostly bleak and tawny; a style that compliments the story and characters profoundly. This world is dark, and one must find their joys wherever they can. Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester are characters who understand this completely, and their love for one another is sustained by a desperation that sits at the heart of this timeworn romance.
Jane Eyre is an effective and affecting love story that utilizes two of the most talented performers working right now, and reminds its viewers of a time when the problems of love were greater, and love was stronger for it.
When you look at the scope of the Marvel Universe in regards to the films released in the last decade, it’s all a bit of a mess. There’s no shortage of disjointed timelines, relationships and character arcs, and to top if all off, Marvel productions seem perfectly content taking massive liberties with their own mythology. It’s not a deal-breaker, for me or apparently for most, as X-Men: First Class stole it’s opening weekend, but the discordance isn’t so minor as to be invisible; a fact made even clearer when trying to reconcile the 1960s version of Magneto with his significantly more haggard 2000s self. Despite all that, Director Matthew Vaughn has put his own spin on an X-Men tale, and in the process made a film that, at the very least, stands with the best of the franchise.