I have had a Zip.ca membership (they’re the Canadian version of Netflix) for some years now, and its Send-Me-Stuff! queue tends to stand at just under a hundred movies. The top fifteen or so are the things I want right away–currently Inspector Lewis S2* is in the favored position. Everything after number twenty or so tends to have gone onto the list so long ago that when it arrives, Kelly and I are left wondering which of us added it, and on whose recommendation.
We got Christmas in Connecticut not long ago, for example, and I remember putting that on the list in the spring of 2007, shortly before Kelly went to Taos Toolbox, because Connie Willis had said in an interview that it was wonderful.
Anyway, the corporate deities of random filmviewing sent us I Shot Andy Warhol and Atonement.
The former we’d queued because of Lili Taylor, and she was unforgettable: disturbed, brilliant and thoroughly unhinged as Valerie Solanas. It’s directed in a consciously arty way–very appropriate considering the subject matter–and it was about a little slice of Sixties history that was new to me. Good script, well shot, great performances–it all kept me riveted.
Atonement, on the other hand… well. It opens beautifully. It’s got that chewy, nuanced, ambiguous sort of storytelling that makes you argue about the meaning of every little thing. The first half made me want to go back, and watch again, and dissect. Meanwhile, Keira Knightly does a good job of looking like a Tamara de Lempicka painting, in her shimmering green ballgowns. She’s no Lili, maybe, but the aesthetic effect was far from painful.
Tragically, this film is all build and no payoff. I don’t buy much of anything after the big Atoneworthy sin, and it’s a biggie, is committed.
The cinematography in this movie is stunning–there’s a long shot set on the beaches of Dunkirk that took my breath away, and the things the camerahuman does with water and reflections… oh, they were gaspingly beautiful. But the end of the story falls flatter than a crepe; I was so disappointed. There will be no going back to examine the beginning in detail; the before was nearly brilliant, but the after entirely ruined it.
(*I am shipping Lewis/Hathaway bigtime, my friends, and poet and editor Clélie Rich is entirely to blame.)