I’ve just come out of a 3:30 pm press screening of Roman Polanski‘s wickedly hilarious Carnage, and on top of all the cackling and chortling and guffawing I was delighted to discover that The Playlist‘s Oliver Lyttleton was dead wrong when he wrote from the Venice Film Festival that there’s “almost nothing to enable the identification of [this] movie as a Polanski picture.” What horseshit!
Carnage felt to me as much a part of Polanski’s realm as The Pianist or Repulsion or Tess or Cul de Sac or The Ghostwriter. I felt relaxed and soothed and charmed because i knew whose world I was in right away, no question, and I felt double pleasured with all the condemnations from the HE pitchforkers ringing in my head from this morning’s discussion.
True, it’s basically just a capturing of Yasmina Reza‘s one-set, four-character play, but every shot, every cut and every line tells you that someone highly intelligent directed this puppy. This is not just a film about bile and self-loathing and lacerating words and puke. It’s about artful chiseling and razor-sharp precision.
Carnage is wonderfully tight and concise, acted to perfection by Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Christoph Waltz (finally in a really good post-Inglourious Basterds film, and playing a funnier, more interesting character than Col. Hans Landa!) and Kate Winslet, beautifully timed and cut (congrats to Herve de Luze), exquisitely framed within a widescreen aspect ratio…and no jiggly hand-held shots! Everything shot is captured from a tripod or a super-smooth steadycam.
Oh, and there’s a very cool cameo appearance that you need to look out for. I didn’t spot it myself, but MSN’s Glenn Kenny did.
Carnage (which was called God of Carnage on stage) is about two married New York couples meeting to discuss a violent altercation between their respective sons. The conversation starts out politely, correctly, considerately and then, gradually and almost imperceptibly at first, relations start to decline. Then they degrade and degenerate, and before you know it we’re into bitter, adolescent, at times close-to-submental rage. Accompanied by alcohol, incredible ferocity, despair and self-disgust.
You may go in knowing what’s to come, but the anger and disdain and guttural rage that gradually push through are snarlier and more manic than you might expect. And if you have any rot or mildew or serpents or hamsters festering inside, a piece as well done as this is pure pleasure.
The basic idea is that beasts and bile lie within everyone, ready to pounce and lash out, and it doesn’t take much to prod the shit into the open, especially with a quart of top-grade, single-malt scotch at the ready.
Like the play, Polanski’s film runs only about 85 minutes. But what a great alcoholic, vomitous duke-out! What a battle! Everyone is mad and sweating and drained by the end. No one has anything left. And then the kids get together and patch things up and life goes on. And it’s over in less than 90 minutes. This is my idea of a good time and a great popcorn movie…cheers!