I Hate My Life And You Too!

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!

  • Edward

    Thanks Jeffrey, your review makes me even more interested in seeing this.

  • LexG

    Do they say the word “clafoutis” 500 times like they did in the stage play? It’s just such an EMBARRASSING word– clafootie!– that it wore on my nerves hearing it OVER and over on stage… really, it couldn’t have just been pie or cake?

    Please tell me they don’t use this EMBARRASSING word in the movie.

  • david ehrlich

    i feel jeff is gonna fume to find himself in the minority on this one… and methinks his reading to be a mite superficial — of course this is about the rage beneath, but, that’s just the limbo between the world we see and the true hell below. Reza’s text isn’t determined merely to scratch at lesions until the id oozes out, it struck me as more concerned with why people take shelter in themselves in the first place… about how the tension between reason and self-interest, and the ways in which those forces have to capitulate to one another in order for various social structures to achieve even a tenuous stability.

    i feel jeff is gonna fume to find himself in the minority on this one… and methinks his reading to be a mite superficial — of course this is about the rage beneath, but, that’s just the limbo between the world we see and the true hell below. Reza’s text isn’t determined merely to scratch at lesions until the id oozes out, it struck me as more concerned with why people take shelter in themselves in the first place… about how the tension between reason and self-interest, and the ways in which those forces have to capitulate to one another in order for various social structures to achieve even a tenuous stability.

  • Rashad

    Is there a real reason why they don’t leave?

  • david ehrlich

    ugh, that was 1/3 of my comment… posted twice.

  • david ehrlich

    hate to do this, but Movable Type is proving impossible.

    posted the rest of my comment here, for anyone who cares. http://criterioncorner.tumblr.com/

  • MilkMan

    ^ thanks for the link david ehrlich. never been to your site before. it’s awesome. i think i’ll hang out there for a while.

  • Breedlove

    Good to hear. The play was a lot of fun. I still remember when they first announced the movie it was Matt Dillon rather than John C. Reilly. So how come no Oscar buzz?

  • George Prager

    “Is there a real reason why they don’t leave?”

    They’re waiting for JFK Chicken to deliver their 20pcs. Chicken With Large Fries but the delivery guys car broke down so it’s late.

  • Colin

    Any noticeable differences between the play and the film?

  • david ehrlich

    @colin

    yeah, the movie has opening credits that look ripped from a powerpoint presentation.

  • Muscle McGurk

    If the characters in this movie had whipped out an iPad2 and stopped to post a few comments on Hollywood Elsewhere prior to their engagement, the movie, and them by extension, would then have ceased to exist.

  • cyanic

    Fatty fatty fat fat LexG give your review of Drive dear sir.

  • actionlover

    Now, Jeffrey. Pretend that the film you just saw was the exact same in every degree EXCEPT it was directed by, say, Steven Spielberg instead of Polanski. (and don’t say it would be totally different…. for the moment let’s just say it’s precisely the same…)

    Do you STILL think it’s really good?

  • EricGilde

    I actually JUST stepped out of a regional production @ Virginia Stage, which is my second time seeing it after catching the Bway replacement cast.

    And it is total popcorn, but it’s the kind of popcorn that you relish. The sort of thing that probably won’t stick in your mind for too long, but is a total blast while it’s happening.

    Very glad to have some hope for this one yet.

  • Mr. F.

    So it’s a movie about “mood pockets”?

  • Jeffrey Wells

    Wells to David Erlich: You actually think that “Reza’s text isn’t determined merely to scratch at lesions until the id oozes out, [but] more concerned with why people take shelter in themselves in the first place… about how the tension between reason and self-interest, and the ways in which those forces have to capitulate to one another in order for various social structures to achieve even a tenuous stability.” ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? This is an uproarious adult parlor popcorn movie about anger and self-loathing and fuck-it-all and bleechhhh! You’re really, REALLY over-intellectualizing things here.

  • Mr. F.

    “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? This is an uproarious adult parlor popcorn movie about anger and self-loathing and fuck-it-all and bleechhhh!”

    Come on, Wells. It’s not like he played the “Polanski is a rapist!” card. It’s an interesting take, and I’d love to hear (er, read) you guys debate it.

  • Jeffrey Wells

    Wells to actionlover: if I saw this cold and then read on the closing crawl that Spielberg directed this, I wouldn’t believe it & would presume that someone in the booth was playing a practical joke. My second reaction would be to fall on the floor, gasping. Because Spielberg doesn’t have it in him to make a tight, brillliant, pared-down comedy like this. It’s truly beyond him. Every film he makes he has to “Spielberg it up”, and by that I mean he has to FUCK IT UP in his own Spielbergian way.

  • Eloi Wrath

    How many fucking plays are set around a dinner table, with a family/group of friends arguing? At least try something innovative on the stage. No wonder people go crazy for visually inventive plays like War Horse.

  • david ehrlich

    @jeff

    what’s ironic to me is that you seem to *only* be perceiving the Spielberg in this thing. the coarse sentiment, the sweeping stuff. the Polanski *i* love is the one who uses that shit as window dressing to have at the really twisted stuff festering beneath surface-level emotion as if it’s using expression as a means of defense. the menage a trois in Cul-De-Sac, Catherine Deneuve’s blonde on the edge in Repulsion… stopping where you are feels to me like surmising that Chinatown is a film about water, and ending it there.

  • Jeffrey Wells

    Chinatown isn’t a film about water. It’s a film about access to water. You are living in an intellectual ivory tower, my friend.

  • Glenn Kenny

    I imagine there’s gonna be a lot of argument about the content, but Jeff is right in that Lyttleton was completely wrong. The direction, as in the use of space, shot setups, perspective, pacing, all that, is absolutely, unmistakably Polanski, and in much the same it was for “The Ghost Writer,” which contained long sections of similar spatial confinement. You could do a dissertation on the varying uses of planes alone. Real virtuoso shit.

  • Eloi Wrath

    I wonder what John C. Reilly’s take on Polanski would be.

    “Wine was invented by the Romans, for orgies. And orgies are not too much fun if no-one wants to do with you.”

  • actionlover

    You didn’t really answer the question. Or, put it this way, would you have liked it as much if the SAME EXACT film had a title card at the end with the name of some nobody director?

    In other words, it sounds like you really wanted to like this film before it even started. You caught it yards and yards of slack. (“Ha! That’ll show those weak-minded Polanski haters to shut their yap holes! It doesn’t suck!”)

  • actionlover

    I hope it is good. I think Polanski is a criminal punk rapist but he’s a talented criminal punk rapist. “The Pianist” was brilliant. “The Ninth Gate” sucked balls.

    So, who knows?

  • david ehrlich

    “The direction, as in the use of space, shot setups, perspective, pacing, all that, is absolutely, unmistakably Polanski, and in much the same it was for “The Ghost Writer,” which contained long sections of similar spatial confinement. You could do a dissertation on the varying uses of planes alone. Real virtuoso shit.”

    undeniable, but Carnage too often feels as if Polanski is too busy trying to keep pace with / isolate the bullet-train text rather than elevate it. he *organized* the show where i feel he should have obliterated it. but he was so tickled by the idea of making something in real-time that he didn’t bother making something vital… okay, that’s too cute, but after The Ghost Writer i wanted something that didn’t feel like an over-sized and unsolicited Obstruction.

    “You are living in an intellectual ivory tower, my friend.”

    well, as long as we’re friends.

  • George Prager

    When david erlich was a kid, he’d come home from trick or treating, dump his bag on the kitchen table and begin to fret “Too many Three Musketeers, not enough Snickers, I was hoping for a cornocopia of flavors but I’m seeing more sweet than salt. This Bit O’Honey looks promising, but the overpupulation of Razzles and Pixie Sticks feel like an over-sized and unsoliciited Obstruction.”

  • david ehrlich

    @george prager

    …dad?

  • reverent and free

    I hope I’ll agree with you Jeff because that trailer makes it look awful. With the exception of Waltz it looks like a ham sandwich.

  • Mr. F.

    The lesson of this thread:

    If you haven’t seen it already, check out Ghost Writer.

  • K. Bowen

    A movie about an argument between adults with Kate Winslet. Let me guess. She yells a lot.

  • Super Soul

    “Chinatown isn’t a film about water. It’s a film about access to water.”

    It’s the de-under-intellectualizing game!

    Chinatown isn’t a film about access to water. It’s a film about controlling the access to water.

    Who’s next? Eventually we’ll get there.

  • the sandwich

    I’m with reverant & free. That trailer makes me itchy with air band level embarrassment. Maybe the execution justifies the bullet train to what looks like embarrassing crazyville? Who lets loose like that after 20-30 minutes of meeting someone? No one.

  • BobbyLupo

    Chinatown isn’t about controlling the access to water, it’s about the rape of an underage girl.

  • wester

    EHRLICH POWER!!

  • CinemaPhreak

    The casting of Reilly pretty much ruined any chance I had at taking this movie seriously. Great actor, but there are some things he just doesn’t pull off.

    Ever seen CRIMINAL? Director Gregory Jacobs had to tuck tail and go back to being Soderbergh’s 1st Assistant after his miscasting of Reilly sank that film. Then again, the “Movie Godz” probably cursed him for remaking NINE QUEENS to begin with.

  • CinemaPhreak

    Wait a minute – LexG constantly bitches about having no money, yet spent $50 fucking dollars to see presumably the LA run of “God of Carnage?” which has no actresses that he would want to bone?

    Damn, that boy must be in really bad shape.

  • LexG

    Deathtongue_Douche, what are you TALKING about? I’m a big THEATER FAN and sometime stage actor, so of course I wanted to see the LA run of this hyped play. I can’t imagine the film cast being better than the stage cast– as others have noted, this is the rare case where the movie cast has LESS star wattage, at least on the male side; In the play, Gandolfini and Gay Harden are fucking forces of NATURE, so I don’t know how you out-do that (especially Gandolfini)… and Jeff Daniels was such a PERFECT milquetoast condescending prick, I don’t know how a SOIXANT-NICE milk-quaffer like Bad Hair Waltz outdoes that, but it’s GOD POLANSKI, so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.

    I also can’t wait to see The World’s Best Actress (Foster) and The World’s Second Biggest Ham (Winslet) go toe-to-toe.

    (Though credit due, I LOVED Winslet in Contagion, even if I talk smack about her all the time.)

  • CinemaPhreak

    Well, Chester, I certainly agree about the star wattage part.

    Guess some if not all of the original cast are “pitchforkers” who decided to take a pass once Polanski was attached.

    Incidentally, had a late drink with my German neighbor and got his take on the Polanski issue. Apparently the “artist” angle doesn’t cut it with him either – thinks the films are brilliant, but there’s no excusing rape from this

    particular European. His repulsion at the fact she was 13 calls bullshit on the whole cultural angle to boot. He’s a pretty Lefty Socialist as well.

  • LexG

    What is that “Chester” shit supposed to imply?

    Seriously, answer that. In detail.

    I’d actually be interested to know if it’s remotely true that the stage cast isn’t in the movie because of their take on Polanski… I hadn’t heard that. Not saying it’s not true (I have no idea), but what is there to support that?

  • Gabe@ThePlaylist

    When can we fucking talk about Margaret???

  • JLC

    @Super Soul- It’s not about controlling the access to water. It’s about having enough power to control access to water.

  • Super Soul

    JLC: It’s not about having enough power to control access to water. It’s about the corruption of those who have enough power to control access to water.

  • raygo

    The answer to Chinatown is in Chinatown:

    Jake Gittes: Why are you doing it? How much better can you eat? What could you buy that you can’t already afford?

    Noah Cross: The future, Mr. Gittes! The future. Now, where’s the girl? I want the only daughter I’ve got left. As you found out, Evelyn was lost to me a long time ago.

  • raygo

    Second Gabe’s request. What about Margaret? Discuss.

  • JLC

    Super Soul: Its not about the corruption of those who have enough power to control access to water. It’s about how corruption is intrinsic to having enough power to control access to water.

  • Super Soul

    JLC: It’s not about how corruption is intrinsic to having enough power to control access to water. It’s about the molestations perpetrated as an inevitible result of the intrinsic corruption in having enough power to control access to water.

  • Super Soul

    Or, as raygo says, it’s about getting the girl.

  • JLC

    Super Soul: I think that’s about run its course. I was going to say something about how the intrinsic corruption manifests itself in other ways and you got it. Or, forget it Jake: it’s Chinatown.

  • Super Soul

    I thought it rather nicely circled right back to Polanski. Thanks for playing along.

  • JLC

    Always a pleasure to actually discuss movies. Happens so infrequently around here.

  • lazarus

    Well done, gentlemen.

    Now what’s The Two Jakes about?

  • JLC

    The Two Jakes is about two hours too long, once you take out all the scenes with Madeleine Stowe. (rim shot!) (BTW, Stowe looks f’in amazing in the new show Revenge. Hasn’t aged a day.)

  • Cris

    Lex, Gandolfini was the only one from the original cast who was approached and he declined for “personal” reasons but people seem to think it wasn’t so much because of Polanski but out of solidarity with the rest of the original cast. It’s actually a little weird that they didn’t approach Harden as I think her own agency packaged the movie.

  • lazarus

    JLC: please tell me Stowe’s new show isn’t a remake/sequel to the early 90’s film of the same title she made with Kevin Costner and Tony Scott.

    Also, I’m a big big fan of The Two Jakes, though she’s def the weak link in it.

  • Floyd Thursby

    Is Foster really that short?

  • JLC

    lazarus, not that I’m aware of. It’s a nighttime soap about a girl plotting elaborate revenge against a rich family for what they did to her father. Stowe plays the matriarch of the wealthy folks. Strictly a guilty-pleasure Dynasty/Dallas type thing, but Stowe looks fabulous in it (as you might expect).

  • Cadavra

    Funny how no one’s mentioned that two of the four stars are not American. That would seem to confirm that Polanski wasn’t interested in the stage cast, but wanted to give it a subtle European feel, given that the original author is French.

  • Baron Munchausen-by-Proxy

    Not really , Cadavra. As a French/German/ Polish co-production, at least one of the leads was going to be German, and at least 2 were going to be Europeans and EU name-draws.

  • actionlover

    “Is Foster really that short?”

    Yes.

  • Gaydos

    For the record, VARIETY’S Justin Chang explained in his Venice Fest review why this was a “perfect” project for Polanski.

    http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117945929/

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