Monday, July 26, 2010

The Greatest

I had no intention of writing about this movie, but the composition, performances and editing were exquisite to say the least.  Beginning with the sexy introduction, where two young lovers madly invite each other into an emotional coil  unleashed upon one another after a period of implied suppression, a quick and unexpected act of violence ends the life of 18 year old Bennett.  And that's just the first 3 minutes of the film.  Unfolding then is a story of grief and love.  Bennett's tragic death sends his parents (provocatively played by Susan Sarandon and Peirce Brosnan) into a tailspin of grief manifesting within the home in various ways from denial to obsession.  The performances by the British new kid on the block Carey Mulligan and old reliables Sarandon and Brosnan are outstanding: thought-provoking, honest, sweet, and wrenching.  As nuanced and affective as the performances, is the cinematography and direction.  Stunningly understated, yet highly photographic, this film has a careful tone, fully aware of its own medium.  When a film is created with the knowledge that everything inside the frame is artifice (sometimes filmmakers forget this and a film becomes boring from an over kill of realism), a sense of the extraordinary emerges.  An example of this occurs with in the title sequence:  The family has just attended the funeral of their 18 son and brother, Bennett.  The camera angle is a low medium frame taken at the back seat of the limo as it transports the family away from the grave site.  The composition includes Brosnan (the Dad) in the center of the seat, leaning forward, absently wringing his hands and appearing slightly uncomfortable.  Sarandon (the Mom) is to the left of Brosnan and is sunken into the black leather seat gazing wearily out the window, which is a wash of green leafy color as a bright and sunny day glides past.  The couples remaining child, Ryan (Johnny Simmons), is to Brosnan's right and is also staring out the window, though decidedly far less haggard appearing than his mother.  They ride in silence, and this lasts for quite sometime, until the shot is broken by the words "The Greatest",  slyly interjected in a humble font at the bottom of the screen.  Though this may not sound like much to get excited about, it is this composition, in its simplicity and humility, which foreshadows the remainder of the film.  Within this delicate frame exists the nuances of each of these central characters, subtly displayed and enveloped within the drama that each with soon participate in, a microcosm, a metaphor, a 3 word summary for the rest of the story.  

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