Of the films opening in theaters this week, Deception is the latest high concept disappointment. More worthy of examination and discussion is the new film from Errol Morris, Standard Operating Procedure, which examines the infamous photographs taken at Abu Ghraib. It only opens on two screens, so we'll have our podcast discussion next week. The film is a valuable appendix to the other Iraq documentaries — notably Taxi to the Dark Side — but it's a series of footnotes instead of a clear argument, stirred together with questionable use of the scandal's iconography and an interview technique that builds up and tears down its subjects in equal measure, adding more mud to an already dark puddle.
See below for a list of films currently in theaters, conveniently organized with the cream at the top.
The 51st San Francisco International Film Festival will block out my week, but if you're looking for something else, check out Yojimbo at the SFMOMA. Clint Eastwood says it was the inspiration for Fistful of Dollars.
One of the things that held my interest as I watched Deception was noticing how much of it resembles Eyes Wide Shut. E.g. the pent-up central character sent into a sexy underworld of beautiful anonymous women, some of whom seem threatened or even murdered when he tries to retrace his steps. But the differences are vast, something like the difference between 2001 and 2010. The difference between poetry and court records. Eyes Wide Shut is a dream world, and the one guy who doesn't talk like his brain is slightly swollen-- Sydney Pollack -- begins his explanations by saying, "What if I told you ..." thereby explaining nothing.
Deception, on the other hand, assumes that all we care about is a plot that Kubrick preferred to leave murky, filtered through the psychology of his character. Deception's characters have no psychology.
And this analogy is probably too hard on 2010, against which Deception pales.