Dec 26, 2007

Not A Country For Old Men...

... and not worth four Golden Globe nominations, certainly not one for Best Picture. Good performances, great dialogue, what you can hear of it, clever editing, evocative cinematography, altogether a compelling story, as Bonnie & Clyde was once compelling... All that, but finally thin, unsatisfying, and disturbing: not only because evil limps away to flagellate the world another day, but because good is portrayed as such a lesser force, something finally personal, clownish, tired and sentimental.

As for the violence, by the last 20 minutes, even the director seems to have had enough. The film persona also seems uncomfortably close to Fargo, although here the black comedy is much blacker, less forgiving.

I've never been a Cormac McCarthy fan. Either you are or you're not. And I didn't read this book, which might have made some difference. But despite the problems, there is something that stays bolted to the mind, more a feeling than an image, and perhaps there is one thing to be saved from the story. it is this contemporary view of evil.

Not something that can be ever beaten, but something that's implacable, impervious, and lucky. Did you ever imagine evil as being lucky? The sinister quality here is not heavy black, that signature breathing of Darth Vader, and there's no theatrical aspect. This reaches beyond psycopathic, which after all has its limits.

Segur, as he's called, is much more like an Islamic extremist. A strong believer in nothing at all save the joy of destruction. But he's a mythic extremist, the Bin Laden in the tri-city area. He's also vaguely unfuckingAmerican, vaguely Latin or Mediterranean, with off-color skin and watery eyes, in sum the particular shade of foreigner that reminds you of Jewish stereotypes created by the Nazis.

For Anderson, the film maker, old-fashioned evil, here played by dead Mexican drug dealers and corporate devils, seems like a sail boat next to a super tanker. Here's evil that flips the coin and lets his victims decide, and to be terrorized by the odds. Why? Because even the most evil spirit needs some entertainment, some challenge and heehaw.

There's no good challenge here, no corresponding white hat, which is the real problem with the story. Still, it's interesting to see evil who is forever lucky, yet never missing an opportunity to destroy and so to those who unknowingly help him, he always leaves division and resentment. No deed — good, bad or indifferent — goes unpunished...

* * *

And then in the middle of the night I got up to read that Benazir Bhutto had been murdered. I should have known that, I thought, I should have expected some dark thing to follow the portrayl of something so dark as Segur.

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