| Dir: Tom Ford
“Our world is a lot less painful than the real world.”
Fashion designer Tom Ford transitioned into movies with 2009’s visually striking and emotionally resonant A Single Man. It looked, spoke and felt like what many would expect a Tom Ford creation to be. Yet his much anticipated follow up shifts into a much darker area – a tense meta noir-thriller that surely takes inspirations from the likes of David Lynch and Nicolas Winding Refn. As ambitiously stylish as you would expect but with an aesthetic doesn’t overshadow the substance; it merely colours the rich emotional complexity. It’s an intelligent, elegant and gorgeous piece that establishes Ford as a diversely skilled artist in two sectors.
What a consuming, arresting and intoxicating experience this becomes. The novelistic narrative stream is certainly the more immediately engaging and thrilling, with Ford fluently tying its entertainment value around deeper melodramatic wrappings. But this unevenness is minor when the fictional revenge erupts just as devastatingly as its present day reality revenge does.Edward Sheffield and Tony Hastings (both Jake Gyllenhaal) both prove to not be weak men in parallel worlds. There’s also a nice moment where Hastings’ regret at his choices reflects Susan’s (Amy Adams) own.
The performances themselves are certainly major – Adams, Gyllenhaal, Fisher, Linney, Shannon (very unsurprisingly) and Taylor-Johnson (very surprisingly) play their individual notes with such quality. The often times unflattering close ups expose some brilliant work from Adams in particular, while Shannon is as effective as ever. Any film that casts Isla Fisher as a surrogate or ersatz for Amy Adams (in the films strongest sequence) deserves appreciation – that it did so and didn’t even make me notice the difference until the credits deserves adoration.
| Dir: Denis Villeneuve
Towards the beginning of Denis Villeneuve’s clever and experimental doppelganger thriller clouded in mystery, Jake Gyllenhaal, playing college professor Adam, espouses to his university class about the trends of dictatorships to crush individual expression and the cyclical pattern they adhere to. This innocuous scene proves central to Enemy‘s subsequent action, which is a playful and disorientating thriller that explores the overwhelming power of the subconscious to control an individual as if a dictatorship onto yourself, fueled by unresolved inner anger and fear. Is Villeneuve commenting on the nature of humans fallibility to continually suppress fears, with spider and arachnophobia symbolism penetrating the film both subtly and glaringly? I have no idea, and that is precisely the charm of Enemy and many others of its ilk. It exists well beyond its 90 minute running time, uncompromisingly probing for days afterwards.
The doppelganger is a well-tread vehicle in cinema, recently with Richard Ayoade’s superb The Double, but Villeneuve and Gyllenhaal manage to bring something not only welcome but necessary to the genre as collaborators. Gyllenhaal continues to make a statement to the world on his credentials, a bonafide Hollywood movie star putting in two impressive and strikingly oppositional performances in this bizarre arthouse indie. The tensely sharp score rests upon foggy, beige and coldly painted scenes devoid of zest. It’s a world that looks chronically ill, reminiscent of David Fincher tonally and visually with obvious odes to David Cronenberg (not just via Sarah Gadon), and David Lynch in its psychological mystery and thematic surrealism. Quite a collection of David’s!
Focused on thematic movements and psychological intrigue that prompts theory more than resolution, it gives us just enough clues to form our own idiosyncratic formulas and bring order to the chaos Villeneuve delivers us. It’s less interested in plot development so its slow pace can be misinterpreted as narrative slightness, but how it languishes in the mood of the moments offers an interesting and memorable viewing experience.
For more of my in-depth analysis and thoughts on Enemy, listen to episode 1 of the Project Projection podcast.