Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Ghost Writer

Roman Polanski, 2010, 128m

A ghost writer is commissioned (for a quarter of a million) to write the autobiography of former British prime minister Lang. Another person hired for the same work was killed in dubious circumstances.The plot meanders drearily through possible war crimes committed on the orders of Lang at the bidding of his CIA masters with some glimpses of the lives of the high and mighty.

The tailor dummy PM is a feeble caricature of Blair. This political thriller is conspicuously deficient in thrills and and the politics too is obscurely infantile. It succeeds neither in being a James Bond movie nor in it's attempt to soar above the genre. One can only conclude that Polanski has ceased to tick. Everything is deja vu here. The only image that remains with me is the final one, with the pages of the manuscript scattering in the wind.

It's a ghost of a movie. A headache is acceptable as a means but not as an end in itself.

18 comments:

Nathanael Hood said...

Hot damn, dude. That is EXACTLY what I thought. I thought that it was...decent...but not the cinematic revelation that Ebert or most other critics claim it to be.

Jack L said...

Nice short review,
I haven't seen this one and to be honest I really don't feel compelled to, I'm not the biggest fan of Polanski and the circumstances surrounding the making of this film put me off quite quickly, the film itself seems to be exactly how you described ,from what I've seen and read anyway...

S. M. Rana said...

@Jack L

I remember having admired "The Pianist" as a holocaust movie to equal "Schindler's List". "Repulsion" and "Rosemary's Baby" were also good. But this is as disengaging as Scorcese's latest-"Shutter Island".

S. M. Rana said...

@Nat

Nice to have one's reaction confirmed. "Hot damn" is nice!!

I personally feel Ebert is liberal with stars. Influential as he is, he has one eye on the enormous inputs that any film calls for, and cannot so freely express himself. He stands somewhere in between the industry and the audience.

Nathanael Hood said...

Well...remember...he frequently rates movies based on how much he personally enjoyed them regardless of artistic merit...

Then again, maybe Ebert sees something in this film that we don't...after all...he HAS been in the business a bit longer than us...

Nathanael Hood said...

Just changing the topic a little...did you ever see "Inception?"

I don't see a review on your site...

S M Rana said...

@Nat

Ebert has much more than just length of experience and encyclopedic knowledge--he has aesthetic perceptions of a very high order and an intellect which gets him straight to the heart of a film. His conversation with Scorcese in which the "Horse Thief" figures is a case in point. To quote:

This movie is like an Italian neo-realist film. It made me think of "The Bicycle Thief," although it's more despairing even than "The Bicycle Thief." It's about people who are hungry and who are cold. He's walking around in the snow barefoot at one time. And his choice is be a horse thief or be dead you know, be a horse thief or my child starves and he's already lost one child.

MARTIN: Right.

ROGER: And he's up against the absolute extremities of economic desperation.

But then he's such a big man in the film line and he knows that his words can influence the fate of a film. His sense of responsibility to the wide spectrum of audience as well as industry interests has earned him the title of a middle brow critic.

Since I can usually afford to see only the best, I often find the NY Times reviews to be very insightful but Ebert is best for the initial viewin decision.

S M Rana said...

@Nat

In fact in a recent interaction in Ebert's column as I fumed against his high star rating for that obnoxious film-"Shutter Island"-he specifically advised me not to see Inception and I didn't. I quote it:

S M Rana July 25, 2010 6:13 AM
Ebert: Oddly enough, in this case I'd call myself the elitist. You're confusing me with a populist because most of my reviews are comprehensible.
Well,3 and a 1/2 stars to Shutter Island, which I had to endure yesterday for reasons beyond my control is more than I can understand. Scott has better given it it's due. To make it worse, my nearers loved it, even to the extent of serial viewings, and I was charged with not liking it only because others liked it. So what is populist? And what does that make me, I hesitate to ask? Enough is enough. Horses won't drag me to inception.
Ebert: It may be wise for you to avoid it.

http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2010/07/the_myth_of_a_perfect_film.html#more

S M Rana said...

@ Nat

Scott in above comment refers to A O Scott of NY Times whose review is below:

http://movies.nytimes.com/2010/07/16/movies/16inception.html

Someone aptly decribes this kind of film as psycho-babble. Another I saw and reviewed of this kind was "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" in which my reaction clashed indignantly with fellow bloggers.

Nathanael Hood said...

I see.

So...what did YOU think of "Inception"?

S M Rana said...

I followed Mr Ebert's advice not to see it.

Nathanael Hood said...

AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!

You haven't seen it?!?!?!

You HAVE to!!

Listen, it is EASILY my favorite film of the year, more-so than any American or foreign film that I have seen.

And trust me...I do NOT say that lightly.

You owe it to yourself to see it.

S M Rana said...

If you insist, though it gives me pre-jitters!

S M Rana said...

A little bird told me in a dream long ago that I would end up seeing Inception! The moment is close! So be it, since you are that sure!

Jack L said...

Personally I didn't care much for Inception, I was entertained enough but it was exactly what I expected and nothing more, a slightly above average summer blockbuster.

Anyway, I think I'll go and read your review of Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, sounds interesting....

S. M. Rana said...

Well, might as well remove the stigma of not having seen "Inception" once and for all!!

kaist455 said...

This dry but elegant movie depends on creepy atmosphere rathen than clear answers, like many paranoid thrillers in the 1970s. There are still many questions left unanswered in the end, but, after being gripped by its tense mood from the start, I was satisfied with that memorable finale.

Maybe giving it second chance later is not a bad idea.

S. M. Rana said...

kaist455: The finale was a redeeming feature, showing the cold efficiency of the official machinery, and the sickening reach of the surviving superpower.