Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cinema Notes From All Over (A Film's Death in Venice Division)

CELLULOIDLAND, The Universe -- First of All has just seen The Tourist, and we can say without hesitation that it is the worst film ever made. 
   We are delighted to report that at the moment it is in theaters everywhere, so you can see it too. You may wish, however, to wait for the DVD release; you'll certainly save money and emotional pain. You'll also be able to rewind scenes multiple times to deconstruct this splendidly execrable misfire so that you never inadvertently make one of your own. 
   The Tourist was directed by a man with the stirring name of Florian Maria Georg Christian Graf Henckel von Donnersmarck. Mr.FMGCGHvD also wrote the screenplay. He was joined in the effort by three others who evidently bore a ferocious grudge against him. They certainly did every writerly thing possible to sabotage his film. 
   That the movie, supposedly a thriller, is chockablock with A-list stars is indisputable; so is the fact that their utter miscasting is so full-blown that it hovers near being brilliant. 
   Johnny Depp is a math teacher from Wisconsin who falls in love with an attractive financial-crimes agent from Britain, the birthplace of the Beatles and rain. (The Beatles even wrote a song about rain. Aptly, it is titled "Rain.") Beautiful and mysterious though the agent is meant to be, as played by Angelina Jolie she resembles nothing so much as an anorexic drag queen automaton. 
   The Tourist means to be a caper film happily enjoyed over a tub of popcorn, the kind in which the two leads dash about an enchanting foreign locale--in this case Venice, the city of lovers and sinking buildings. But the film quickly deteriorates more thoroughly than have any of Venice's vaunted edifices. 
   If this is the fault of the rousingly named Mr.FMGCGHvD, it is equally the fault of the stars. 
   There was a time when First of All would have sold our firstborn, if we'd had one, in return for a lifelong romantic partnership, not to say the occasional romp in the hay, with Mr. Depp. That time extended from the moment we watched the first episode of 21 Jump Street, in nineteen eighty-seven, until the moment, a few hours ago, we watched The Tourist
   Mr. Depp now appears oddly bloated and shockingly aged. His shoulder-length hair is a nonsense tangle and his makeup is only slightly less bizarre than Ms. Jolie's. Note to Mr. Depp: heavy eyeliner? Awesome for that Keith Richards/Captain Jack Sparrow look; not so awesome when you're playing a math teacher from Wisconsin. With his blocky body and ragged goatee, Mr. Depp resembles a female-to-male transsexual; this is not a terrible look for anyone except perhaps a math teacher from Wisconsin. 
   Ms. Jolie, on the other hand, appears to be drugged. She has acknowledged past heroin use; has the habit made a comeback? Well, no; she seems less a junkie than someone enjoying a lifetime prescription for Xanax. She floats serenely through every scene, head high, body taut, chin jutted, makeup caked; she is an affectless queen in her own private parade. 
   Ms. Jolie's character is a stick figure--figuratively and literally. Late in the movie she dons a shoulder-baring black gown. She is dreadfully thin, so much so that First of All, while reviling those who talk noisily in theaters, was hard pressed not to scream, "Angelina! Three words--burger and fries!"    
   The Depp-Jolie pairing is awesomely amiss. Can chemistry between actors actually exist in negative space? The Tourist boldly answers in the affirmative. Mr. Depp and Ms. Jolie make implausible lovers. The problem is not just the bloat and the heroin (Xanax?); it is the vast emotional chasm that yawns between them.   Johnny Depp looks like he just arrived from smoking opium with Aleister Crowley under a bridge. Angelina Jolie looks like she just arrived from having her electrical wiring switched on in some shady East European laboratory. The Tourist could have been made with no lead actors a'tall and it would have had more sparkle and star power than it does now.
   Then there is the plot, which involves--well, who knows? Indeed, who cares? In these sorts of movies, the joys of being diverted by a sensible--or even insensible-- plot run a distant second to the joys of watching famous people be themselves in glamorous places. The Tourist is meant to provide pure escapism in the tradition of mid-twentieth-century Hollywood thrillers. But Mr.FMGCGHvD, the director, manages to make Venice look bland. And his misdirection of his stars is so total that it verges on the inspiring. 
   The Tourist falls through all the cracks. It is neither a feather-light caper nor a so-bad-it's-good camp gem. Instead, it is a turd for the ages. One watches it in the same way that animals inspect their bowel movements: to be sure that, yes, this is indeed feces, and then to bolt in order to escape the stench. 
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UPDATE (Dec. 23, 2010): We are extremely pleased to report that in televised interviews promoting the appalling The Tourist, Johnny Depp appears to have returned to his usual state of unbelievable hotness. First of All hereby throws its hat back in the ring viz. having a stable, longterm and physically raucous relationship with Mr. Depp, notwithstanding his really peculiar accent--part Brit-English, part Jack Sparrow, part Pepe Le Pew, part... well, who knows? It's Johnny Depp, for Chrissakes. That alone is enough. To be sure, it is all there needs to be, as one can see below. 


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