Tag: viggo mortensen

Green Book

gbOne half of the Farrelly directing duo, Peter Farrelly, has departed from the couple’s proclivity for comedy to deliver a heartfelt account of an unlikely friendship in the face of racial adversity. 

Taking its title from a guidebook designed for blacks travelling through America’s racist south, Green Book is set in the sixties and focusses on two New York men. Tony “the lip” Vallelonga is a sloven working-class family man played by Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic), and Dr. Don Shirley is an educated classical pianist with impeccable social manners and a clipped sense of decorum, played by Mahershala Ali (Moonlight). Both are socially, racially and ideologically worlds apart, however, they are forced together through a mutual work arrangement that pits Tony as the driver and hired muscle to guide Don though the more unsavoury (racially speaking) parts of the southern states.  

The pair’s racially charged trek through America’s hotbed of entrenched prejudice threatens to be a volatile powder keg ready to blow.  However, as the film progresses the diatribe that is ever-present on the periphery never eventuates. Rather, the film amicably traces its road-movie sensibilities through a more peaceful narrative path, keeping non-violence at its moral heart, narrowing the focus instead onto their burgeoning friendship. 

Some commentators have suggested that Green Book lacks the conviction of current contemporaries (such as If Beale Street Could Talk, Sorry to Bother you, BlacKkKlansman etc), instead opting for a sentimentality that is avoidant of the greater issues at stake. And sure, it’s not without its faults; the film stumbles over a few inconsistent character motivations and its well-telegraphed statements on racism err on the obvious, lending the film a slightly glib tone. But don’t let that put you off this otherwise well-intentioned crowd pleaser. Green Book makes the most of two superb actors at the peak of their powers and lives comfortably within its self-appointed mandate to herald the power of passive resistance and friendship. It’s charming, frequently funny and if you let your guard down it will melt your heart.

See my reviews for the NZ Herald here and for Witchdoctor here.

A couple of uplifting films

The Road

Perhaps the most depressing film I have ever seen. Moving, sad, and personal, it invaded my mind for days after viewing. The tragic father-son relationship played by Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee (who would later reprise a similar vulnerable innocence in the excellent Slow West) is wonderfully realised. We never know their names, they are simply Man and Boy, and their anonymity is brutally portrayed as they make their way through a world lost. The Road is a parable of our post apocalyptic fears and it strikes a chord because the premise is a genuine possibility for humanity.

Rating: 5 stars

The Act of Killing

A remarkably unique documentary that accounts the Indonesian genocide of 1965. Having somehow located the genocide’s death-squad leaders (who are now living normal lives in Indonesia, and yet to be brought to justice), director Joshua Oppenheimer, convinces them to re-enact their mass killings under the guise of shooting a Hollywood styled feature film. Oppenheimer presents his subjects with an uncomfortable lightness and humour which is at odds with the subject matter at hand. This juxtaposition only serves to ratchet up the unease as the film progresses. Interesting things begin to happen when the main subject enacts the part of the victim … the result is surprising and disturbing. A chilling reminder of what atrocities every human is capable of.

Whereas The Road suggests a future world where humanity’s deficiencies have prevailed, The Act of Killing underscores similar frailties that have already happened in our past. Both films illustrate the very real and brutal side of human nature. This dark side of humanity is unfortunately all too common when certain conditions are present, and I believe we need to be reminded of this every so often. Hence, I consider these films as essential viewing.

Rating: 4 stars

David Cronenberg, A Dangerous Method, and Film Weekly

A new Film Weekly podcast is out.  This week Jason Solomons visits the last house of Dr Sigmund Freud for a session with A Dangerous Method’s Viggo Mortensen.  You can listen to it here.  I’m quite a fan of David Cronenberg’s work, notibly Existenze, Spider, A History of Violence, and Eastern Promises.  These are superb films.  Cronenberg’s latest film, A Dangerous Method, is released in New Zealand April 26, and I am really looking forward to it.  From what I gather it is a lot more staid than his previous work, but it has a fantastic cast and psychonanalysis is a theme that Cronenberg works in and around so well.