Monday, April 26, 2004

Video: Dr. Seuss’ The Cat In The Hat (2003)

It may be unfair to deem a movie unwatchable after sampling only twenty minutes of it. Particularly when that sampling takes place a.) on a moving train, b.) without sound, and c.) on a TV with the words ‘Amtrak Cascades’ permanently burned into the screen. But I’m comfortable with my decision.

Store: Powell’s City of Books, Portland, Oregon

A dusty cathedral dedicated to the glory of the written word. A host of angels sang in my head as I entered. They kept singing as I purchased a copy of Dan J. Marlowe’s THE NAME OF THE GAME IS DEATH and several of Richard S. Prather’s Shell Scott paperbacks, but they weren’t happy about it.

Movie: Bon Voyage (2004)

A comic CASABLANCA, an Alan Furst novel played for laughs. As the Germans roll into Paris in 1940, all of le beau monde converges on a hotel in Bordeaux. Among the refugees are France’s greatest film star (Isabelle Adjani), whose flighty demeanor masks a ruthless ability to bend men to her will, and the swains helplessly in her thrall: a minister in the embattled government (Gerard Depardieu), an English journalist covering the war (Peter Coyote), and a callow writer (Gregori Derangere) who had been in jail for a crime his lover committed. The film’s action unfolds primarily on the night that Marshal Pétain becomes premier and capitulates to the Nazis. The three men battle for Adjani’s affections and for France’s supply of heavy water, guarded in part by the always-luminous Virginie Ledoyen and a criminal rogue played by Yvan Attal as the personification of élan.

There is something not just uplifting but life-affirming about watching people dither over lovers and clothes at the very moment that the world is about to slip perhaps permanently into shadow. An American movie about these events would be ponderous. BON VOYAGE is lighter than air and all the more moving because of it. The French have gotten a bad rap lately, but you have to say this for them: they know that desserts can have sophisticated tastes, and that they are often the most memorable part of the meal.

Play: Fully Committed, by Becky Mode (1999), Portland Center Stage Theater

A one-man show that deftly avoids the many pitfalls of the form. Mark Setlock, on whose experiences the play is based, directs and stars. COMMITTED is set in the seedy basement of the white-hot New York restaurant of the moment, where the title is a euphemism for ‘booked up.’ Setlock plays Sam, the struggling actor who mans the reservations desk, as well as everyone who calls in: nattering socialites, clueless out-of-towners, harried coworkers. The piece has a real structure to it but gives Setlock plenty of room to showcase his gift for mimicry. Special credit to Mode for funniest use of the word ‘bitter.’

Video: The Young Black Stallion (2003)

Wasn’t this an IMAX movie? That would explain the extra headroom in some of the shots. Otherwise it looked fine on TV – except for the words ‘Amtrak Cascades’ permanently burned into the screen.