Thursday, May 19, 2005

DVD: Birth (2004)

If you were one of the few to catch the trailer for Jonathan Glazer’s film before its brief theatrical run last year, it was clear that New Line was positioning it as a high-toned horror movie. And with good reason. It’s got the spooky premise of a 10-year-old boy telling widow Nicole Kidman that he is, in fact, her late husband. The cinematography captures New York at its most austere – and that’s in the interior scenes. Plus Kidman is wearing Mia Farrow’s haircut from ROSEMARY’S BABY.

If you take one look at the critical reaction, it’s clear that audiences didn’t know what the hell to make of the movie. Aside from a few devout admirers and Kidman’s Golden Globe nomination, it faded quickly from the scene.

If you watch the film for yourself, though, it’s clear from the opening frames – an extended Kubrickian sequence depicting the death of Kidman’s husband, with masterful composition and use of music – that you’re watching one of the only movies of 2004 that will have any kind of afterlife.

Glazer made one of the great recent debuts with SEXY BEAST, and BIRTH (which he cowrote with Milo Addica and Jean-Claude Carrière) shows a willingness not only to tackle risky material, but to take chances in his handling of it. He dispenses with any kind of supernatural explanation early on, transforming the movie into a meditation on self-deception that’s also a mordant comedy of manners.

I know what you’re thinking: how could a movie like that miss?

Kidman is at her peak here, and she’s well-matched by Danny Huston as the upper-crust suitor bewildered by events. But it’s Cameron Bright as the young doppelganger who makes the film work. His performance is so compelling that I haven’t been able to watch him play the creepy kid in the cloning thriller GODSEND. Something tells me that may not be the worst thing in the world.

Miscellaneous: Link

The BBC embraces the reckless digital frontier even as Hollywood cowers in fear. From Kung Fu Monkey.