Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mr. Nobody

Jan Van Dormeal, 2009 (9.5*) 
Belgium-Canada-France-Germany 

It's hard to describe this film without making it sound perhaps incohesive and out of control, but quite the contrary, this is a long, complex work of art that is very well constructed, and one which will warrant and reward the true cinema fan on repeat viewings.

What director Jaco Van Dormeal has done here is not new, he shows us alternate realities in one life, similar to the visual style used for the same by Tom Tykwer in Run, Lola, Run - and triggered by one incident involving a train, like Gwyneth Paltrow's character in Sliding Doors. As a child, Nobody is known as Nemo, and at age 9, he must choose which parent to live with when they seperate. The decisive scene takes place at a train platform, and little Nemo must either stay with dad or get on the train with mom. This being a film, he does both, and we see both lives.

This is really a science fiction story, which is about a Mr. Nobody, who is called that because they don't know his name, and he can't remember it, but it's Nemo, which we find out in flashbacks. Nemo is now the last living mortal at age 118, in a world where apparently everyone else no longer ages and dies (at least not naturally, I'm sure you can still blow people up or shoot them down, because, as they say here, "some people just need killin").

The film begins with a professional type suit, who is interviewing Mr. Nobody (for broadcast live to the masses), about his life and how he feels being the last mortal. When Nemo remembers his life, it's not always the same exact story he remembers, and this is the point of the film. It's not "a story" that matters, but that you travel the journey of life not knowing the final destination. This film has as many visual ideas as 10 average films, in fact, Van Dormeal spent nine years on this one project from writing to completion, and it shows.

There are so many mind-boggling images in this, that its best not to describe the film at all, but to urge everyone to watch it, then watch it again. There is one problem: it's not available at Netflix, you'll have to either borrow or buy it on dvd. You also want only the director's cut (it's 157 minutes, the original is 141, so it's hefty in either format), that's the version I saw and it has one added scene I thought particularly important: Nemo is going through a car wash inside his car, and we see closeups of all the action on the windshield, which is uncannily like nebula activity in space: the macrocosm becomes the microcosm. If you don't understand that, then you may not like this film, and you probably didn't enjoy The Tree of Life either, another visual masterpiece.

Jared Leto stars in this, that's him in makeup as the 118 year old man (Mr. Nobody) as well. He had just made Aronofsky's incredible Requiem For a Dream (2000), so apparently he only stars in a director's "magnum opus", or greatest of his work. He should be a better known actor, he's quite accomplished in every film I've seen. Canadian director-actress Sara Polley (Dawn of the Dead, Go, The Sweet Hereafter) plays one of his wives, Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds, Troy) another, and Viet actress Linh Dan Pham (Indochine) the third. All are perfect for what the film required - of the three, Polley is the most accomplished actor having won 31 awards so far, and she shows it here.

This may bore or confuse the more literary cinemaniacs, those who want a beginning, middle, and end of one story. To me, that's like criticizing the impressionists because the realists painted the same scenes more realistically. Do you want life to imitate art, or can art just be the creative expression of an artist's inner philosophy? This film toys with the idea of "string theory", which always baffled me, but the idea is that there may be several universes or realities occuring at the same time, it depends on your choices in life. That's such a scary thought to some, that one reviewer said he couldn't leave his house for three days after seeing this film!

This film is going into my top 100, easily (out of about 10,000 seen, the top tenth of one percent), and also on my short list of must-see science fiction-fantasy films, which is less than 50 at this point. To which I would only say, as Rossanno Brazzi told Katharine Hepburn in Summertime, "You are hungry, senora - eat the ravioli!" EAT THIS MOVIE! Then again, and again..

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.



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