Thursday, March 16, 2006

Tom Bonaparte; Paradise "Lost"

Here's a thought: how about Tom Cruise hits up Ridley Scott to direct him in an adaptation of Stanley Kubrick's "Napoleon" script with the diminutive one as The Diminutive One? Minus the glaring eyes of Jack Nicholson staring into the icy infinity of the Overlook's snowshrouded grounds, lusting for blood (and that could've been Nicholson in '75 staring across the field at Eylau or into the fires of Smolensk) who better to inject a little "vive l'Empereur" into the freedom-fried American moviegoer than the sharkish Cruise? He and Napoleon share a certain rationalizing ideology, the wolfish charisma, the stature and the lack thereof, perhaps the baggage too; and since Cruise could adapt Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason" (to paraphrase David Thomson on George Lucas long ago) if he wanted to, and since he's in with the two directors (Scott and Michael Mann) who have been namedropped for such an undertaking, the man and the script might have met. Of course the very fact that we're talking about a Kubrick script in another's hands is far from ideal and, frankly, we may have seen much of its intended visual content and moral thrust in "Barry Lyndon", as perfect a film as one could hope for-- and even Kubrick probably couldn't challenge Abel Gance's precedence with the material. But it's a film idea worth translating into reality, and from beyond the grave Kubrick could help one of these gifted but uneven directors to achieve something permanent. -- No disrespect to Ridley Scott, whose "Alien" and "Blade Runner" are also as perfect as we could hope for; but today that feels like a distant, other Ridley, and his later films, though sometimes distinguished in their own way, are somewhat trifling by comparison (I'll take "1492: Conquest of Paradise" over any film he's made since, and "Gladiator" is just a drag). Michael Mann, also blessed with great cinematic chops, could make something of it but his "Last of the Mohicans" rings so hollow that I fear he could ruin everything.
Cruise should not be handing his fate into the hands of J.J. Abrams, ABC's wunderkind of the Show of the Disappearing Plot ("Lost") and the disappearing show ("Alias"-- can anybody ever be sure at what secure undisclosed timeslot it's been broadcasting for the past four years?). In the recent hiatus from Season Two's unrelenting aimlessness we've been treated to a reminder of how "good" Season One was by comparison! Locke had his prophetic mojo, the gorgeous Cocteau twins Shannon and Boone were making viewers humid, and an audience unexposed to the wondrous continent that is called Tarkovsky were being promised-- promised-- some sort of contact with the numinous. The best they got was that lovely crane shot of Kate in the tree, a sungilded Eve in a darkening garden accompanied by thoughtfully ominous modernist orchestral stylings almost certainly meant to remind us of the 'Jupiter Mission' opening in "2001: A Space Odyssey". Lovely pop eyecandy, but the pop mysteriousness of it all offered quickly vanishing returns. Now that Season Two has dropped my pet "A Planet Called Sheol" interpretation (or would seem to have closed the door, at any rate) Abrams is clearly marking time, and has no incentive to deliver even the kinetic thrills that Jennifer Garner's buttkicking and costume-changing once yielded. The flashbacks have devolved from morality plays into Trivial Pursuit, the characters are reduced to the same grubby annoyingness, and that godforsaken Charlie is still alive?! Oi, what about me viewers? Let your remcon be your raft, and let no crusty beardo take it away from you.

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