Saturday, March 26, 2011

First Look: Carnage

Empire Magazine has posted a first look at Carnage, Roman Polanski's next film and an adaptation of the Tony Award-winning Yasmina Reza play about a meeting between two sets of parents that devolves into a Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf-style shit storm. I'm usually not into these types of melodramas, but the cast is populated with fantastic actors who aren't known for over-doing it. Plus, the play (adapted from the original French by Reza and Polanski) is supposed to be quite funny in a biting, backhanded way.

In it, Jodie Foster and the perpetually under-rated John C. Reilly play Penelope and Michael, the more provincial of the two couples. Based on the Wikipedia plot synopsis (and assuming the film sticks to the original play despite changing a few of the names), Michael is an upwardly-mobile wholesaler and Penelope is a writer. Nancy (Kate Winslet) and Alan (Christoph Waltz), meanwhile, are more comfortable flouting their wealth and power. Alan is a cell phone-addicted attorney and Nancy's made a career of managing her husband's wealth.

I tend to run hot and cold with Polanski, both as a person and a filmmaker. I can relate to his troubles (Holocaust survivor, the Tate murder), but can't excuse his very selfish, short-sighted behavior, both in 1977 and today. Likewise, he's made some of my favorite films (Chinatown, Knife in the Water, Rosemary's Baby), yet some of the films that have garnered him enormous praise leave me completely cold. Cinematography and art direction aside, I didn't get all the love for the merely serviceable thriller The Ghost Writer. And cult-favorites Repulsion and Cul-de-sac are a little too self-aware to be anything other than documents of their time.

These days, I get the impression that Polanski is just happy to still be working and striving to make the best films he can. The inflated ego that was the root of his troubles has evaporated with age (I hope anyway). With this cast and more workmanlike Polanski, I've developed high hopes for Carnage. Maybe they'll pay off.

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