Monday, July 25, 2005

Yes, so, did in fact see Charlie. Taking into account that I heard the dialogue in French, I have to say that unless the dialogue – in some language -- is adding entire strata of rich wit to this thing, it is an almost entirely pointless film. Or rather, its point is the same as some arbitrarily large number of recent movies (The Royal Tannenbaums comes to mind): Family fucks you up. (Unless you happen to be poor enough for enforced closeness/warmth.) “And then Willy Wonka goes into therapy”: Good as sight gag, bad as actual necessary step toward dramatic resolution. Also, taking out both the fizzy lifting drink sequence and the gobstopper makes the character of Charlie even more of a cipher: He’s not interestingly virtuous w/ no temptation to resist. For the most part, what visual imaginativeness is present is by way of a slicker “cover” of the ’71 version, a digital filling in of gaps; esp. the Mike TV sequence, which now looks a lot like the first Cruise Mission Impossible. Will give points for the Wonka Bar/2001 obelisk gag, and the changes rung on the Veruca Salt sequence. The circular design, the rather disturbing squirrel attack: Good to go, right up until the “song,” which might as well have been by the Polyfuckingphonic Spree.

I’m actually puzzled, at this point, by the status of the music – the credits read “Music: Danny Elfman//Lyrics: Roald Dahl.” But since they’d all been translated into French (no credit line that I saw for that little task!) and, even if they hadn’t, I don’t have the book here, I don’t know what this actually means – did Elfman set rhymes that are in the book, making these songs truer to the source than Newley and Briceusse’s? The original, by the way, is more of a full-on musical than is sometimes remembered: Parts of the score cloy (“Cheer Up, Charlie”) but “I Want It Now” is a terrific character number. (“I want a feast, I want a bean feast!”) And one can hardly overpraise “Candy Man”: “Separate the sorrow and collect up all the cream.” (While I’m on this, n.b that while much of Newley’s work is hard to take – the Keanu/Theron Sweet November is a remake of a movie that was plenty bad in its own right – this is the very team that wrote both “If I Could Talk to the Animals” and “Goldfinger.” Plus some other Bond themes: not a bad run.)

Very telling that neither any of the kids nor Depp is put through the paces of doing an entire number – which, you know, might require the director to coax a performance*, rather than a series of three-second gestures, out of someone other than an endlessly replicated Oompa-Loompa (who I’m sure was only paid once, speaking of cheap labor). If it’s beginning to sound like I’m more of a rockist about film (you get what I mean, I’ll take it) than about music, well, it’s case by case, but as far as preferring the film that includes joy, surprise, and bite, even if one has to fill in a couple of gaps in the promixal visual stimuli, well, call me Andre and lock me out of the Cahiers offices.

*That is, one vocal peformance and a later on-set physical performance to which to sync it.

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