Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sourthern Gothic

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (Clint Eastwood, 1997)
** (worth seeing)

The film is based on the non-fiction crime novel, which deals with the romanticism of people, tradition and values of the American south in the 1980s, of the same name by John Berendt. The adaptation is kitschy as it focuses on Southern Gothic trappings instead of any kind of reality. The characters, mannerism and situations are over the top and disrupt the sense of disbelief. John Kelso (John Cusak) arrives into Savannah, Georgia, to document Jim Williams (Kevin Spacey), an eccentric nouveau-riche, eventful party for the magazine Town and Country. After realizing the boastfulness of the environment John Kelso decides to cancel his dinner-party piece and make a book out of the ensuing foolishness. After a surprising plot twist the film switches into a court room drama. Mr. Eastwood directing style includes the incorporation of arts to reflect the melieu interest varying from art deco architecture to traditional paintings, from lavish catering to blissful classical compositions. Some entrenching Clint Eastwood thematic elements are moral ambiguity, culpability and moral stances are understated, pronouncedness, sparking conversations regarding social taboos, and the diversity of the American Landscape with African-Americans, homosexuals, transvestites and voodoos. Oddly surrealistic moments pop up including a man who takes a leash out for a walk every morning, sagging rich old ladys, a man that has horse flies tied onto him and bunuelian naturalistic shots of squirrels, dogs, and horses. Great supporting roles include Alison Eastwood, Clint Eastwood daughter, as the female in the romantic sub-story, Jude Law who plays the tough hustler with a Chevrolet Camaro, and the sparkling Lady Chablis. With lamenting performances from the leads, incongruent editing shifts of time and place, and the tongue-in-cheek characters and situations, this minor work contributes to the output of awkward 1990s cinema. Good-night!-David Davidson

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