Monday, April 16, 2007

I've been sickly with a cold since late last week, meaning that I spent a good portion of the weekend vegging on the couch (as opposed to my usual large portion of the weekend). Anyway, I watched both The Departed and The Devil and Daniel Johnston.

I thought the former ok at best. It made about as much sense as Infernal Affairs, which will never win an award for making sense, but felt bloated and unsatisfying. In Infernal Affairs, part of the pleasure was the cat-and-mouse game between the two leads, but The Departed downplayed this to focus on Jack Fucking Nicholson playing the same guy he always plays, except in Boston (and here's a query: if you play the same person everytime a camera is rolling, whether or not you are appearing in a film or at an awards show or wherever, can you legitimately be called an actor or are you, in fact, just some guy?). Marty can do better, but, to be fair, he can certainly do worse.

Phil Nugent hated The Devil and Daniel Johnston, but I didn't. I seem to remember that Phil thought Daniel an annoying person who insisted that everyone cater to his eccentricities, but I think it's a little more accurate to call him an person indulged as a child whose mental illness requires that same indulgence in his adulthood. I'm a big fan of Johnston's songwriting, which maybe makes a difference (and I note that one detractor on Netflix was kind enough to point out that he wouldn't pass the first round on American Idol). I mean, yes, Johnston's approach to his songs is primitive at best, but like in that lovely moment where Kathy McCarty demonstrates the complexity of his melodies in a little a capella burst, his lyrics and the craft in his songs are quite sophisticated. As in Crumb, the tragedy of his life is on display, especially in a wrenching segment where his father bursts into tears while describing Daniel's attempt to crash their tiny plane during a nasty psychotic episode. Unlike Crumb, the filmmakers do not damn Johnston for his illness and eccentricities.


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