TROUBLE CITY

CHUD'S 50 BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS, DAY 10

Movie NewsJeremy SmithComment


Welcome to the next CHUD List.

We've tackled our essentials list and the continued revelation of our Kills List from 2003, and now that we've begun the beguine, we must continue. Behold:

The CHUD.com Top 50 Disappointments.

A quick word on the criteria. We could very easily have spent this whole article discussing sequels and prequels and adaptations of television shows and called it a day. Instead, we tried to go a different route. Also, from a master list of over 100, the involved parties (Devin, Jeremy, Micah, Russ, and myself) all killed off a choice for each one we claimed. As a result, we'll run a big list at the end of this of the 'ones that got away'. So, here is day one of many where we chronicle the 50 Biggest Disappointments. Two a day, every week day for five weeks. In no particular order:

#32 - Love on the Run (1979, dir. Francois Truffaut)

http://chud.com/nextraimages/loveontherun.jpgFrancois Truffaut's mortality notwithstanding, why did the Antoine Doinel saga have to end so soon? Birthed in 1959 as The 400 Blows, the series was Truffaut's episodic examination of a young man's refusal to grow up and leave behind the childhood he believes he did not have. The stunning final freeze-frame of The 400 Blows gave way to the painfully funny short "Antoine and Colette", which then blossomed into Truffaut's celebration of obsessive love, Stolen Kisses. More than any of Truffaut's declared emulations of Hitchcock (The Bride Wore Black and Mississippi Mermaid), Stolen Kisses would be his finest tribute to the master - a comedic riff on Vertigo capped off by an ending that is, in its way, as much of a gut punch as James Stewart forlornly staring down from the bell tower.

Two years later, there was Bed and Board, which was Truffaut's first attempt to part with Doinel (from whom actor Jean-Pierre Léaud was by now virtually indistinguishable). But he fouled that up by delivering an engaging domestic comedy that agreeably appropriated a sort of 1930s screwball tone. Truffaut might've believed himself done with Doinel, but his audience wanted more; they needed to see if this sad, unsettled fellow they'd fallen in love with over three-and-a-quarter movies could possibly redeem himself.

By 1979, Truffaut needed to see this, too, but mostly because he badly needed a hit. His previous film, The Green Room, flopped both critically and commercially; revisiting Doinel would at least be a retreat to familiar artistic territory. In the past, Doinel had evoked something adventurous in Truffaut; the character always seemed to offer the director an opportunity to blend disparate genres and tones in a commercially satisfying manner. And while Love on the Run contains a fine idea (serial philanderer Doinel finally makes peace with his mother and his childhood by meeting with her longtime paramour), the clumsy flashback structure makes it play, at least nowadays, like Truffaut's Rocky IV.

I'll concede that Love on the Run might work better if you watch it with some distance in between your viewings of the other films. Nevertheless, it's still a rush job. Clearly, Truffaut wanted to shoot this and get it out to theaters so he could move on to one of two projects he was developing at the time (L'Agence Magic and The Little Thief, both of which would ultimately elude him), and that contempt for his character and his audience makes Love on the Run an unpleasant experience. The slipshod nature of this film is especially surprising coming from a man who composed what remains the most enchanting love letter to the process of moviemaking (Day for Night). Doinel deserved better. - Jeremy

Travesty Scale (1-10): 7 out of 10

http://chud.com/nextraimages/fulfront.jpg#31 - Full Frontal (2002. dir. Steven Soderbergh)

A movie about movies? A movie about moviewatching? A movie about moviemaking? You could safely chuck Full Frontal into any of these bins. As Steven Soderbergh rolled off the 1-2-3 solid combo of Erin Brockovich, Traffic, and Ocean’s Eleven, his momentum seemed to indicate an indie director playing in mainstream films with razor sharp instincts and wit to boot.

When he announced Full Frontal, one would naturally be compelled to rejoice at an in-his-prime auteur turning his perspective inwards for a look at the medium his life was based upon. Then, Soderbergh – I suspect – decided to have a big, huge laugh at the expense of the audience. His normally vibrant shooting style was tossed aside in front of a Kevin Smith-esque framing of conversation after conversation between broadly drawn characters in the murkiest digital video. His narrative skills sat dormant as he weaved together multiple storylines that failed to enthrall individually or as a collective sum. And finally, the film’s chief conceit – that it contained a film within a film within a film that was acknowledged as a film from an objective audience viewpoint just before the credits rolled – was plainly insulting enough to genuinely earn the overused and derogatory “pretentious” moniker.

Of course, there will always be those who defend the film on the terms of Soderbergh meaning to do all that I’ve accused him of. And I have no doubt that every nuance is intentional, but that does nothing to acquit him of his transgressions here. Full Frontal isn’t a film so much as it is a feature-length prank. It aspires to have some sort of commentary about movies, but damn if I can make it out amidst the film school-caliber staging and caricatures.

If you look hard enough, you can pick out some nuggets of watchability: The performances of Blair Underwood and David Duchovny. The comedy Nicky Katt generates as…well, Hitler. But the capable ensemble featured here can’t save a film that barely exists. - Micah

Travesty Scale (1-10): 6 out of 10

Previously Disappointing:
The Ladykillers
Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Bram Stoker's Dracula
Ultraviolet

New York, New York
Billy Bathgate

Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Willow

Superman Returns
Blade: Trinity
Art School Confidential
Lifeforce

Bonfire of the Vanities
Exorcist: Dominion

The Black Hole
Harlem Nights
The Last Castle
Ghostbusters II


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