Finishing up the '99 Skandie list with a pair of rewatches...
Run Lola Run
Tom Tykwer, 1998
Here's another one that, like Existenz, became
a topic of discussion on the IF newsgroups when it hit American theaters. The
basic story is that a young woman gets a call from her boyfriend saying that
he's in trouble thanks to a drug deal gone wrong and if she doesn't show up in
twenty minutes with 100,000 deutsche marks he will be killed. So she goes on
a mad dash to somehow find the money and get to the intersection he'd called
from. Things go wrong. The movie jumps back in time and gives her another
chance. Slight differences — arriving at a particular location a
"turn" later, say — have dramatic effects on how the story turns
out. All in all the movie encompasses three different runs. Learn-by-dying
may not be a common movie trope, but it's built into the DNA of adventure
games, which is effectively what Run Lola Run is. Pretty fun, not
John Sayles, 1999
(the spoilers in this write-up aren't egregious, but you're better off seeing
this movie completely cold)
Two of the items on my page of evaluative patterns,
namely #8 (it's wonderful to think you're watching story X and then discover
you're watching story Q) and #11 (false ceilings are risky, but among the most
rewarding tricks a narrative can achieve when successful), probably owe their
presence on the list to this movie. I'd liked Sayles's Lone Star well
enough, and Limbo initially appeared to bear the same relationship to
that film as James Michener's Alaska bore to his Texas: i.e.,
three years later the author follows up his sweeping opus about the
second-largest state with a very similar one about the largest. And sure
enough, Sayles seemed to be repeating himself: another ensemble cast, another
mystery about what really went on all those years ago, another cinematic
treatise on the sociology of a particular region. Though maybe "cinematic"
isn't the word, as the first half of Limbo feels kind of like the pilot
of a TV series, setting up a whole bunch of plotlines to be spun out over the
course of 12 or 22 episodes. You've got the mystery of the taciturn
fisherman-turned-handyman; the lounge singer's relationship with her troubled
teenage daughter; the lesbian couple's feud with the bombastic salmon canner;
the nefarious machinations of the yuppie scheming with the timber exec...
there's a lot of ham-handed exposition, a lot of overly precious
dialogue that's clearly being recited from a script; a lot of acting that could
charitably be called kind of dodgy...
...and then suddenly the movie is about something entirely different, and
suddenly the remaining characters can act, and sound like they're saying the
words that popped into their heads in response to what's going on around them.
(Admittedly, David Strathairn is good the whole way through.) Imagine if
midway through the first season of Friends Phoebe happened to be on the
scene of a mob hit, got put in the Witness Protection Program, and by the end
of the episode had started a new life in Montana. And then episode after
episode was about Phoebe in Montana. And viewers started to ask, uh, are we
ever going to get back to the Ross-Rachel-Paolo triangle, and the pregnant
lesbian ex-wife, and the monkey, and...? And the answer turned out to be no.
And suddenly it was a dark psychological drama. And that this had been the
plan all along and the first dozen episodes had just been a huge fake-out.
That would have been something!
(Hello, people reading this in the future and arching an eyebrow.)
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