Wednesday, September 01, 2010

clooney channels bronson

Anton Corbijn's "The American" is much like its star - sinewy, thoughtful and not at all unpleasant to be around.

The star, of course, is George Clooney.

In terms of narrative, "The American" brings to mind Gene Hackman's famous opinion of an Eric Rohmer film in Arthur Penn's "Night Moves" (1975): "It's like watching paint dry." Which means that nothing much happens in this moody, atmospheric tale of yet another hit man (or a vague variation on that occupation) preparing for his final gig.

What Clooney's character exactly does is some kind of intricate prep work for the real assassin, all played out without much dialogue in a location fairly dripping with ambience. (That would be Abruzzo, a mountainous region East of Rome.) This is the kind of existential material that Alain Delon and director Jean-Pierre Melville confronted so memorably in 1967's slinky "Le Samourai" and that Jean-Paul Belmondo and our own Steve McQueen both tackled regularly with assorted filmmakers.

But the actor who comes to mind while watching Clooney do his movie-star thing is Charles Bronson who one can see having addressed this material with either Michael Winner or Terence Young as his director.

Recommending a film like "The American" - adapted by Rowan Joffe from Martin Booth's much better-titled novel, “A Very Private Gentleman” - is tricky. It is definitely an acquired taste but, once tasted, easy to savor.

8 comments:

Sheila said...

Terse analysis but it says it all. I coldn't agree more.

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

Haven't seen the film. I have, however, noted the comparisons between it at the Jean-Pierre Melville of "Le Samourai."

It strikes me, though, that this is the sort of picture (from all indications) that depends on the central actor's ability to imply an inner life for his character -- and that that has not, um, been Clooney's strong suit.

Wish I could find Pauline Kael's sarcastic joke, in her review of "True Confessions," about lazy scriptwriters who fall back on the "he turns to the camera and shows us his pain" ploy ...

joe baltake said...

MrsHenryWindleVale! I respectfully disagree. I think the quietness and introspection has been a very strong suit - the hallmark - of George Clooney's screen performances to date.

Brian said...

Slow, slow, so-o slow - the best was the nude scenes, but not worth the price of admission.

Clifford said...

Saw the film over the weekend and loved it. It was almost a whimsical tale an older, retired gent would tell a young vagabond while the two sat in a bar. Evil man realizes the magnitude of his sins, tries to escape his past, finds another wounded soul and dreams of peace, and then his past returns for the reckoning.

Jeremy said...

The movie was like watching paint dry. While the landscapes were beautiful to watch, the dialogue was slow and predictable.

1000myths said...

Was the director inspired by Bogart in "Treasures of Sierra Madre"? Is this "The American" a metaphorical depiction of the U.S. in the 21st century?

1000myths said...

Clooney channels Bronson who channeled Bogart