Wonderful! Monday Movies, Ladies and Gentlemen!
The King of Comedy — Scorsese and De Niro’s collaborations are famous for De Niro’s explosive physicality, and while Rupert Pupkin (was there ever a better character name? Maybe Darth Vader) is less of a bruiser than Jake LaMotta or Travis Bickle he’s still a clenched fist. Pupkin is an aspiring comedian who can think of no other route to success than trading on the bond he has invented between himself and Jerry Lewis’s crabbed Carson substitute Jerry Langford. His delusions grow more grandiose as his focus becomes clearer, and by the end of the film he has become a master of tactics and sacrifice.
The film is not as simple as a media satire; the villains, heroes, and points are more obscure than in, say, Network. There’s a whiff of the superstar’s fear and resentment of his admirers in the scenario, but it’s faint. All in all it may be more of a light tragedy than a dark comedy.
The habits that Wes Anderson would adopt from Scorsese are on full display in slow-motion sequences and biting dead-center shot setups. Jerry Lewis is terrifically grim (and gives me an opportunity to recommend Arizona Dream, the only Emir Kusturica movie you’ll see this year that features Lewis alongside Faye Dunaway, Johnny Depp, and Vincent Gallo. And Lili Taylor! I’d forgotten about Lili Taylor). Sandra Bernhard gives a great performance as an equally demented fan in an uneasy alliance with Pupkin; she’s utterly naturalistic, self-possessed, and rangy, jackal-like in the way that people call Julia Roberts coltish. And who should show up to taunt her as she chases Jerry through the streets?
You got it — that’s The Clash and Ellen Foley.
The Man Who Knew Too Little — somehow I missed that when the AV Club calls a movie “the kind of featherweight time-waster easy to watch on Comedy Central out of boredom and apathy,” that’s not a strong recommendation. This turns out to be a good movie to watch with someone recovering from abdominal surgery, because the jokes are clever, the laughs non-belly. I wonder if this affable spy comedy, made before Bill Murray’s sadness and wisdom had completely taken over his face, wasn’t smothered in its cradle by the Austin Powers movies, the first of which premiered six months before this one. The Man Who Knew Too Little is clever instead of brash; it pokes gentle fun at its milieu and theme, instead of soaking the premise sopping wet and wringing it utterly dry.
What did you see? What did you think?
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