Sunday, December 10, 2006

El Maquinista

I was wondering why "The Machinist" came up with a Spanish name! The film was produced in Spain. It was filmed in Barcelona, which gave it an interesting not-quite-real look. Not that Barcelona doesn't exist, but that the look of nearly everything is just different enough to smack of the unreal.

The film is brilliant (in the English, er, British sense of brilliant). I was scared, thrilled, moved. Christian Bale looks as though he is starving to death, mostly because he was method acting and actually starving himself. I feel torn about this, because it's obviously not healthy and I hate to say "wow, that's amazing", but wow, he looks so awful. It's amazing, and awful.

To me the film is somewhat indefinable - the other films I'd liken it to are "Jacob's Ladder", "The Jacket", and "Memento". What they have in common are tortured (white male) leads, questions of what is real and what is not, and creepy shit happening. All four films are good and rec'd.

"The Machinist" is notable for the locations and sets. Again that Barcelona-isn't-California thing works in the film's favour. The shop where the titular character works is wonderful and archaic and frightening, the nightmare amusement park ride is really superbly done and scary, and the bit in the underground is wonderful too.

The acting is good across the board (okay, one exception: Ivan. Overacted, and my guess is that it's likely the actor is British [isn't Bale? during one scene I heard something that wasn't an American accent] and it's more the not great American accent I was reacting negatively to, not the acting), Jennifer Jason Leigh has a turn as a hooker with a heart of gold, which really fits here, as cliched as it is.

The music is interesting - I just watched "Spellbound" for class and it has that classic Hollywood music, dramatic and intense. The score for "The Machinist" is also full of swelling violins which are almost too much - they added to my discomfort during the frightening scenes and at one point near the end they pulled on my heartstrings a bit. Apparently the screenwriter hoped for Nine Inch Nails to do the soundtrack. Had the film been financed/produced in the states it may well have, but it would have been somewhat of a different movie. I think the choice of music was spot on. This is a timeless and classic piece of film (cliches and imperfect accents aside).

A bit frightening, a lot creepy and a mite bloody, I look forward to watching it again. Preferably not alone next time. It gave me the shivers!


Celery said...

I enjoy fitting the Machinist into the classification of a classic Hitchcock movie- suspense all the way!

Wing said...

This is one I've been meaning to watch. You've just convinced me to hunt it down tomorrow. Looking forward to it.