Art House Attractions: 2046 intoxicates while JUNEBUG should be squashed

Filmgoers often retreat into the art houses during the summer as a relief from all the big budget Hollywood empty-headed bombast. But I find that so-called small pictures can be just as big a gamble. So with THE DUKES OF HAZZARD entering the megaplex, I rolled the dice on a couple of new art house releases.

2046 is the latest slice of cinematic pie from the singular vision of Wong Kar Wai, one of those directors who you can look at a shot from any of his movies and know that he's the creator. He's very specific about camera, lighting, set and costume design, using these elements to wrap his very human dramas in very heightened surroundings. His most common subject is love, particularly love that fails. In a sense, 2046 is his Magnum Opus.

In 2046, Tony Leung plays a man broken up by failed love. He engages in a series of relationships, often with similarly wounded women. These entanglements have an emotionally cumulative effect, creating a complex portrait of how love makes us sad. (A brilliant line refers to memories as "the trails left behind by tears.")

However it may sound, this is not a depressing picture, but an intellectually engaging one. Admittedly not for everyone, 2046 is drenched in romanticism, but you observe the characters more than you feel their pain. That doesn't mean the film is emotionally cold. The performances are all superb and you may recognize a bit of yourself in their actions. I recommend 2046 to anyone who enjoyed EYES WIDE SHUT. Afterwards you want to sit down at a restaurant, and discuss the film's layers and meanings. It will stick with you for a long time.

JUNEBUG you want to forget you saw as soon as possible. The story is thin, with barely sketched characters involved in unbelievable relationships, and it's all padded out with an incredible amount of dead space. Scenes often begin on empty rooms, with characters entering after a count of four. When the scene ends, we watch everyone walk away.

I keep coming back to this ridiculous moment in the middle. The characters drive off, leaving someone behind. They drive past a neighbor (who we've never seen before). Our lead looks to the neighbor. The neighbor looks back...waves. The lead waves back, turns and walks all the way back inside the house. At this point the scene is already past where it should be over. But instead, the film then cuts to the neighbor who also turns and we watch as SHE walks all the way back inside the house. And I sit there screaming on the inside. (My friend joked Jim Jarmusch would complain that JUNEBUG was slow paced.)

The one saving grace, the sole point of interest, is the justifiably acclaimed performance by Amy Adams. She's great, with a sunny disposition that cuts through most of the tedium of this DOA art film. I mean, Scott Wilson is in it. He's Cutshaw the Astronaut, and he's just wasted. His big scene is the 3 minute nail biter when he turns off the light above his work bench, walks upstairs, and gets into bed.

If you really want to see a movie that made me nostalgic for THE ISLAND, wait for DVD. That way you can just fast forward through and stopping on Amy's scenes.


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