Thursday, March 29, 2007

Breaking and Entering (Anthony MInghella, 2006)

Breaking and Entering (Anthony Minghella, 2006)


I haven't liked an Anthony Minghella film in goodness knows how long. I agreed when critics dubbed "Truly, Madly, Deeply" (1991) as a far more intelligent alternative to "Ghost" (faint praise, considering, but there it is); I thought his "The English Patient" some five years later was one of the more passionate and less undeserving films to have won a Best Picture Oscar recently (let me put it this way--it actually seemed too good to win one of those golden doorstops). "The Talented Mr. Ripley" (1999) was stylish and amusing, only Matt Damon made for an unengaging Ripley, easily upstaged by the charming Jude Law; his "Cold Mountain" (2003) scraped bottom for me--Jude Law, so enjoyable in "Ripley," was lifeless in this, a Civil War drama set in a North Carolina that somehow manages not to look anything like the actual Carolinas (much of it was shot in Romania).

There's plenty to dislike in "Breaking and Entering," starting with the title--it's both literal (a gang of young thieves break into an architectural office) and metaphorical (people breaking into other people's lives, stealing a measure of comfort or pleasure, taking some kind of advantage from them). It's just the kind of sophisticated arthouse thesis viewers like to discuss over lattes afterwards (come to think of it, Minghella's always been the kind of refined filmmaker arthouse viewers love to patronize). The film is too civilized--it raises troubling questions, treats them with kid gloves, and at the ninety-minute mark wraps them all up in a neat and tidy package--well, not too neat and tidy; Minghella even adds frayed edges Martha-Stewart style to give the whole thing a comforting rustic feel.


Paul Martin said...
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Paul Martin said...
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Paul Martin said...

I can't argue with anything you've said. Truly Madly Deeply is the only Minghella film I've liked, and remains (along with Like Water For Chocolate and Amelie) one of my favourite romantic comedies.

I found Breaking and Entering to be contrived and seemed insincere in its tackling of social issues. Much like Haggis' Crash. Both try too hard to be too profound.

By chance, I saw Breaking and Entering on my birthday, and the three people accompanying me all loved it while I couldn't wait for it to end. It takes itself way too seriously.

I recently saw Kieslowski's Three Colours: Blue (1993) and thought that I haven't seen Binoche improve on that wonderful performance. All the main characters (including Binoche, and especially Jude Law) seemed too self-conscious. I couldn't emotionally buy into their characters, but rather saw only the actors performing their roles.

The English Patient was a landmark film for me. After it won all those Oscars, I thought I better go see it. It bored me shitless, and I became aware of the grand panoramic, world-sweeping, tragic epic formula that some films follow to try to win an Oscar. It was at this point that I became aware that those awards largely celebrate and reward mediocrity.

Noel Vera said...

I like em, can't say they're great romantic comedies, but I like em.

I think we're more or less agreed, but coming from different directions. You seem to pretty much have pegged Minghella at a certain altitude, nothing more, while I'm looking at where he stands and arguing for why I feel more affection for him than he deserves.

I'd go so far as to say B & E could be called Renoirlike (?!) only without the precision of Renoir's observational powers, and the spine-tingling sense that one is, as he once put it, dancing on a volcano. Certainly the humanity and big-heartedness is there (ain't often that I feel anything for humanity and big-heartedness, which is puzzling why I feel for it on Minghella's account).

Paul Martin said...

I don't know if I've pegged Minghella. It was only recently that I became aware of his body of work, and recognised that I was dissatisfied with every film he's made other than his first, without knowing at the time of each screening that I was watching a film by the director of Truly Madly Deeply.

Generally, I find his stories too much like an airport novel: too formulaic, and seemingly tackle 'the big issues' but without sincerity, too melodramatic, and ultimately I come away with an empty feeling. His films seem emotionally empty, even if they're depicting much emotion. Maybe it's verisimilitude - I just can't buy into them.

I'm not a big fan of the genre of romantic comedy but the three I mentioned each had aspects that appealed to me: Truly Madly Deeply depicted one of the best renditions of grief I have seen in a film; Like Water For Chocolate was unconventional, intelligent, sexy and funny; Amelie was quirky and original, with soul (and I saw it long before the hype).

Noel Vera said...

I like melodrama, but you have to be shameless to do it properly, on its own terms. Minghella's got too much good taste.