Saturday, October 01, 2011



Roman Polanski directing CARNAGE
New York Film Festival 2011


These comments on CARNAGE contain


CARNAGE is a kind of downbeat, sometimes interesting film, that goes nowhere, while being both funny and kind of unpleasant.

It might seem a somewhat strange choice to Open the New York Film Festival 2011 (except that it features a quartet of brilliant actors, directed by Roman Polanski, from a well-regarded play, God of Carnage, by Yasmina Reza).

Well, perhaps it's not so strange or downbeat a choice in a year in which there are already at least two films on the End of Life on Earth in the Festival. Although there's some (social) carnage in CARNAGE; it's quite amusing and bloodless. Compared to MELANCHOLIA and 4:44 LAST DAY ON EARTH, I guess it's actually quite a cheerful way to start off the Festival.

It was made by Roman Polanski, originally from a play by Yasmina Reza. (She wrote ART, which was a kind of semi-entertaining somewhat stagy play about some people who discuss the merits of an all-white piece of art -- is it art?)

CARNAGE takes place in Brooklyn, but Polanski (with outstanding legal problems in the US) is not going to film in New York City any time soon, so it was actually filmed in Paris.

The film starts off with a long shot of kids playing in a field in Brooklyn. One kid swings a stick at another and injures him badly in the face. (It looked to me like he actually missed by a mile, but everyone on the field acts like he got hurt a little -- the parents of the kid act, later, like he was hurt a lot.)

The film then moves to an apartment where two couples are meeting. It turns out that John C. Reilly and Jodie Foster are the parents of the boy that was hurt, and Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz are the parents of the injuring kid. They begin to talk about the kids' "fight" and about how civilized they are that they are meeting to talk about it together. It all seems very artificial: not just artificial because the people don't really mean a word they say, but because they seem to be stage ACTING like people who don't believe a word of what they say. It is all very stagy at the beginning. 

Soon Christoph Waltz -- whose character is a lawyer -- starts getting and making cell phone calls about a client who has some major problem with drug products that are really bad for people, just before a major stockholders meeting. Lots of phone calls. It becomes an irritation to the characters and a joke to the audience.

Then people start talking the way they "really" feel. The couples fight with each other, and in each couple the women and men fight with each other -- and the film gets quite lively and funny.

Jodie Foster, John C. O'Reilly, Christoph Waltz, Kate Winslet
Roman Polanski's CARNAGE
Photo by Guy Ferrandis
Courtesy of Sony Pictures
New York Film Festival 2011

Then, for no particular reason, the film kind of stops. It doesn't come to an end so much as, simply, stops.

In the final scene, the kids are all playing together. And a hamster (that was let loose earlier in the day by John C. Reilly's character -- to the horror of both women when they hear about it -- accusing him of murder (sic) ) seems a bit bewildered by his (her?) freedom but seems otherwise just fine.

The women, I think come off rather badly. The men, especially, Christoph Waltz would seem to be doing better, except that, of course, he is completely immersed in the business of protecting his client from the consequences of some really bad stuff.

This film is fun, I think, if (and only if?) you enjoy the humor when clever, sophisticated, unpleasant, dishonest people -- who think they are clever, sophisticated, and nice -- get "exposed" as the clever, unsophisticated, unpleasant, dishonest people they really are.

Here is a link to more information about the New York Film Festival:

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