Saturday, July 24, 2010

Monkeys Monkeys Monkeys

La Jetée, a French short about nuclear devastation, time travel, and doomed love as told through voiceover and still photos, is one of the most piercingly beautiful movies ever made. Twelve Monkeys, Terry Gilliam's feverish full-length remake, is not. But it's still Gilliam, who really should've been the one to adapt Dune, and so Monkeys stands head and shoulders above the rest of the 3 A.M. dorm-room pantheon.

Like Gilliam's alarmingly faithful adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Twelve Monkeys is a definitive cult classic. It's batshit insane, even borderline unwatchable at times, but it's utterly distinctive and strangely compelling. The camera collides with spastic architecture at near-impossible angles, while bloodstains and spraypaint compete to define the color red against a weirdly gray world. The narrative, such as it is, quickly implodes into a gloriously Byzantine series of tunnels, through which Brad Pitt frantically gnaws like a lazy-eyed termite with Tourette's. If Twelve Monkeys is about anything, it's the personal and collective insanity wrought (upon the characters and the audience, respectively) by delirious cinematic tricks like time travel. The nods to Vertigo, another film gripped by the same psychoses that torment its characters, are well earned. The loop-closing confrontation at the airport makes for an oddly moving finale, in spite of/because of Bruce Willis' wig.

Afterward, you will feel bloated and slightly buzzed, as though you've recently devoured a heaping plateful of greasy food and are not quite halfway to regretting it. I wholeheartedly recommend.

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