Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Song of the day

"10538 Overture", by The Electric Light Orchestra.

So I went to see "American Hustle", the new film by David O. Russell. You have probably seen it already, or heard so much about it that you may feel you don't even need to. (You should override such feelings. You do need to.) It's easy, when watching a movie that flows along so effortlessly, to overlook the effort that is actually involved. To convincingly recreate an entire world, to make characters that are sufficiently real that you care about them, and their all-too-human weaknesses/unpredictability/inconsistencies, to construct a story that, even though it is close enough to a true story that we probably know how it ends up, nevertheless has us sitting on the edge of our seats for two-and-a-quarter hours, well, I was in awe from the very first shot. How did he do that?

I'm no film critic. But I do like to slot things into little boxes. And this one, I would process as follows: it's like a mashup between Martin Scorsese's mobsters and David Mamet's con artists. In fact, I found myself thinking one thing more than any other throughout the film: that we don't really need Scorsese any more. This film is like his greatest movies, let's say "Goodfellas", "Raging Bull", maybe "Casino", but without the Joe Pesci character, so that those of us of squeamish dispositions don't have to spend much of the film either gripping the arms of our chairs or peeking through our fingers as somebody, y'know, gets their head stuck in a vice or their eyes poked out by a sharp pencil. (Purists may thus say the film doesn't go far enough, but they still have the Man Himself.)

The other thing Scorsesean about this movie is its use of music. (See also Jonathan Demme's "Married to the Mob".) Okay, mining the seventies you could hardly go wrong, but nevertheless you probably could. They don't. (There should be an Oscar category for Best Use of "I Feel Love" in a Motion Picture. This film is a shoe-in.) Case in point: "10538 Overture" (not, as my retarded brain insists on typing, "90210 Overture"), which appears just when you needed it to, even though you didn't realise that you needed it to.