Every once in awhile a reviewer runs across one of those movies that really won’t let you do your job without becoming one of those people moviegoers love to hate: the schmuck who has already seen it, and wants to tell you all the good parts while you’re waiting in line with him at the theater.
“November,” starting this week at Market Street Cinema, is a film kind of like that. A sort of puzzle box of emotion and mystery that I really can’t tell you a lot about without ruining some of its big moments.
I can tell you how it begins. In what seems to be one of those urban nightmare stories you hear about on the news, Sophie (Courteney Cox) and her boyfriend Hugh (James Le Gros) are on the way home after a night out when she asks him to dash into a convenience store and buy her a chocolate bar. Parked outside at the curb, she doesn’t see the twitchy young kid go in soon after Hugh. In the next few minutes, the kid’s robbery plot goes bad, and before it’s over, three men, including Hugh, are dead.
While you think you know how it’s all going to play out at that point — devastated woman deals with senseless tragedy — “November” soon takes a turn into the spook house. At the photography class she teaches, Sophie is clicking through a number of slides when she comes across one that shouldn’t be there: a single snapshot of the store where her boyfriend was killed. Her car can be seen idling at the curb, and through the window of the store, she can almost make out Hugh’s face.
While that’s about all I can safely say before I venture into spoiler territory, I will add that this is a film that’s worth watching, if only for its surreal, hauntingly beautiful style. Often shot through blue filters and in hazy light, it makes for a creepy experience, even before Hugh makes his fateful trip into the store and the mystery slide shows up. While the story eventually spins into some confusing and often frustrating corners, there is such a thing as a movie that’s watchable just for the visual beauty of it. This might be one of those.
Also impressive, if you can believe it, was the performance of Courteney Cox. Though Cox — even in her “Friends” days — struck me as something of a lightweight as an actor, here she works well as the confused Sophie. Perhaps it’s the sign of better things to come for Cox.
In all, while the unorthodox plot of “November” may turn some viewers off, it helps if you view it as a kind of cinematic experiment. Tight as a bowstring at a little more than 70 minutes long, with an interesting spin on the tried-and-true “grieving woman” plot and a strange, otherworldly visual style, it hooked me at the start, and didn’t let go.
— By David Koon
Pretty !@#% funny!
Stop me if you’ve heard this one…
On second thought, don’t stop me.
Everybody has heard some version of the world’s dirtiest joke: “The Aristocrats.” A sort of inside joke for professional jokers, it’s been around since the days of vaudeville. For comedians — as seen in the hilarious, vile and disgusting new documentary of the same name, which picks 100 of the greatest brains in comedy for their version — being able to tell it well is the equivalent of a Merchant Marine getting a tattoo from the Philippines: equal parts rite of passage and badge of honor.
For those of you who haven’t heard it, here’s the clean, clean version: A guy walks into a theater talent scout’s office and says, “Have I got an act for you: Me, my wife, our two kids, and our dog come out on stage. As the band plays ‘My Funny Valentine’ we take off all our clothes and proceed to [expletive], [expletive] and [expletive] each other, [expletiving] and [expletiving] all over one another’s faces, at which point my daughter [expletives] the dog while blowing a kazoo with her [expletive]!” “Jesus!” says the talent scout, “That’s horrible! What do you call the act?” “The Aristocrats!” the man says.
Okay, maybe you had to be there. As pointed out in the documentary, “The Aristocrats” is kind of an anti-joke; top-heavy, with a punch line that hits most people like a soggy sponge. Still, it’s not until you see some of the masters tell it — each one trying to one-up the others in the degree of filth and depravity (the filthiest and most depraved version of all coming from, if you can believe it, “Full House” star Bob Saget) — that you understand why it’s so popular with comedians. In the end, it’s sort of the joke they wish they could tell to an audience, if they were working some alternate-reality room where no one had a political, sexual or racial chip on their shoulder.
That bottling up of emotion and inspiration results in a kind of perfect storm when comedians set out to tell their backstage, comics-only version of “The Aristocrats” — touching on all the things that would get you not only booed off stage, but probably questioned by the police.
Through that lens, the documentary “The Aristocrats” slowly becomes more that just repeated telling of the same dirty joke. Without even trying, it turns into a kind of extended riff on political correctness, prudishness, sexism, what the intellectual market will bear and why laughter can be the best medicine — this last seen most vividly during the crowning moment of the doc: the New York Friar’s Club roast three weeks after 9/11, when Gilbert Gottfried’s horrendously filthy version of “The Aristocrats” brought a pins-and-needles crowd to gales of healing laughter.
Make no mistake: There’s a reason why “The Aristocrats” is a back-room joke. It can include anything the comic’s devious little mind can think of, including rape, sodomy, bestiality, pedophilia, racism, incest, blood, urine, feces and vomit, just to mention a few. If you’re easily offended, stay far, far away from this movie. If, however, you want to see the funniest film of the year, bar none, run to see it. Your funny bone will thank you.
— By David Koon
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