Eastern promises (2007)

“Eastern promises” (2007)


one kiss too long, one eye less

*** This comment may contain spoilers ***

One has to separate what has been done here, with how it has been done. For what i’ve seen, Cronenberg is always competent enough to deliver pieces which are well crafted, but lately he’s been unable to feed may visual mind. I suspect that is part intellectual laziness (age showing up?) and the comfort of relying on formulas.

I see myself as a rookie in the world of visual grammar and narrative construction, more eager to learn, than experienced to comment. And so i use commenting on films as a way to state what i’ve understood every two hours of film i get to see, and thus try and learn more. Cronenberg has already injected some colour into my personal film world sometimes, but here i think he fails. That is because he is so attached to cinematic convention now, to high budget production and the huge masses distribution, that he stopped considering the possibilities of the medium, he stopped (for now, at least) wondering about what he can do gather image and narrative in original ways. This is basically the reason why, despite this is a well crafted piece, with competent performers involved, it didn’t work that well for me.

We have a specific world underlined here, that of the Russian immigration (and its mafia). That world is perfectly defined in its limits and its rules, and it is inserted into another world which we probably know better, that of London. London is not so definitely assumed, we have no predetermined establishing shots, no British cliché, so we can place a different city in our imagination if we don’t know London that well, or we don’t know it at all. So far, so Cronenberg. He does this kind of “world within a world” very often. But he usually drifts between worlds, of imagination and reality, of cultural differences, etc. Not here. After this set up, we get a story, opera like, linear straight story, and the whole thing sticks to the thin interest of knowing what Mortensen’s character is really up to, and what will happen to Naomi Watts and her family. No big cinematic intensity or angle, we “just” have a competent photography, editing and performances (we get a danish descendant, a french, a German and an Australian all performing Russian or Russian descendant!).

Two specific scenes were the bottom line and the confirmation that i was not watching a film by the director of Crash and ExistenZ, but minor work of someone who knows the job, but doesn’t really want to go deeper into being imaginative anymore: the scenes i’m talking about are the pact between Cronenberg and Hollywood: we get the unnecessary, lush and useless kiss between Watts and Mortensen, and we get an eye being ripped off in the sauna as Mortensen moves for survival, in a time when the eye owner seemed already dead and revives in the way of bad horror movies, to frighten the audience and extend the action.

My opinion: 3/5 this is well put together, but there’s not great cinematic content into it.

This comment on IMDb


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