Thursday, January 17, 2013

Film Review: A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III

I don't want to say that Roman Coppola should leave the filmmaking to his father and sister, but after sitting through - not watching, mind you, but sitting through - the godawful train wreck that is A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, that thought did indeed cross my mind.  Now, I did enjoy Coppola's first, and so far only other, directed film - 2001's CQ.  Sure, it was not a great work of art or anything, but it was cute and quirky, and made me feel like a daffodil.  This one though?  This one is just about as awful as one can get.  Just two weeks into the new year, and already a viable candidate for inclusion on my worst of the year list.  In fact, I would almost guarantee this film's inclusion on said list.  Otherwise there may not be a list at all, because if I end up seeing - or sitting through - more than nine other films worse than this one, I may just end up blowing my brains out before year's end.

With Charles Swan, Coppola is attempting to make his own 8 1/2, but the only problem is that when Fellini created his introspective masterpiece, and, for that matter, when Woody Allen was making Stardust Memories, his homage to 8 1/2, the directors were both in transitional periods.  Fellini was being criticized for his departure from neo-realism, while Allen kept getting told that he should go back to his slapstick comedy days.  Both of these directors were aching to become something more in their work, and with these films (granted, Woody had Annie Hall and Manhattan at the same time as well), they did just that.  As far as I know, Coppola is in no sort of transitional period.  Hell, what does he have to transition from in the first place?  But still, here he is with a film that so wants to be Fellini, that it almost hurts.  No, make that, definitely hurts.  At least it hurt me to watch the damn thing.  Sure, there are some nice shots herein - he inherited something after all - but the film never stands up to the promise of either his heritage or his first film.  Coppola may want to be Fellini - his first film was Felliniesque as well, but done in a less obnoxious way - but he has yet to back up such a desire, with the work that would prove it.

Hell, even if Coppola were only being all tongue-in-cheekiness with his Fellini obsession - and one must assume that he must be - this film fails on all levels as well.  The premise of having Charlie Sheen playing a self-absorbed, womanizing prick (a metaphorical descendent of Proust's more genial womanizer, perhaps), and surrounding him with buddy Wes Anderson's stalwarts Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray, makes for a lovely, even quite bubbly, postmodern idea for a movie.  Taking stabs at movies and media, and finally breaking the fourth wall that was never truly there in the first place (this film ends eerily similar to the aforementioned 8 1/2), are all good too.  I think this is why I was more than just averagely offended by this film.  The fact that the premise and promise had me thinking that, despite the obvious obstacles, this could be a fun movie - a deconstruction of a man's mind, which takes us back to another Woody Allen film, the appropriately titled Deconstructing Harry.  But alas, this was not to be.  Well, at least Coppola has his recently announced Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay (nominated, along with Wes Anderson, for Moonrise Kingdom) to keep him warm at night.  I wonder when Sofia's new movie is coming out.

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