Thursday, September 9, 2010

Life During Wartime

BEST OF 2010

Todd Solondz has experienced quite the career. His debut film, Welcome to the Dollhouse, was an indie hit. It came to fame during the rise of the art house film. The story was disturbing, over the top, dark, and somehow relatable. Soldonz started here with the creation of his world.

His second feature, Happiness, is my favorite Solondz film. Happiness is more disturbing, darker, funnier, and more cruel than Solondz's first film. I wouldn't have imagined such a film. In this film, Solondz touches on the most perverse side of humanity. The sex is kinky, illegal, dirty, depressing, and dangerous. Solondz even manages a unique portrait of a pedophile.

Solondz fell to the side with the next two releases, Storytelling and Palindromes. Both films suffer from a need to be different and preachy. Solondz is trying too hard. But, at the end of Palindromes, Solondz reintroduces us to a member of the Welcome to the Dollhouse family. This is where Solondz begins to fold his worlds into one.

On Solondz most recent release, Life During Wartime, he has created a sequel to Happiness. The film takes place 10 years later. And, true to Solondz form, not a single actor returns from Happiness. Solondz has recast the entire film, but is using the same characters. This is a bold and wise choice. This keeps the entire experience fresh. Like watching a brand new film, but feeling oddly comfortable with this "new" cast of characters.

Also, Solondz uses two characters from Welcome to the Dollhouse. The audience is never fully made aware the two characters are the father and son from the first film, but the names match. The backgrounds match. Solondz is completely in his own world. And, this was the best thing he could have done.

Life During Wartime is Solondz most incredible film. The images are beautifully shot. The cinematography is perfect. All the sloppiness and art house awkwardness of the earlier films are all gone. Solondz is working to make a true film. A fully formed idea, concept, and plot. This is the film Solondz entire career has been building up for.

The movie is dark. But, dark in a black comedy kind of way. I found myself laughing out loud through a handful of parts. The film is awkward. The dialogue is unique. The relationships are strained. But, this is the point. Solondz is showing how we function on a day to day basis. The ghosts of our pasts- lovers, family, friends.

I can not have imagined a more perfect film. Truly beautiful, smart, and original.


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