September 21, 2007

Review: A Man Like Me

Dr. X posts this from that quiet part of the human soul that still believes in the possibility of love:

"The package finally arrived today. After three years of blind alleys, and not-quite-complete cash wire transfers to Reykjavik, I finally obtained a DVD of the seminal Icelandic comedy, A Man Like Me. I had expected major compatibility problems with a Euro DVD, but it turns out the wife's new Hewlett-Packard laptop can play it with no trouble.

"My particular interest in A Man Like Me is threefold.

"First, Iceland is to Alaska as Bakersfield is to Tijuana. It is very similar to our homeland, but, one imagines, our homeland might do a little better if it tried to be a little more Icelandic. We are the wild, dumb, kid. Iceland has already produced a Nobel Prize-winner in literature. And, like its literary scene, the Icelandic film industry has quietly become a small but respected creative contributor to global culture.

"Second, A Man Like Me is an example of a new kind of movie, one which imports stars from other contexts, and, by transposing - or should I say transplanting - them, challenges the presuppositions of their home markets while creating interesting opportunities for creative ferment by making their old skills new for a new audience. In this case the cultural interloper is Chinese - the Estimable Stephanie Che Yuen-Yuen, who performed so brilliantly in the evergreen Hong Kong TV hit The Virtues of Harmony. We have praised her in this space before, so there is no need to belabor the point that she is a skilled, attractive, thoughtful, sensitive, and nuanced interpreter of roles that in lesser hands melt like snowflakes into thin air. Never the star, she nonetheless always brings a strong presence to supporting roles, particularly those, for some reason, which feature her as a designing person intent upon killing someone. That said, she is very capable in other roles, from ingenue to femme fatale, and everything in between. Nothing is lacking in her performances, and her addition to this cast must be seen as a complete coup.

"Third, the movie addresses some fundamental questions about masculinity in a way that certainly speaks to me, and, I suspect to others in our group. The protagonist, capably played by Icelandic comic institution Jón Gnarr, is a ne'er-do-well who finds himself in sort of a slacker mid-life crisis, prompted by an encounter with the Estimable Stephanie Che Yuen-Yuen, and catalyzed by a work of collaborative analysis with his friends culminating in the decision rule: 'what would Sylvester Stallone do?'

"Although predictably spotty in some areas of finish and production, and not the type of film that overwhelms moderate expectations, it nonetheless is a very worthwhile effort, and one everyone who reads this blog should see. You can order it direct over the Internet here. Don't worry, they'll handle the Dollar-Króna thing for you.

"I will post some additional thoughts after I have watched the movie."

[UPDATE: It's actually quite good. A bit sentimental and perhaps it has a bit too much in the middle, but, hey, don't we all.]

[UPDATE UPDATE: Transposed, not transplanted. The word I wanted there was transposed. Or maybe transpositioned? Transubstantiated is too grand and promises too much. What I'm after is that connotation of alchemical reaction from the introduction albeit transient of a potent but unstable new catalyst that transforms the familiar into something rich and strange...I guess trans is the wrong prefix...too mechanistic...let me get back to you on that...]


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