Carnage reviews

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Re: Carnage reviews

Postby Okri » Mon May 07, 2012 10:21 pm

Tee, I suspect you'd like Art a lot more than God of Carnage, the 97/98 season was far more interesting for plays the the 2008/09 season (imo)

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Re: Carnage reviews

Postby Big Magilla » Sat May 05, 2012 3:22 am

I had this to say in my March 27th DVD review:

Roman Polanski’s film of the Broadway play, God of Carnage is a huge disappointment. At one hour and nineteen minutes long, it may have lost more in the transition than the first two words of its title. Now simply called Carnage, it should be called Catastrophe, for that’s what it is, a shrill so-called comedy about four unbearably pretentious bores played by four actors who should know better, having twelve Oscar nominations and four Oscars between them.
Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly are the parents of an 11 year-old who was beaten up by Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz’s son. The film, which makes no effort to hide its stage origins, takes place entirely in the Foster-Reilley apartment except for opening and closing shots of the two boys. Veteran actress Julie Adams gets a screen credit as Waltz’s dialect coach.
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Re: Carnage reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Fri May 04, 2012 8:56 pm

I saw God of Carnage on stage with the original cast, and found it a far superior experience to the movie, which I barely thought even rated discussion when I saw it last winter. Which isn't to say that Mister Tee wouldn't have found the same problems with the original material -- it IS very insular and not the deepest of plays. But I would argue that certain things about the stage production made it far more noteworthy than the film.

For starters, I think the play was claustrophobic in a good way, whereas the film was similarly boxed-in to ruinous effect. When watching this story unfold on stage, I FELT trapped in that room with those characters, and I absolutely related to the feeling that Jeff Daniels & Hope Davis (Waltz & Winslet in the film) couldn't leave, that all four characters were trapped in this situation. Also, seeing the film made me value the original production's direction more -- the way the characters were staged, and the proximity of one to another, and how that changed throughout the course of the production, brought out more meaning in the material. In contrast, Polanski's film just seems unimaginatively staged and shot -- a series of close-ups that convey very little about the shifting relationships between these characters. Plus, I never got the sense that Waltz & Winslet were trapped in that apartment, and the way the film allowed them to be so close to leaving -- practically in the elevator -- undercut the effectiveness of the story. In the film, I just didn't buy that they wouldn't just get the hell out of there.

And it's hard to put my finger on why, but, watching the play unfold, being there, in that space that the actors inhabited, the force of the characters' actions exploded with far more intensity than in the more subdued film version. When Hope Davis vomited onstage, that moment was shocking -- on film, it barely landed. Similarly, when those flowers got thrown around the room, it was the climax of a truly emotionally draining experience -- in the film, Winslet just seemed to pick them up and dump them.

The play was also FAR funnier, and this was mostly due to the cast. I've been a fan of Jodie Foster in the past, but what she excels at -- headstrong characters with intense dramatic focus -- wasn't exactly what this part required. On stage, I found Marcia Gay Harden hilarious; Foster, much as I like her, wouldn't be my first choice when I needed hilarious. Similarly, James Gandolfini sold his character far better -- who would you believe was the leader of a gang as a kid, Gandolfini, or "Mr. Cellophane" John C. Reilly? And while I agree that Winslet and Waltz fared better of the film's cast, neither of them suggest the New York bourgeoisie types so perfectly embodied by Davis and Daniels in the original production.

None of this is to suggest that I adored the play on stage -- even that season, I found Moises Kaufman's 33 Variations far more thematically complex, visually compelling, and dramatically resonant. But I think what God of Carnage does do well worked far better in its original format than in this totally unecessary movie version.

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Re: Carnage reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Fri May 04, 2012 8:16 pm

Plot descriptions of Yasmine Reza's two Broadway hits, Art and God of Carnage, made them sound a bit thin and self-contained for my taste, so I skipped them. If the film version of Carnage is any indication, I made the right call.

Carnage, for me, has no relation to human experience at all. It offers a gloss on hot-button issues of the day, but only uses them as pretext for its characters to have at one another in utterly predictable and uninteresting ways. It's like Pinter in that way -- existing primarily for its own inner dyanmic -- but without the verbal uniqueness that makes Pinter distinctive. The characterizations, shallow as they are, don't even feel consistent: John C. Reilly transitions from amiable/let's all get along to screw it/every man for himself in this world with barely a beat of explanation. It's possible an actor of James Gandolfini's talent made this work onstage, but Reilly seems adrift. And his performance looks a model of clarity next to the brittle cluelessness of Jodie Foster's portrayal. I've made it clear in the historical threads that I find Foster (no doubt a likable human being) a wildly over-rated actress. The fact that she's received some praise for this ghastly, lost-at-sea work tells him she's snowed the critics for a lifetime. Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz come off much better -- they're believable at what they do. But the whole thing comes to nothing. It's hard to believe this was viewed as the major work of a Broadway sseaon.

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Re: Carnage reviews

Postby Sabin » Tue Sep 27, 2011 6:34 pm

Jeffrey Welles raves about Carnage.

I've just come out of a 3:30 press screening of Roman Polanski's wickedly hilarious Carnage, and on top of all the cackling and chortling and guffawing I was delighted to discover that The Playlist's Oliver Lyttleton was dead wrong when he wrote from the Venice Film Festival that there's "almost nothing to enable the identification of [this] movie as a Polanski picture." What horseshit!

Carnage felt to me as much a part of Polanski's realm as The Pianist or Repulsion or Tess or Cul de Sac or The Ghostwriter. I felt relaxed and soothed and charmed because i knew whose world I was in right away, no question, and I felt double pleasured with all the condemnations from the HE pitchforkers ringing in my head from this morning's discussion.

True, it's basically just a capturing of Yasmina Reza's one-set, four-character play, but every shot, every cut and every line tells you that someone highly intelligent directed this puppy. This is not just a film about bile and self-loathing and lacerating words and puke. It's about razor-sharp precision.

Carnage is wonderfully tight and concise, acted to perfection by Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Christoph Waltz (finally in a really good post-Inglourious Basterds film, and playing a funnier, more interesting character than Col. Hans Landa!) and Kate Winslet, beautifully timed and cut (congrats to Herve de Luze), exquisitely framed within a widescreen aspect ratio...and no jiggly hand-held shots! Everything shot is captured from a tripod or a super-smooth steadycam.

Oh, and there's a very cool cameo appearance that you need to look out for. I didn't spot it myself, but MSN's Glenn Kenny did.

Carnage (which was called God of Carnage on-stage) is about two married New York couples meeting to discuss a violent altercation between their respective sons. The conversation starts out politely, correctly, considerately and then, gradually and almost imperceptibly at first, relations start to decline. Then they degrade and degenerate, and before you know it we're into bitter, adolescent, at times close-to-submental rage. Which leads to alcohol, incredible ferocity, despair and self-disgust.
You may go in knowing what's to come, but the anger and disdain and guttural rage that gradually push through are snarlier and more manic than you might expect. And if you have any rot or mildew or serpents or hamsters festering inside, a piece as well done as this is pure pleasure.

The basic idea is that beasts and bile lie within everyone, ready to pounce and lash out, and it doesn't take much to prod the shit into the open, especially with a quart of top-grade, single-malt scotch at the ready.

Like the play, Polanski's film runs only about 85 minutes. But what a great alcoholic, vomitous duke-out! What a battle! Everyone is mad and sweating and drained by the end. No one has anything left. And then the kids get together and patch things up and life goes on. And it's over in less than 90 minutes. This is my idea of a good time and a great popcorn movie...cheers!
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Re: Carnage reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Thu Sep 01, 2011 2:02 pm

Hollywood Reporter, also on the upper side.

Carnage: Venice Film Review
8:50 AM PDT 9/1/2011 by Todd McCarthy
Bottom Line
Roman Polanski's mastery of films within small spaces is evident in his adaptation of the Yasmina Reza play.

Roman Polanski has often been at his best in close quarters -- the small yacht of Knife in the Water, the Warsaw ghetto of The Pianist, the house in The Ghost Writer, the apartments in Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby and The Tenant -- so it should be no surprise that he's right at home examining the venality of the human condition in the living room of the Brooklyn apartment that serves as the setting for Carnage. Snappy, nasty, deftly acted and perhaps the fastest paced film ever directed by a 78-year-old, this adaptation of Yasmina Reza's award-winning play God of Carnage fully delivers the laughs and savagery of the stage piece while entirely convincing as having been shot in New York, even though it was filmed in Paris for well-known reasons.

Following its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival and North American bow as the opening night attraction at the New York Film Festival on Sept. 30, the Sony Classics release should do nicely with quality-seeking audiences upon its domestic launch in mid-December.

The title isn't the only thing that's been changed moving from stage to screen. First performed in Zurich in 2006, then in Paris in 2008 under its original title Le Dieu du carnage, Reza's short one-act was translated by Christopher Hampton for its English-language debut later that year in London, where it won the Olivier Award as best new play. The Broadway production, which starred James Gandolfini, Marcia Gay Hardin, Jeff Daniels and Hope Davis, won the 2009 Tony Award and stands as the third-longest-running play of the 2000s. However, the Hampton translation has here been dropped in favor of a revision credited to the playwright and Polanski; a few new lines make themselves felt, but the overall effect is essentially the same.

Onstage, the action pivots on an incident that is frequently mentioned but not seen: The injuring of one boy by another in playground fight. The film, however, opens with a striking shot of a Brooklyn waterfront park with the East River and the skyline of lower Manhattan in the background. Two boys (one of them played by the director's son Elvis) engage in combat, with one of them hitting the other with a stick, resulting in not inconsiderable injuries.

In their tasteful, comfortable apartment nearby, the aggrieved parents, Michael (John C. Reilly) and Penelope (Jodie Foster) are hosting the parents of the aggressive kid, Alan (Christoph Waltz) and Nancy (Kate Winslet) in a gesture intended to paper over any problems and forestall potential legal unpleasantries. The situation is hardly comfortable for either family but, after all, they're civilized folks, aren't they, able to rise above vengeful instincts and base emotional responses to intelligently resolve any issues.

Not bloody likely. At a glance flintier and less touchy-feely than their unwanted new acquaintances, Alan and Nancy are impatient to depart from the outset, keeping their coats on (it appears to be a brisk autumn day outside) and hoping to wind things up quickly. More than once, they go through the motions of saying goodbye and head for the elevator, and Polanski has fun taking them to the brink of escaping before pulling them back in.

In the course of polite chit-chat, they get to know each other superficially; Michael sells decorative hardware, Penelope struggles with highfalutin books on subjects like Darfur, Alan is a corporate lawyer and Nancy is an investment broker. The sense of decorum is threatened every so often by sensitivities over semantics, including offhand references about one boy or the other as a bully, snitch or whatnot, moral posturing at some moments and irrepressible insults at others. Even more grating is Alan's constant yacking on his cell phone, with most of the decipherable talk having to do with legal cases in which he advises stone-walling and holding tough.

The basic dramatic format of bright, seemingly well-adjusted people eventually baring their teeth, claws and souls in the course of an alcohol-fueled encounter is familiar to anyone with a passing acquaintance with modern theater; call it the "Virginia Woolf" syndrome. Here, the get-together starts with coffee and various sweets, the booze not getting served until well past the half-way point, some time after Nancy has projectile vomited right in the middle of Penelope's proper and pristine living room.

This latter incident, the most startling bit of physical business in the piece and by far the funniest when witnessed live, illuminates one of the principal differences in impact between the stage and film versions. In the theater, because of the group dynamics and because rarely, if ever, has such a thing ever been seen in a Broadway play before, the voluminous wretching by a beautiful and composed woman comes out of nowhere, to stunning effect; the audience remains rattled for a minute or two at least. On film, one is more aware of Nancy becoming queasy and the sight of vomit flying through the air is less of a novelty.

Similarly, onstage, Alan's constant telephone conversations are mostly kept on the background while other characters prattle on. Here, Polanski too often abandons group compositions in favor of close-ups of Alan on the phone, an unnecessary choice since the content of his calls is not important; it's just the fact that he rudely keeps taking them.

Once Michael starts pouring generous portions of Scotch, the inhibitions drop and, over the last half-hour, things degenerate to the point where these fine upstanding folk are calling each other criminals and murderers. Of course, actors love these sorts of opportunities to pop off and seeing such a different cast than played it on Broadway is amusing and instructive.

The heights of theatrical histrionics hit by Penelope are not the sort of thing one normally associates with Jodie Foster, but the spectacle of her frustration boundaries being passed provides its own source of interest and amusement, one that reflects directly upon her marriage to Michael. The most jarring aspect of the casting is imagining Foster and Reilly physically as a couple; it just doesn't compute. Add to that, Reilly's decibel level, especially in the early-going, seems two or three times higher than for the other three, which throws things off at times. But when the character is eventually revealed as a boor, Reilly seems right on the money.

Winslet abandons any idea of providing Nancy with a genuine demure side, pushing the character's dissatisfactions to the surface perhaps to early. Waltz, on the other hand, gives the distracted Alan any number of shadings that give a vibrant new definition to perhaps the most elusive character in the piece. Overall, the thespian advantage would have to go to Broadway, but the cast here nonetheless holds its own and puts the characters across with force and definition.

Dean Tavoularis' apartment set is a gem, tastefully but not preciously decorated, just cramped enough to prevent the characters from getting away from one another but not so much as to be claustrophobic. Pawel Edelman's camerawork is nimble and clear. The views of Brooklyn outside the windows are entirely realistic, the light flowing in from them ever-so-subtlety softening from afternoon brightness to the encroaching darkness that will consume the city and the souls of these four inhabitants.

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Re: Carnage reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Thu Sep 01, 2011 12:02 pm

Screen Daily is more favorable.

1 September, 2011 | By Mark Adams, chief film critic

Dir: Roman Polanski. France-Germany-Poland. 2011. 79mins

Bitingly amusing and brimming with top-notch performances – as well as the hilarious sight of Kate Winslet projectile vomiting – Roman Polanski’s taut and tasty new film Carnage is a pacy and engaging affair. Playing heavily on its stage origins it is frothy, scathing and funny and will likely find a welcoming audience who’ll embrace its middle-class angst and witty banter.

Kudos also to veteran production designer Dean Tavoularis for his immaculate work.
Shot in real-time and closeted in the single setting of one apartment, the film is an adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s hit play The God of Carnage, which played in Paris, London and New York. Originally set in Paris, Polanski and Reza’s adapted the play so it could be set in New York. It is a film that will appeal to festivals (it has a cast to die for) and could well break out into discerning art house sites, especially if any awards nominations come its way.

Polanski embraces rather than tries to hide the film’s stage-bound origins, and while this means that the dialogue pacing is fast and shooting style traditional rather than prosaic he succeeds in keeping the story edgy and challenging, and allows his four led actors to really inhabit their characters. As it spirals towards its amusingly messy conclusion the film loses its tightness and lapses towards drunken clichés, but Carnage is never if not watchable and enjoyable.

The film opens with a long shot of a waterside New York park with a group of eight to 10 year-old boys centre stage. We see them pushing and shoving, with eventually one the boys flailing with a stick and catching another in the mouth.

Things then cut to a nicely maintained New York apartment where two sets of parents are agreeing a statement about the incident. The son of Penelope and Michael Longstreet (Jodie Foster and John C Reilly) was the one hurt, while the son of Nancy and Alan Cowen (Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz) was the one who wielded the stick.

As the four try to conclude a statement about what had happened they initially behave politely – parents who have never met before, who are mortified about what happened between their children and who want to find a way to get past the incident. But things soon descend into a biting comedy of manners as the Cowens never quite manage to leave the apartment block, being constantly drawn back into the domestic battlefield of the living room as their conversation heads into a myriad of areas.

The pinch-lipped, prissy and uptight Penelope and the superior and smug Alan – with his constant mobile phone conversations – initially antagonise each other, while seemingly perfect Nancy tries to mediate and levelheaded Michael tries to take all sides.

But after coffee and more conversations rifts begin to emerge…initially when Nancy finds out Michael had let the family hamster loose in the street (he is a killer in her eyes), and dramatically when Nancy vomits over the coffee table. Even worse she throws up onto Penelope collection of art books!

And with the vomiting over the foursome then take to the bottle, and over 18 year-old single malt whisky more than a few home truths start to come out, ranging from their attitudes to child care and through to the state of their respective marriages. Alcohol loosens the tongues and the comedy becomes even more barbed and accurate.

The four leads are all excellent. Jodie Foster nails the edgy hysteria of an unhappy woman who takes everything too seriously, while Kate Winslet is perfect as the gentle and beautifully made-up businesswoman who gradually gets more and more shrill.

Christoph Waltz has perhaps the most clichéd role – smug lawyer with a mobile glued to his ear – but his sardonic manner is perfect for the role and he has some memorable lines, while John C Reilly is sheer perfection as the blue-collar everyman who actually wants little out of life.

The single-set structure means the dialogue has to be smart and snappy otherwise things could drag, and while Polanski keeps up the pace nicely the final third (when the drinking kicks in) never fully convinces. Do people really slug back whisky in the daytime for the hell of it? Kudos also to veteran production designer Dean Tavoularis for his immaculate work in creating a single set that really works and is as much a character as the leads.

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Carnage reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Thu Sep 01, 2011 11:16 am

The vindication of Okri continues. Festival theme so far is "mediocre plays makes mediocre movies".

This acid-drenched four-hander never shakes off a mannered, hermetic feel that consistently betrays its theatrical origins. Classy cast and pedigree should yield favorable specialty returns.
By Justin Chang

The gloves come off early and the social graces disintegrate on cue in "Carnage," which spends 79 minutes observing, and encouraging, the steady erosion of niceties between two married couples. But the real battle in Roman Polanski's brisk, fitfully amusing adaptation of Yasmina Reza's popular play is a more formal clash between stage minimalism and screen naturalism, as this acid-drenched four-hander never shakes off a mannered, hermetic feel that consistently betrays its theatrical origins. Classy cast and pedigree should yield favorable specialty returns for the Sony Classics release, arriving Dec. 16 Stateside after its Venice and New York festival bows.
Known as a filmmaker of icy, incisive temperament with such play-to-pic translations as "Macbeth" and "Death and the Maiden" under his belt, Polanski seemed an ideal fit for "God of Carnage," Reza's withering takedown of smug, middle-class values and the comforting notion, expressed by one character early on, that "we're all decent people." Like its Broadway progenitor, the smartly retitled "Carnage" unfolds in something close to real time in a Brooklyn apartment, and its single-set confinement recalls Polanski's similarly claustrophobic studies of urban alienation in "Repulsion," "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Tenant."

The helmer's legal woes prevented him from shooting in the U.S., a fact resourcefully concealed by a well-appointed Paris studio set and some expert digital touch-up work. The first of only two exterior scenes is an opening long shot of Brooklyn Bridge Park, where some roughhousing among 11-year-olds ends with one boy, Zachary, striking another, Ethan, with a stick. It's a wordless tableau that forms a deliberate contrast with the verbal pyrotechnics to follow in Reza and Polanski's adaptation (translated from French into English by Michael Katims).

The incident leaves Ethan with two missing teeth, and Zachary's parents, Alan and Nancy Cowen (Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet), pay a visit to Ethan's parents, Penelope and Michael Longstreet (Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly), to initiate a reconciliation between their sons. Yet as the four discuss the incident with initially polite deference over cobbler and coffee, their veneer of civility soon crumbles under the filmmakers' relentless scrutiny.

Doing the most to hasten the screaming match is Penelope, whose casually barbed insinuations reveal a near-maniacal need to control the situation; at the other end of the spectrum, busy lawyer Alan signals his complete disinterest by making regular phone interruptions. Anxious to offset her husband's rudeness, Nancy does herself no favors by overdosing on warm beverages, and before anyone can say "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," Michael breaks out the scotch, momentarily relieving the tension and lubricating them all for the next round.

Couple turns against couple, husbands against wives, and the tulips, handbags and bodily fluids begin to fly, in a payoff that has as much zing here as it did in the play. Yet while "Carnage" is still largely a hoot, it never divorces itself from the talky trappings of the stage; the considerable effort expended to let the piece breathe onscreen merely exposes its underlying artifice, making it fairly easy to reject Reza's thesis that individuals live in a natural state of opposition according to gender, class and personal philosophy.

One is continually made aware of buttons being pushed, of the actors taking pains to say precisely the wrong (or right) thing to fan the flames, yet the film actually becomes less tense as it progresses. Certain repeated questions -- "Why are we still here?" and "Should we wrap this up?" -- begin to take on unwelcome meanings, despite the compact running time.

While the four actors deliver distinctive turns, marked by body language often more pointed than the dialogue, the proceedings are somewhat dampened by the miscasting of one couple. Foster, called on to function as more of an ensemble player than usual, nails Penelope's insufferable micro-managing and liberal do-gooder impulses, but the tightly wound actress doesn't bellow with the full-blooded authority the role requires. Reilly is almost too easily cast as Michael, pointedly the shlubbiest and most blue-collar of the bunch, at times tilting the material toward a broader style of comedy than desired.

Winslet assuredly charts Nancy's passive-aggressive journey from vulnerable to tetchy. But it's Waltz who gives the film's most delectable turn, in part because it's the most subdued. Almost mumbling his lines to himself and delivering half of them into a cell phone, his Alan radiates supreme indifference to the needs of anyone but himself.

Polanski's technical collaborators use every tool in their arsenal to achieve the illusion of seamlessness, and the level of craft at work is something to behold. Herve de Luze's editing carves up the performance space into a multitude of angles and perspectives offered up by Pawel Edelman's camera, which at times isolates the characters in stationary shots that express relationships visually, and elsewhere tracks the actors up and down the apartment corridors. Dean Tavoularis' production design and Milena Canonero's costumes are the very picture of bourgeois complacency.

The almost imperceptible shifting of the light outside the Longstreets' window as the day goes on reps an especially subtle touch, while Alexandre Desplat's music, underscoring the central theme with chordal progressions and drumbeats, is wisely used only to bookend the picture.

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