Monday, January 11, 2016

No Happy Endings- Ang Lee's The Ice Storm


I recently bought the Criterion edition of Ang Lee's The Ice Storm. I hadn't seen the movie since the late 90's when I watched it on VHS. I remember being profoundly moved by it at the time, but wasn't sure how I would like it 17 odd years later. I was sick with the flu at the time of my first viewing, and the mood of the film seemed to strangely mimic the way I felt. I found myself completely engrossed, almost hypnotized while viewing it. It was a good flick to watch while laid up with the flu.
So it was interesting to revisit the movie after so many years and I have to say it really holds up well and still maintains a hypnotic atmosphere that I have rarely encountered in other films (The American Friend is another such film and is also set to be released by Criterion tomorrow). But I've also gained a whole new appreciation for The Ice Storm, as I relate to the film differently now as a middle aged guy without children or a wife than I did in my late 20's when I was still young enough to remember my prep school years and identify with the Toby Maguire character.

This lack of strong identification with any of the characters (along with the clarity of the Criterion presentation) allowed me to appreciate more objectively the beautiful look (all those crystalline reflective and transparent surfaces), structure and sound of the film and how they worked together creating a perfect harmony between the performances of the actors, the cinematography, and the score- each adding and reinforcing the strengths of the others.  It's a beautiful film to look at and the Criterion disc more than does it justice.
Paul Hood reading The Fantastic Four on the train-note duct tape on top-siders-kids did this in the 80's too with shoes they liked and didn't want to part with.

When you think about it, it's not easy to keep from just wandering out of life. It's like someone's always leaving the door open to the next world, and if you aren't paying attention you could just walk through it, and then you've died. That's why in your dreams it's like you're standing in that doorway... and the dying people and the newborn people pass by you... and brush up against you as they come in and out of the world during the night. You get spun around, and in the morning... it takes a while to find your way back into the world.  Paul Hood-The Ice Storm
The Ice Storm ends with a song by David Bowie (R.I.P.)  called "I Can't Read" which plays over the closing credits.  Ang Lee states in the commentary that Bowie loved the film and I believe recorded the song specifically for the movie.


The Ice Storm, with its background of Nixon's downfall, also reminds me of Neil Young's "The Campaigner" a moving and empathic song.


The American Friend-Another hypnotic masterpiece set for release this week by Criterion.

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