' ' Cinema Romantico: Nine

Monday, January 18, 2010


"A screenplay is a map." So says a character in Rob Marshall's cinematic adaptation of the award winning 1982 Broadway musical. But then there are many types of maps. There are topographic maps and climate maps and road maps. So what type of map is the screenplay for "Nine"? Well, it's like one you get off Mapquest and then you get out on the road and discover half the street names on the Mapquest directions have been changed and so you just have to sort of wing it and, well, you end up driving on the same gravel road past the same farmhouse over and over and then there is a fork in the road and, of course, you go the wrong way and so you have to backtrack and eventually you find yourself spit out into the back lot of a strip mall right around the corner from the place you started.

Daniel Day Lewis is Guido, a great, or perhaps once great, Fellini-esque Italian director in the 1960's who is set to embark on his latest cinematic opus, "Italia", though he seems to have no idea whatsoever what this opus is going to be about despite the fact costumes are being made and sets are being built and his muse Claudia (Nicole Kidman) has already been cast. This could be bad. And it could get worse before it gets better when you consider his long suffering wife (is there any other kind in the movies anymore?) Louisa (Marion Cotillard) is growing tired of Guido's antics and knows about his voluptuous mistress Carla (Penelope Cruz). Oh, there are other women too. Plenty of 'em. And they all get to sing and dance. Judi Dench is Guido's costume designer and Kate Hudson is a reporter from Vogue and Sophia Loren is Guido's mother and pop superstar Fergie is....damn, I forgot. I just remember she dipped really low during her musical number to allow for a not-so-subtle shot of, shall we say, the area above her waist and below her neck.

This movie is a mess. A complete mess. Just like those Mapquest directions laying on the seat next to you. Despite the fact Day Lewis appears to have possibly injected himself with pneumonia prior to filming in order to truly appear "sick and disheveled" you never feel anything for anyone. There is no real emotion at any point in "Nine". It's all an extravaganza. Which brings to mind....

The film opens with Guido addressing the press and explaining that, in reality, all films are failures save for the most fleeting of moments here and there in which the initial dream the filmmaker conjured up long ago somehow manages to find its way up on the screen. Was this moment always intended to start "Nine"? Or did the film editors see what they had once it was put together and tell Marshall, "Hey, uh, you might want to add a scene at the start where Guido is saying something about how all films are failures so you can get yourself off the hook and argue that was the point all along." I wonder.

"Nine" is based on Frederico Fellini's "8 1/2" a film which I have seen but is one of those obligatory film viewings, like "Birth of a Nation", that I suppose I "respected" but I didn't necessarily enjoy a great deal. Maybe that is just my disposition. Kate Hudson's Vogue Reporter tells Guido at one point that we all want to "live in an Italian movie." Uh, do we? I think I'd prefer to live in a Linklater movie where Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy talk the whole time. Or in a quirky Australian comedy. Or in a sleek Michael Mann existential crime pic.

I don't want to live in "Nine". It's big and loud and ungainly and Guido just seems miserable, even with ravishing Oscar winners running rampant all around him. I'd prefer to live inside a film where the music is better and things make just a little bit more sense.

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