Friday, November 25, 2011

J. Edgar

J. Edgar / J. Edgar. US © 2011 Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc. P: Clint Eastwood, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Robert Lorenz. D: Clint Eastwood. SC: Dustin Lance Black. DP: Tom Stern. PD: James J. Murakami. AD: Greg Berry, Patrick M. Sullivan, Jr. Set dec: Gary Fettis. Art dept.: big. Cost: Deborah Hopper. Prosthetic makeup artist (Leonardo DiCaprio): Sian Griff. Makeup dept.: big. S: Bub Asman, Alan Robert Murray. Special FX: Steve Riley. Visual FX: Ollie Rankin, Edison Williams, dept. huge. ED: Joel Cox, Gary Roach. Casting: Fiona Weir. LEADING ROLES: Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar Hoover), Armie Hammer (Clyde Tolson), Naomi Watts (Helen Gandy). SUPPORTING ROLES: Damon Herriman (Bruno Hauptmann), Jeffrey Donovan (Robert F. Kennedy), Judi Dench (Anna Marie, Hoover's mother), Ed Westwick (Agent Smith, Hoover's biographer), Josh Lucas (Charles Lindbergh), Ken Howard (U.S. Attorney General Harlan F. Stone), Stephen Root (Arthur Koehler), Denis O'Hare (Albert S. Osborn), Geoff Pierson (Alexander Mitchell Palmer), Lea Thompson (Lela Rogers), Gunner Wright (Dwight D. Eisenhower), David A. Cooper (Franklin Roosevelt), Jessica Hecht (Emma Goldman), Dermot Mulroney (Col. Schwarzkopf). 137 min. Released in Finland by FS Film. Unsubtitled 2K DCP viewed in an internal screening at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 27 Nov 2011.

Technical specs (IMDb): Camera: Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL2, Panavision C-Series Lenses, Panavision Panaflex Platinum, Panavision C-Series Lenses. - Laboratory: Technicolor, Hollywood. - Film negative format: 35 mm (Fuji Eterna Vivid 160T 8543, Eterna Vivid 500T 8547). - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Panavision (anamorphic) (source format). - Printed film format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema. - Aspect ratio: 2.35:1.

The official synopsis: "During his lifetime, J. Edgar Hoover would rise to be the most powerful man in America. As head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for nearly 50 years, he would stop at nothing to protect his country. Through eight presidents and three wars, Hoover waged battle against threats both real and perceived, often bending the rules to keep his countrymen safe. His methods were at once ruthless and heroic, with the admiration of the world his most coveted, if ever elusive, prize."

"Hoover was a man who placed great value on secrets–particularly those of others–and was not afraid to use that information to exert authority over the leading figures in the nation. Understanding that knowledge is power and fear poses opportunity, he used both to gain unprecedented influence and to build a reputation that was both formidable and untouchable."

"He was as guarded in his private life as he was in his public one, allowing only a small and protective inner circle into his confidence. His closest colleague, Clyde Tolson, was also his constant companion. His secretary, Helen Gandy, who was perhaps most privy to Hoover's designs, remained loyal to the end... and beyond. Only Hoover's mother, who served as his inspiration and his conscience, would leave him, her passing truly crushing to the son who forever sought her love and approval."

"As seen through the eyes of Hoover himself, "J. Edgar" explores the personal and public life and relationships of a man who could distort the truth as easily as he upheld it during a life devoted to his own idea of justice, often swayed by the darker side of power." (From the official website.)

Clint Eastwood keeps surprising. J. Edgar is a more irreverent biopic than the production company's official synopsis gives away. All the tabloid ingredients are here, but the treatment of the potentially scandalous subject-matter is sober. The director's touch is solid, maybe even a bit stolid. Eastwood has avoided flamboyance in a story like this.

Dustin Shane Black has written a daring screenplay that covers the entire grown-up life of the protagonist via a mosaic flashback structure. The scope is epic but there is a chamber-play core with the trio of J. Edgar Hoover, Clyde Tolson, and Helen Gandy.

At the first glimpse of Leonardo DiCaprio as the aged J. Edgar Hoover I had to laugh, and in retrospect I think I did not laugh at him but with him. There is somehow the familiar boyish trademark wink in DiCaprio's performance behind the forbidding prosthenic bulldog mask. This is an interesting and memorable performance, much better than DiCaprio's previous efforts as violent and troubled men with wrinkled eyebrows because here DiCaprio has found space for his unique sense of humour. Naomi Watts gives a first-rate performance as Helen Gandy.

The account of J. Edgar Hoover's subdued homosexual love story with Clyde Tolson rings believable. This interpretation is compatible with the classical psychoanalytical view of repressed homosexuality as a possible source of paranoia.

Among the interesting themes of J. Edgar is the power of the media. We see Hoover witness the audience applauding James Cagney as the Public Enemy. Hoover then gets media-conscious and starts a FBI collaboration with Warner Bros. and comic books publishers. In the satirical view of the movie, Hoover, who was a pioneer in serious crime investigation and criminology, got lost in public image fabrications, disinformation, secret files for blackmail, and finally blatant lies.

I have seen The FBI Story which belongs to the FBI's promotion projects with Warner Bros. J. Edgar could not be further from it. Instead, it could form a double feature with the Stasi exposé The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen).

Clint Eastwood's photochemical films always boasted refined dark cinematography. The digitally processed 2K visual quality of J. Edgar is icy, stony, and slightly stuffy.

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