500 Days of Summer

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel in 500 Days of Summer

 

A movie for every day of the year – a good one

 

 

23 December

 

 

Carla Bruni born, 1967

On this day in 1967, Carla Gilberta Bruni Tedeschi was born in Turin, Italy. The daughter of a concert pianist and a composer, and the grand-daughter of Virginio Bruni Tedeschi, founder of CEAT tyres, Carla grew up in France, where her family moved to escape threats from the Red Brigades, the terrorist group active in 1970s Italy. She studied art and architecture and became a model at 19, going on to become one of the highest paid in the business. In 1997 she abandoned modelling to devote herself to music. Her first album, Quelqu’un M’a Dit, came out in 2003 and was generally well received. She has produced a further three albums since, which are mostly filled with the sort of songs that you would expect of a supermodel – slinky, cool and sexy. In 2008 she married Nicolas Sarkozy, who was then the president of France. Her sister is the actress Valeria Bruni Tedeschi.

 

 

 

500 Days of Summer (2009, dir: Marc Webb)

Carla Bruni turns up on the soundtrack of this flyaway romance with a twist. The twist being that boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, but girl doesn’t fall in love with boy. What we then watch is the hapless, lovelorn Tom beating himself up over the girl, Summer, for the 500 days that they are “together”. So what’s so great about watching a story about failed love? Well, for starters it’s unusual. Then there’s the structure of the thing, director Marc Webb zipping us back and forward in the chronology (day 283 back to day 4 forward to day 300 and so on). Then there’s the fact that we see it all entirely through his eyes – so we’re hanging on with Tom as his hopes are raised and dashed, then dashed again. And when he’s up, he’s really up – the world comes alive, he is literally dancing in the street and a cartoon bird lands on his shoulder. That cuteness is reflected in the casting, the babyfaced Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing Tom, Zooey Deschanel (who better?), playing the dizzy Summer. If there is a criticism about this ever-so-charming film, it’s that the character of Summer is never quite explained – why is she stringing this poor guy along? Is she a bitch? We never quite know. But then we are seeing things entirely from Tom’s perspective and it’s possible that we can’t know because he refuses to open his eyes. Other big pluses include the fact that Tom and Summer are intelligent, interesting and cultured people, the film nods to the shoegazing world of mumblecore without being overwhelmed by its self-obsession. And it’s got one of those soundtracks (including The Boy with the Arab Strap, Regina Spektor, Frank Black, Penguin Cafe Orchestra) which has obviously been put together by someone who knows their stuff. Marc Webb went on to direct 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man, and turned it into a drama about love’s young dream too.

 

 

Why Watch?

 

  • All films featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt are worth a look
  • The great, and well chosen, soundtrack
  • It’s based on the writer’s Scott Neustadter’s real experience
  • A film unafraid to reference Bergman and Fellini, humorously

 

© Steve Morrissey 2013

 

 

500 Days of Summer – at Amazon

 

 

 

 

Brick

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the white knight star of Brick

 

 

Careful use of Spanish-flavoured old LA locations, low-slung camera angles and a devotion to hard-boiled dialogue, often maddeningly mumbled, make director Rian Johnson’s debut one of the most authentic nu-school noirs for some time. All the genre types are there – the honourable loner  (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the femme fatale (Nora Zehetner), the urbane crime lord (Lukas Haas), the thick-as-pigshit muscle (Noah Fleiss). The plot too is the real deal – brain-strainingly complicated and/or pointless, you’re never sure which. The twist is – there isn’t a person in the movie over high school age. Which serves to put a shiny new coat on the old genre. And shows that, if nothing else, Johnson knows how to grab the attention. Except there is something else – brains, talent, chutzpah. After Gregg Araki’s Mysterious Skin last year, in which he played a young man with a troubled past, Brick sees Gordon-Levitt throw off the “he’s the kid from Third Rock from the Sun” tag and enter a whole new world of cool. Like watching Raymond Chandler done by nativity play kids, some of the thrill of watching Brick is in watching teenagers (JGL is actually a baby-faced 24 but even so…) ape the manners and attitudes of people much older. Alan Parker’s Bugsy did something similar. Could anyone except a real churl take against a film like that?

© Steve Morrissey 2006

 

Brick – at Amazon