FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Stanley Kubrick |||
Stanley Kubrick

A filmmaker of international importance, Kubrick was one of the only directors to work within the Studio System and still have full artistic control over his films from scripting through post-production, prompting Time Magazine to compare Kubrick’s early independence with the magnitude of Orson Welles.

An uncompromising antiwar film, this gut-wrenching drama depicts a World War I officer as he labors with an ultimately futile defense for three painfully sympathetic men tried for cowardice. Kubrick artistically utilizes a beautifully washed-out black and white photography to represent the muddied boundaries of right and wrong, and the many gray areas that lay between.

A fabulous and inspiring adventure, this visually stunning epic stars Kirk Douglas as the heroic slave who fights to lead his people to freedom from Roman rule. Although a clear departure from Kubrick’s oeuvre, “Spartacus” is an all time classic helmed by a man with a precise vision who is equally capable of crafting colossal spectacle, tense tête-à-têtes, and a tender moment between lovers.

This film is so stylish it’s easy to forget it’s a horror film at heart. Considered to be the thinking man’s thriller, Kubrick molds this very particularly “Stephan King” material into the portfolio of his films about human failure, as the hero’s desperate desire to become somebody ends in frustration and tragedy.

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Quid Pro Quo

By BrianOrndorf

June 12th, 2008

Though it plays like a diluted version of David Cronenberg's "Crash," "Quid Pro Quo" impressively maintains a bewildering mood, probing into an underbelly of cracked minds and disturbing matters of desire. It frustratingly refuses to go bonkers, but the film is a compelling sit, brought to life by two very crafty, pointed performances.

Quid Pro Quo

Partially paralyzed since he was eight years old, Isaac (Nick Stahl) has made a name for himself reporting for a New York public radio station. When an anonymous e-mailer sends in a tip for a story, Isaac follows the clue to an underground support group where members share and demonstrate their desire to live life as disabled people. Baffled, yet utterly intrigued, Isaac’s attention is soon consumed with able-bodied Fiona (Vera Farmiga), a member of the group who probes Isaac for information about life in a wheelchair. The two embark on a sexual relationship, but the glow is quickly rubbed off when Fiona shares her twisted plan to join Isaac in paralysis.

“Quid Pro Quo” is a strange movie that should’ve been stranger. Writer/director Carlos Brooks arranges a familiar noir tone for his debut feature film, treating Isaac as a Sam Spade type who chases temptation with little regard for his own well being. It’s a fixated character, hoping to fashion a breathtaking piece of journalism that will rocket him to public radio stardom, only to find that his subject, Fiona, sternly challenges his own perceptions to a life-altering degree.

Encountering disabled fetishes, “Quid Pro Quo” really has the clearance to head in any direction it chooses, presenting the opportunity for Brooks to launch off into seriously depraved regions of thrillerdom as Fiona starts to shed layers of stability. “Quid” nails the early scenes of uncomfortable discovery marvelously, promising a lurid decent into unspeakable desires and stomach-churning results.

It comes as some surprise that Books doesn’t want to make a film of questionable taste, but a mild psychological study buttoned with a faint, effective plot twist. Part of me wanted to throw my hands up in disgust, while the rest of me felt OK with the unexpected trajectory. Books has some interesting visual cues in “Quid,” but his strength is with the actors, guiding Stahl and Farmiga through tricky scenes of sensuality and mental instability. The performances are brave and eyes-wide-open, finding the glue that holds the movie together when the script stumbles to take it all in.

Isaac makes some life-altering discoveries and Fiona is buried alive in her guilt for the final act of “Quid,” and while nothing ever jumps off the screen, the resolution for this odd character piece is comforting, perhaps even ultimately perfect. “Quid Pro Quo” seems better suited to the stage, where static theatricality might emphasize the horror within, but the film remains an engrossing offering of oddness, even when it treats insanity as the ultimate cootie.

My rating: B