Finished reading The Da Vinci Code this morning. It’s one of those books you read faster the closer you get to the end, until you’re skimming whole paragraphs just to get the important points of each chapter (which, by the end, were coming on the last line of each chapter like clockwork). The book felt less like a novel than a screenplay, with each chapter ending on a point of high tension before whisking the reader to another scene. It should make a pretty good movie, especially with Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen and Jean Reno involved.
Next up is The Anubis Gates as I continue to work through the canon of Tim Powers.
DG and I watched Mirrormask over the weekend. I attended a panel at the 2003 San Diego Comic Con where screenwriter Neil Gaiman described how the film came about. Supposedly, someone at Columbia Pictures noticed The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, while box office disappointments, were perennial sellers on DVD. So they asked Jim Henson Productions to create a movie in the same style and spirit as these two. JHP turned to Gaiman to write the script, and Gaiman recommended his longtime collaborator Dave McKean, an illustrator and comic book artist best known for his covers to Gaiman’s comic Sandman, to direct.
Unfortunately, Columbia gave McKean a rather paltry budget of just $4 million. This made it necessary for McKean to make heavy use of cinematic trickery and inexpensive CGI.
The result is profoundly…weird. The story centers around a girl named Helena, whose family runs a travelling circus. In an amusing twist on the old cliche, Helena longs to run away from the circus and join real life. She fights with her overbearing mother and wishes her dead; shortly after, her mother falls ill. As her mother is taken to the operating room, Helena–sick with guilt–falls asleep and finds herself in a bizarre alternate realm.
Mirrormask is dense with symbolism and incredible artistic imagery. It’s also pretty incomprehensible at times. The visuals are often cluttered and mystifying, and there are so many lens flares I had to wonder whether McKean was trying to hide the seams of his shoestring-budget CGI.
There’s no question that McKean has an incredible visual imagination; many of the sights in Mirrormask make the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children) seem straightforward and facile. But this is not a film for children; it’s certainly not in the same vein as The Dark Crystal or Labyrinth. Alienated teens and art students might find the film’s dense digital phantasmagoria a feast, but for those looking for an enjoyable story along the lines of the aforementioned films, Mirrormask will disappoint.
Next on my Netflix queue is A History of Violence. Further bulletins as events warrant.