I am writing a book about “folding” in film. That’s a term I have coined to describe all the parallel levels that have become part of the film vocabulary, among them self-reference, reflection self-aware irony and timeshifting. I love these films. They are always about ideas and many are incredibly sophisticated in concept, even though the story (an incidental component in such projects) may be uninteresting. There are an amazing number of films with some sort of folding — in my nearly 1,000 IMDB comments, I have found about a third to use these tricks.
The most obvious are films that are about their own making, like “The Muppet Movie”, “Beyond the Clouds”, and “The Player”. But here we have something new, I think. In this case, the folding is not a technique in the film, it is the star of the film. Several types of folding are used here: time overlaps, self-reference, ironic distance, nested narratives (a metamovie about a movie about a book about a magazine article about a botanical scam) where the nesting is scrambled.
Along the way, we have not only a surrogate for the writer (and the writer he is writing about) but a imaginary twin who comments on the writing process.
I really enjoyed this as an intellectual exercise; the clever barrage of tricks was impressive. But it is an elaborate but empty shell. Nic Cage has always been an actor that is incapable of spanning levels (like Penn or Depp or Brando or quite a few of our actresses today). Streep is a master at this sort of thing, in fact set the gold standard for folded acting with “The French Lieutenant’s Woman”. But she is asked to be as flat as Cage is. Cooper is fantastic of course, but is only a fantastic cartoon.
I found it unsatisfying when elevated to the level of Tarantino-like self-referential humor, all except for one bit: the folding in of the masturbatory fantasies at the same level as everything else. Just think about this; there’s a powerful force acting both ways between the creator and the created, between the writer and character. Here at the same level is the very same equivalence with fantastic sexual compliance. That one part with the redheaded waitress, Alice, behind the orchid show was shocking — shocking because of this equivalence.
Posted in 2009
Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.