What do you do when a filmmaker you like makes a movie you think might be brilliant, but you absolutely despise it? Terry Gilliam's Tideland is, at the least, about a dozen times more imaginative and deeply felt than The Brothers Grimm, which suffered from pervasive plainness. But Tideland is so damned unpleasant, and not necessarily in a "take this trip through the dark so you can appreciate the light" kind of way. It's the story of a pre-teen girl who takes care of her heroin-addicted parents and—through a series of tragedies—winds up living alone in an abandoned house in the middle of a field, where her only company is her collection of severed doll heads and her childlike, brain-damaged adult neighbor. In any other hands, this story and script might've been completely unbearable—one of those indie gothics where human behavior has been rendered completely unrecognizable. It's unrecognizable in Tideland too, but at least Gilliam doesn't try to make the freaks adorable, or stubbornly noble. This is a full-on gallery of grotesques, engaged in behavior that ranges from merely odd to completely disgusting. The movie examines how a child's inner world gets corrupted by her squalid outer world, and Gilliam doesn't spare the squalor. Aside from the hauntingly beautiful final scene, and a moment in the middle where the wheat field becomes an ocean, nearly every flight of fantasy in Tideland is turbulent, jangled and frankly horrifying. No damn fun.

So … what else? Shopgirl has a lot to recommend it. Clare Danes is engaging (if purposefully blank) as a lonely glove department salesclerk, Jason Schwartzmann is funny (if purposefully dim) as the socially inept amplifier salesman who falls for her, and Steve Martin is a compelling cipher as the rich guy who changes both of their lives. There's some arthouse copycatting going on, as director Anand Tucker tries to replicate the twinkly romantic magic of Lost In Translation and Punch Drunk Love, but the steady procession of lyrical interludes gets less special as the movie plays on. And the gender politics of the movie—as in Martin's book, no doubt—are really askew. Martin looks at the methodology of modern love as though it were some alien ritual, reducible to moments: the first date, the first kiss, the first infidelity, and so on. But his characters don't really interact with each other. They just show up at the appointed time and fill their assigned space. This is all intentional, surely. Martin's a dry guy, with a comic sensibility that increasingly fits the absurdism of his early work into the square boxes of everyday life. So the result is a movie that's often distinctive and singularly funny, but is on the whole fairly unsatisfying. Still, say this for Martin: in a lot of the movies he's written, like Roxanne and L.A. Story, he shows a fascination with people who desperately need to be in love, and that passion for passion has a strange poignancy.

How do these two movies affect TIFFstat ™? They don't. There can be no new TIFFstat data points after the first day. But it looks like TIFFstat won't be entirely reliable, unless I decide to count Tideland as a good movie despite all the loathing. Also, while Shopgirl is pretty good—as was last night's Midnight Madness, a slick French action thriller called Banlieue 13—neither is as electrifying as anything I saw in my opening quintet.

Today's planned daytime trip to the Pacific rim stalled out, because I forgot to bring my tickets with me this morning, and thus missed Takeshi Kitano's Takeshis'. And after hearing middling buzz on Linda Linda Linda, I decided to ice that one as well. Which left a midday showing of Three Times as my only movie in the daylight hours. I'm glad I was reasonably fresh and rested for it, because it's a drowsy-making kind of movie. That's not necessarily a slam. Like most of Hou Hsiao-Hsien's work, Three Times is visually sumptuous and minimally plotted, and there are times, drinking in the magnificently composed images—accompanied by dreamy pop or spare instrumental music—that the eyes just start to close, all on their own.

To be honest, I'm not the biggest fan of HHH or the "long take" school of Asian cinema in general. When I watch those movies, I sometimes feel like a speed-reader at a silent film, impatiently waiting for the title card to disappear so that I can get back to the story. Fans of HHH would probably say that I'm not being a spead-reader—that I'm not really "reading" the screen at all—and they're probably right. But while I liked a lot of individual scenes in Three Times, and appreciated some of the connections between the individual parts of the triptych plot, ultimately I felt like I "got" each of the short period love stories long before Hou was done with them. My failing, I'm sure.

Coming up: We Feed The World and Tim Burton's Corpse Bride tonight. A History Of Violence and Elizabethtown during the day tomorrow. Then another post, I hope.

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