Monday, November 18, 2019     Volume: 20, Issue: 37
Signup

Santa Maria Sun / Film

This weeks review
AD ASTRA
ARCTIC DOGS
AVENGERS: ENDGAME
BINGEABLE: Barry
BINGEABLE: CASA DE LAS FLORES
BINGEABLE: FLEABAG
BINGEABLE: GRACE AND FRANKIE
BINGEABLE: INTO THE DARK
BINGEABLE: RUSSIAN DOLL
BINGEABLE: STRANGER THINGS 3
BINGEABLE: THE PEOPLE V. O.J. SIMPSON: AMERICAN CRIME STORY
BINGEABLE: THE SINNER (SEASON 2)
BLACK AND BLUE
BLAST FROM THE PAST: FRIENDS
BLAST FROM THE PAST: HOUSE
BLAST FROM THE PAST: LONE WOLF MCQUADE
BLAST FROM THE PAST: OLDBOY
BLAST FROM THE PAST: RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
BLAST FROM THE PAST: THE MATRIX
BLAST FROM THE PAST: UNDER SIEGE 2: DARK TERRITORY
BLINDED BY THE LIGHT
BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON
CHARLIE’S ANGELS
COUNTDOWN
CRAWL
DOCTOR SLEEP
DOWNTON ABBEY
FORD V FERRARI
GUILTY PLEASURE: THE HANGOVER
GUILTY PLEASURES: BARBIE LIFE IN THE DREAMHOUSE
HATEWATCH: CHOPPED
HATEWATCH: FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER’S MONSTER, FRANKENSTEIN
HATEWATCH: NAILED IT!
HEARST CASTLE: BUILDING THE DREAM
HUSTLERS
IT: CHAPTER 2
JOKER
LAST CHRISTMAS
MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL
MIDWAY
MILES DAVIS: BIRTH OF THE COOL
MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN
ONCE UPON A TIME … IN HOLLYWOOD
PLAYING WITH FIRE
SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME (EXTENDED CUT)
TERMINATOR: DARK FATE
THE ADDAMS FAMILY
THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN
THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM
THE CURRENT WAR: DIRECTOR’S CUT
THE LIGHTHOUSE
THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON
UNDERRATED: BATMAN BEGINS
UNDERRATED: INSOMNIA
UNDERRATED: SHUTTER ISLAND
UNDERRATED: THE BATTERED BASTARDS OF BASEBALL
UNDERRATED: THE FALLING
YESTERDAY
ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP

The Lighthouse is a weird but mesmerizing piece of old-school filmmaking

THE LIGHTHOUSE

PHOTO BY PHOTO COURTESY OF A24

THE LIGHTHOUSE


Where is it playing?: Regal Edwards Santa Maria & RPX

What's it rated?: R

What's it worth?: $Full price (Glen Starkey)

What's it worth?: $Full price (Anna Starkey)

User Rating: 0.00 (0 Votes)

Co-writers Robert and Max Eggers, with Robert (The Witch) directing, have created a psychological fantasy-horror film about two lighthouse keepers—Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) and Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson)—stuck together on a remote New England island as they slowly descend into madness (black and white; 109 min.)

Glen: This is a weird one. As director Robert Eggers said in interviews, “Nothing good can happen when two men are trapped alone in a giant phallus.” Even the aspect ratio, a nearly square 1:19, creates a claustrophobic feeling. Add in the black and white film stock and a soundtrack by Mark Korven that mixes ominous foghorn with a nod to the frenetic sounds of Hitchcock’s favorite composer, Bernard Herrmann, and you’ve got the makings of a very unsettling and uncomfortable environment for two strangers to find themselves stuck in. The entire exterior set was built on Cape Forchu, Nova Scotia, and the horrible weather depicted was often real—three storms blew through during the 35-day shoot. On top of that, because of the black-and-white film stock, the lighting had to be blindingly bright to show up on film. I read that the crew wore sunglasses and that the actors could barely see each other. The filming must have been grueling and horribly uncomfortable. All this attention to detail and in-the-moment realism translates into a surprising and unusual viewing experience. It also features two remarkable and deeply committed performances. This is nothing like most films coming out of Hollywood. Instead, it feels like early filmmaking—think Fritz Lang (Metropolis, 1927; M 1931) or G.W. Pabst (Adventures of Don Quixote, 1933). All that said, you just might hate this film. I was fascinated watching it but also bewildered and grossed out a bit. It’s a raw and depressing story of madness or maybe an inky black comedy. Perhaps both.

Anna: The Lighthouse is certainly a triumph in intricate filmmaking, but while the feelings it floods its audience with are uncomfortable, they are also raw and unconventional. It’s not a feel-good story, not even for a brief moment. Not everyone is going to love the experience; it’s an oppressive and grueling beast. That said, there is also humor here—the director is unafraid to make the audience giggle from an ongoing flatulence bit. The two men at the center of it all are incredible powerhouses on the screen, and my eyes couldn’t look away even when the rest of me was ready to flee that godforsaken rock and the madness slowly closing in on it. Wake (Dafoe) is the grim and elderly lighthouse keeper who has held his post for far too long, drinking his way into madness long before Winslow (Pattinson) arrives. Wake is grisly and mean, crippled by a bad leg. Winslow is young and ready to work, but his resentment for Wake is close to the surface and his own demons start to haunt him soon enough. The claustrophobic feel of the black-and-white cinematography, the oppressive and constant sounds of the foghorn, and the sheer fact that there isn’t a moment where these two aren’t waterlogged by the outside storms make for not just a movie viewing but an uncomfortable experience—and one that I’ll be thinking about for quite a while.

Glen: There’s certainly a lot of layers going on. Winslow discovers a carved mermaid figure tucked into a hole in his mattress, and it acts as both a focus of his carnal desires and a bad omen that haunts him. Wake is very superstitious, and when Winslow tries to drive off a seagull, Wake warns him that it will bring them both bad luck. It’s all very Greek tragedy/mythology, with ominous soliloquies, curses thrown around, and fever-dream sequences depicting mermaid sex, tentacles, and something spellbinding and magical within the ever-pulsing beam of the lighthouse—which Wake seems to want for himself and which Winslow increasingly covets. You know things aren’t going to go well for these two, especially with the power differential. Wake farts in Winslow’s direction and makes him do all the dirty work, from emptying their chamber pots to hauling coal and painting the lighthouse exterior while hanging haphazardly from ropes. It’s hard to know who to root for. Wake is mean and unforgiving, but Winslow becomes increasingly menacing, and they’re both bad drunks. There’s also a lot of gay subtext, a lot of raw comic moments, and a lot of gross-out moments. Am I glad I saw The Lighthouse in the theater? Absolutely! Would I recommend it? Yes, to people who are cinephiles and who are open to unusual film going experiences. Will you like it? I honestly don’t know, but you’d be hard pressed to find more careful filmmaking or more committed performances.

Anna: The film feels like a fever dream itself; it’s chaos compounded by madness all served up on a rock in the middle of the sea. The two actors apparently have very different rehearsal styles—while spending a week with director Robert Eggers in Halifax before filming, that much became evident. Dafoe was happy and eager to rehearse over and over again, while Pattinson much preferred to skip rehearsal and jump into the scene blindly, letting spontaneity guide his performance while filming. Whatever they did worked. These two are adept at playing off of each other, and they both are jaw-droppingly good here. I can’t say it’s necessarily an easy film to watch, or even particularly pleasant, but there’s a whole lot here to like or at least appreciate. The oppressive nature of it comes across on the big screen, much more so than it will at home, so hit this one up during its stay at Regal Edwards Santa Maria & RPX—just get yourself in the right mindset before you walk in. 

Sun Screen is written by New Times Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey and his wife, Anna. Comment at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.




Weekly Poll
Should school districts invest more into vocational and career technical programs?

Yes. Students need to get on a career path as soon as possible.
No. It's more important for students to learn study skills than specific disciplines.
No. District should save money by partnering with businesses to offer more internships.
Yes, but only if these programs also count for college credit.

| Poll Results