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August 24, 2006



Marc Forster - 2005
Twentieth Century Fox Region 1 DVD

In an early interview, Marc Forster mentions several of his favorite filmmakers. Reading this after seeing Stay certainly adds to a critical perspective of this film, a box office failure following mixed reviews. It is of little surprise that the most positive, or at least respectful criticism, was by those critics I knew were familiar with most of the films by Kubrick and Bunuel, as well Nicolas Roeg. Stay could also be read as a reworking of the themes of memory as filmed by Alain Resnais, with the literary roots of Jean Cayrol and Marguerite Duras. One could even think of Stay as a kind of tribute to the Twentieth Century Fox of thirty years ago, the company that brought the cinematic dreams of Louis Malle and Luis Bunuel to the U.S.

What I am certain frustrated audiences, and not a few "critics" was that Forster dives directly into a narrative stuctured around the act of dreaming without giving the viewer a context to distinguish dream from reality. Based on my own admittedly flimsy memories of dreams, the narrative of Stay reasonably reflects the seamless jumping around from place to place, people who may have the names of familiar people but might not look like them (or vice versa), and settings that shift for no identifiable reason. Forster maintains the appearance of a linear narrative by linking his scenes visually, so that it may appear that a characters sees himself outside a window, or one shot digitally blends in with another shot. One scene, of Ewan McGregor chasing Ryan Gosling (seen above) down a seemingly endless spiral staircase recalls The Believer, with Gosling running up a staircase with no end. One of the other interesting visual touches is the motif of twins and even triplets who occassionally appear in some shots in the background, as well as the use of some of the supporting actors in more than one role. Stay may remind some of the writings of Borges, where identities are not always certain, and there is sometimes no difference between dreams and reality.

A piece by Jason Kaleko, commented on by Kim Voynar at Cinematical discusses the lack of originality in Hollywood films. The usual suspects, Hollywood producers and the desired young audience, are declared guilty again. What passes for film criticism in most mainstream outlets has been less than helpful. One could also blame those optimistic executives at Fox who thought there was an audience for a 50 million dollar art film, forgetting that the stars of Star Wars and The Ring were the movies themselves, not Ewan McGregor or Naomi Watts.

I am glad that chances were taken, and Stay was made. Those few times a big budget Hollywood production goes against the grain of sequels, remakes and comic book adaptations need to be appreciated, though hopefully not in retrospect.

Posted by peter at August 24, 2006 08:35 AM