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PostPosted: Thu Apr 18, 2013 1:36 am 
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Pleasantly surprised by Trance. Spoiled it for myself just about completely beforehad, which in this case was, I think, beneficial. Was not too twisty for my taste (or at least not in a way that felt unearned, or which had me second-guessing every detail as I was watching, which is the most important thing in a movie like this, I think). As for the characters being too thinly-drawn/unlikeable, I would disagree, and feel that the twistiness helps lend rather than take away emotional depth/investment (only undone, for me at least, by the slightly too-cutesy ending). Definitely a poor man's Inception in many ways, but largely to this film's credit, I think (does not succumb to the relatively easy sentiment/occasional air of excess of the Nolan, or at least not as much). I do not think it suffers from the Danny Boyle third act curse, either, or at least not as much as, say, Sunshine, and is fairly engaging from top to bottom. If you liked Shallow Grave (still my favourite of his films on the whole), this should be right up your alley, but if not (and if Boyle has always left you cold), then this will do nothing to change your mind. Good perfs from McAvoy and especially Dawson, neither of whom I'd particularly been led to expect fine things from up until this point, and Cassel does well with a gentleman gangster role that is maybe too similar to some of his previous turns (e.g. the Ocean's movies), but which gives dimensionality to a part that could easily have descended into caricature.


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 Post subject: Re: The Films of 2013
PostPosted: Thu Apr 18, 2013 1:56 pm 
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I really wanted to like Trance. It certainly begins well, with all that art auction/heist security procedural stuff. The film also had two really great images, which remind you of what Boyle is capable -- he was, after all the producer of Alan Clarke's Elephant -- but that would seem more at home and get more mileage in a Lynch or Cronenberg film.

After the brief and thrilling start, the film settles down into a series of scenes where characters talk a lot, get hypnotized and sit in chairs in various purportedly visually interesting locations whilst lapsing into dreamy side trips to Le Corbusier masterpieces, with each successive effort getting tantalizingly close to the mystery, before teasingly (and necessarily, otherwise the story would be over), failing to unravel it. The process only gets to work when it's time for the movie to conclude, but by then Trance has gone completely off the rails. If you start to think about any of it for more than a few seconds, which I did when I was bored, it all falls apart. It's just not a very good thriller.

[Reveal] Spoiler:
Trance shows us a London where the rules of reality and human behavior apply very selectively, where posh districts have no CCTV cams, posher carparks apparently smell so good that nobody detects the putrescent decay of months-hidden trunk corpses, a wealthy and successful hypnotherapist (are there any in London or any other major world city?) has a hole in her heart because she can't personally possess and hang on her own wall the extremely creepy original horror masterwork of an artist like Goya whose haunting sensibility otherwise seems to have zero to do with her own, a stalking/domestic abuse victim who is already in a therapeutic profession herself follows the time-tested protocol that it's possible to continue a stalking-/abuse-tainted relationship so long as she sets careful limits (uh-huh), and pubic waxing sounds like shaving and only takes about 60 seconds for a full Brazilian! (okay, granted this last bit happens in more or less a dream sequence, and the result is nothing to complain about).

The really big question though is simply: Why exactly does the Dawson character want what she wants -- the particular Goya painting? It's not really one of those universally relatable motivations she's ultimately revealed to be driven by (money, ideology, sex, jealously, revenge). Nor is it the sort of painting that just anyone would see the beauty in or want to own. This one demands its own footnote which it completely refuses to supply. There's a specific object in question that she supposedly wants, nay, needs the original version of so she can ruthlessly keep it all to herself in a manner that strikes me as somehow even more douchey than the kind of jerk who would buy this one-of-a-kind object of art on the black market.

So what this particular dark creepy image* of fantastical evil means to her personally is beyond me, as it was apparently behind Danny Boyle and the screenwriters. She mentions being hurt by the McAvoy character, so, okay, there may be a tinge of revenge in her actions, but you have to ask, at what cost to herself, to others? Like the innocent girl who gets killed in the car, all the other members of the gang and their various fates, the auction house itself, McAvoy for whom she still has some kind of feelings and the entire world population now deprived of a painting that really belongs to all of us and that she never actually makes a compelling case for even truly appreciating on any level. So yeah, in the end, this is the Boylest of Danny Boyle movies, with a silly big final twist/pivot to a baddie that exists only so it can "blow our minds," without ever bothering to justify itself in relation to the entire previous whole of the story or the characters. Trance seems finally to be a the merest excuse for Danny Boyle to shoot one good sequence, a few cool images and his new girlfriend naked + about 90 more minutes of filler.

*Just about the only living filmmaker I can think of who could make a film worthy of the Goya painting is David Lynch. Though Von Trier or Sokurov might have an interesting go at it too.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 18, 2013 2:36 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jul 19, 2007 12:04 pm
That seems like an enirely valid response to me, and I admit I had lowered my expectations quite a bit going in, so it did not take much to win me over. That said, I think you're expecting a jump in filmmaking depth/quality from Boyle that is not ever likely to happen; not to excuse mediocrity, but there are worse things than being a B-grade storyteller/generally fine visual stylist, at least in the present commercial filmmaking moment. I was not nearly as bothered by the expository nature of the hypnotherapy scenes, nor the many suspensions of disbelief required/outlined at the start of your spoiler tags (though I would indeed agree about the final twist being insufficiently grounded in what came before). It is not a major work in any way, and I don't think anyone has or will mistake it as such, but at the same time I see no need to savage the movie for its relative lack of ambition. Not that there is necessarily any comparison, but of the kind of movies in theatres right now I'd rather have Trance, inconsistencies and all, than the lugubrious self-importance of something like Place Beyond the Pines, which has plotting just as serpentine but insists on putting too much of a tidy little bow on everything.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 18, 2013 3:00 pm 
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Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 12:16 pm
Maybe I'm not being completely clear on what my problem with this film is. For me, Trance is just not a good thriller. I'm not judging it against the masterworks of Western civilization or film history, but against other films in the same genre. Trance doesn't just have plot holes, like so many twisty thrillers or even really superb ones like Vertigo, but it has huge motivation holes and that's what kills it for me. If the whole revealed reason a main character does the thing that set a story in motion to begin with makes zero sense relative to who they are, then I just can't suspend my disbelief. It would be like finding out at the end of Vertigo
[Reveal] Spoiler:
that Madeline/Judy actually didn't love Scotty, that she continued on through to the end with their relationship in the hopes of stealing his car
or something silly like that. Say what you will about The Place Beyond The Pines but it's way more devoted to organically created character trajectories and when it fails, it fails because it is unable to keep to that standard in the final third. I accept that thrillers in general tend to be more plot-driven, but that doesn't mean they are allowed to forget about presenting us with believable human beings. In fact, I'd almost say the opposite. The more simple and believable the true motivations of any given central character -- hero or villain -- in a thriller, the easier it is for us to let our guard down and go with all the twists and turns.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 18, 2013 3:06 pm 
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warren oates wrote:
I'm not judging it against the masterworks of Western civilization or film history

Uh, you're comparing to Vertigo, so you kind of are


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 18, 2013 3:53 pm 
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Only to how Vertigo works as a thriller, to its genre storytelling with respect to character and the way a good film with plot holes can nevertheless pull us in by crafting believable character motivations. I'm not talking about Vertigo's other aesthetic or visual qualities at all. It shouldn't be a badge of honor for Boyle -- maker of numerous thrillers -- to be committing basic errors that any serious student of Hitchcock wouldn't. So compare Trance to Side Effects instead if you wish, another recent film that falls apart in the end for reasons largely related to revealed motivations. Yet, even though I'm not a huge fan of that film, there was less of a gulf for me there between the characters shown to be ultimately pulling the strings and the reasons we're offered that they went to all that trouble in the first place.

If you want to get nitpicky about Vertigo, you could argue
[Reveal] Spoiler:
that Gavin Elster, who is the original plotter and prime mover of the story has a plan that is way too baroque and contingent to accomplish what he's trying to achieve, but that's part of the intelligence of the story construction and the way Hitchcock tells it. Because he's not really a lead, so the focus isn't ultimately on Elster like it is on Rosario Dawson's character in Trance. Still, even in Elster's case, we know he wants his wife to be killed without implicating him. And that's something we can at least understand even if we find it abhorrent and can't relate to it. Whereas Dawson's motivation in Trance is just a huge silly "because reasons!" cop-out.

I suppose that's what it comes down to for me, separating out a given character's motivation from the twisty machinations that ensue. It's a fundamental problem writing any thriller nowadays, where the audience has seen it all before. And so I imagine it becomes ever more tempting to take the easy way out and simply throw us some previously secret left-field revelation of why it's all been happening and who's really behind it. For me, though, a big part of what's thrilling in a good thriller is that the more information is revealed, the more sense everything we've previously been shown starts to make, even if we need to reframe it with each successive revelation. No so in Trance.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 29, 2013 11:26 am 
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Location: Ridgecrest, CA
I just saw this film over the weekend, and while I enjoyed it overall, I can easily understand the mixed reviews. Some parts were awesome, some parts dragged, and I definitely feel there was one twist too many at the end (I wish they had left the final reveal more ambiguous)

When my girlfriend and I were talking about it afterwards, though, there were two things we couldn't come to an agreement on. Can anyone help answer the following questions?

[Reveal] Spoiler:
Did Rosario Dawson say she wanted McAvoy to bring her a painting, or did she specify she wanted that particular painting? It seemed wierd for her to request that one, since it didn't seem to have much significance to them other than the fact that he impersonated it at one time. The fact that she couldn't even guess the painting (and seemed to have the same glazed look on her face that my girlfriend gets when i start talking about Criterion films) implies that the painting wasn't too important for her.


[Reveal] Spoiler:
At one point, when McAvoy struck Dawson in a flashback, she said something about this being the second time. Did this refer to McAvoy hitting her twice, or had she previously been in a different abusive relationship? I thought it was the latter, as it would help explain how she was able to coolly plan the whole thing about- it could be read as a revenge fantasy she concocted after getting out of her first abusive relationship; McAvoy just gave her a chance to ennact it.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 29, 2013 1:00 pm 
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Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 12:16 pm
See above where I exhaustively question the premise of both your questions: namely, that this film knows (or cares) what it's doing plotwise, that each twist is anything more than a red herring concealing the next, that the characters are consistent and rendered with clear motivations, complex psychology and compelling backstories that drive their behavior and make more sense with each subsequent revelation.

To Q1:
[Reveal] Spoiler:
She does say she wants that specific painting, but never anything more about why. Which is the single biggest WTF? in this film. The entire reason she undertakes the whole thing makes no sense. But let's say I'm misunderstanding, that she just wants "a painting" -- then why make it one that's so closely guarded or highly valued? And if it's just any painting, why keep it in the end?


To Q2:
[Reveal] Spoiler:
I thought this was referring to McAvoy hitting her for the second time, this time in the present moment. But the more important point for me is that it doesn't actually matter! Both of your interpretations plus mine work equally poorly within context of her character arc and motivations.

So let's get this straight, a therapeutic professional is in an abusive relationship and she decides to get revenge, because any experienced therapist knows that the best way to deal with an abusive stalker is to offer to continue the relationship in any way. Put aside for a second how hard it is to believe both that revenge would drive her character given the rest of what we know about her, or that given what she's supposed to know about human behavior that she would go about it in anything like the way that she does. Let's just accept that either the nameless, faceless first abuser you posit or just McAvoy, the abuser who keeps coming back and forcing himself on her, drives her to concoct an appropriate "revenge."

How does a violent, dangerous, totally contingent and complex art theft heist involving at least half a dozen others square with that motivation? She's a hypnotherapist. He's an especially suggestive hypno-subject who won't stop coming to her for hypnotherapy. She's got basically a jillion options of funny, clever, mean stuff she could implant to mess with his mind that have nothing to do with all these other people or with acquiring a priceless art object ("The next time you feel like hitting anyone, and every time after that, you will punch yourself in the face instead." "Whenever you become attracted to a woman, you will transform into a chicken." "Whenever you intend to ask a woman out, you will instead say, 'I'm a serial wife-beater, don't come home with me, you stupid bitch!'" Etc., etc., etc.). What if she just wanted to hurt him a little, without ruining the whole rest of his life? If you buy the incredible powers the film ascribes to their hypnotherapy dyad, she could even create innumerable suggestions that would easily get him fired from his job without stealing anything or hurting anyone else.

Instead, the film only offers us an awfully elaborate plan to get some kind of abstract "revenge" on McAvoy that leaves a hugely destructive swath of collateral damage in its wake.

And, once again, it seems like your problems with the film -- even though you enjoyed it -- are, like mine, not as much about plot holes as motivation holes.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 06, 2013 2:45 am 
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Usually I'm not bothered (nor particularly intrigued either) by the use of nudity or full frontal nudity in films but in this instance I really did not like the way it was done. Rosario Dawson is a gorgeous, gorgeous women, so that is not at all what I am complaining about, what I am complaining about is the way Boyle went about it. The way it was staged, framed and edited were particularly bothersome to me. Danny Boyle made Rosario Dawson and her, shall we say, new look down below, a spectacle. From the moment we hear the U2 song start playing, Boyle begins calling attention to Dawson as a spectacle and an object of male voyeuristic desire. He tilts up her body in a moderately slow motion giving the audience enough time to see every intimate detail of her frontal anatomy and then he cuts to a shot of James McAvoy with his mouth open, jaw practically on the floor, gazing upon the fetishized object of his desire. Speaking of Vertigo, it reminded me a fair bit of the way Hitchcock photographed Madeline and certain parts of her body, specifically when she was Judy and Scottie was trying to turn her into Madeline.

For me that part really took away from the film. Where Boyle tried, and failed, to add another layer to the already twisty-turning convoluted plot, he ended up failing in my opinion and only ended up adding a clip that will be found on internet porn sites for years to come. But hey, if he and Rosario Dawson don't mind who am I to judge or care. But in terms of the film, I think it only served to objectify Elizabeth and fetishize over female genitalia.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 8:52 am 

Joined: Thu Aug 08, 2013 10:53 pm
I don't know if I'm the only one on this, but I felt like the movie had too many reflective surfaces. I didn't see any link to anything in movie, other than being hypnotized and not acting like yourself. Even that doesn't seem close. Did that bother anyone else?


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 1:07 pm 

Joined: Mon Jul 25, 2005 6:04 pm
TheDudeAbides wrote:
Rosario Dawson is a gorgeous, gorgeous women, so that is not at all what I am complaining about... Danny Boyle made Rosario Dawson and her, shall we say, new look down below, a spectacle.... Boyle begins calling attention to Dawson as a spectacle... He tilts up her body in a moderately slow motion giving the audience enough time to see every intimate detail of her frontal anatomy...

Congratulations sir. This may not have been your intention, but you've done the impossible and actually make me want to see a Danny Boyle film.


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