Monday, August 24, 2009


Erick Zonca’s “Julia” is an insane and very complex film, one of the most insecure movies that I’ve seen in a while due to great cinematography by Yorick Le Saux and very disorienting editing by Phileppe Kotlarski. But there’s one component that really couldn’t have been well replaced, and that’s Tilda Swinton. This is probably the year’s best performance, a shaky, captivating portrayal of a "reckless alcoholic." It easily deserves an Oscar nomination, for this is perhaps Swinton’s very best work (better than even her Academy Award-winning acting in “Michael Clayton”).

Well, the film stretches nearly two and a half hours, providing the room for a long, insane plot. Julia Harris (Swinton) is a desperate, desperate woman who owes money to plenty of people who’ve helped along the way and who drinks so much she regularly passes out. The interesting way the film handles this is by telling it from her point of view, so you see only before and after she faints. One who’s tried very hard to help her is Mitch (Saul Rubinek), her advisor of sorts on alcohol who wants to go to AA meetings, which she refuses to stay more than a few seconds at. At one she meets Elena (Kate Del Castillo), who’s also her neighbor. Elena tells her about her kid, who was taken away from her. She asks Julia if she wants to take part in a plot to kidnap the son from his stepfather, and Julia goes along, not knowing the full extent at all of what she’s getting herself into. What ensues is completely loco, wildly intense, and very inflicting upon the viewer.

Julia, previously only an owing drunk, now gets caught inside of a web of intricate plotting and into many different troubles, part of the overly elaborate script by Zonca and Aude Py which gives Swinton a spectacle to be a part of. It’s very well orchestrated, in a way that makes you feel the layers being brought upon Julia. Why I think the cinematography is so good is because the camera lurches and shakes like viewing from the perspective of a tippler. Le Saux also does bizarre things like pan the screen and pan back during shots involving multiple subjects, creating a feeling not found in most films. The editing is well done in creating a bewildering atmosphere.

I’m not sure if this is a Best Picture contender or anything, but it’s a very good film in which Swinton gives a masterful performance of little control. Zonca gets to make an interesting film that only could be made independently, due to the fact that it’s hard to endure and many would only see it once, or fractionally. I’m not sure I could really go through it again, but I probably will sometime or another. If you’re easily shaken, this is not a good film for you. But if you can take it, it’s a movie of great ability and compromising lunacy. A-

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