The Brothers Bloom

Jake Martin, SJ, has another terrific piece on a movie you may not have seen (or even heard of) but should, according to Martin, see right away.  Here's his opening: 

"Adrian Brody has the face of Buster Keaton and the bearing of Raskolnikov. He belongs to a time of grainy celluloid and out of tune pianos, a time when film wasn’t studied at universities and was primarily concerned with entertainment for the sake of entertainment. Somewhere in between those days of the Nickelodeon, which Brody evokes, and the megaplex era in which we currently reside, film began to take itself too seriously, or not seriously enough. Rare is the film that manages to exist within the tension of commodity and artistry. “The Brothers Bloom,” in which Brody stars, is one such film.

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I like to blame it on the French or the 1960’s; those two are always good go-tos when searching for the root of the corruption infecting Western culture. Of course it’s not that simple. Still, the establishment of the French New Wave in the early 60s is a good place to start when trying to locate the exact moment in which film in general, and American film in particular, began to take itself so darn seriously. 

Mind you, this is not necessarily a full-blown critique, as many wonderful films over the past half century have flowed from La Nouvelle Vague. It was the significant impetus in lifting film out of the realm of the purely commodified and into its rightful place as a legitimate art form. But something was lost along the way: suddenly it seemed that movies could only belong to one of two categories: those which were good for you (read: “art”) and those which were not (read: “commercial”).

It was not always so. At one time films were both entertaining and also artistic. The films of Keaton, Chaplin, Griffith, to name just a few, were compelling, humorous and entertaining on their own merits while also stylish and innovative without ever being self-conscious. About ten minutes into “The Brothers Bloom,” while encountering my own delight, I recognized the glorious communion that occurs between those who love to entertain and their audience.   

The titular characters of “The Brothers Bloom” are conmen: one enamored with the life of the grift, the other wanting one last shot at redemption. Set amidst numerous soft hued European locales in an indecipherable era, the film follows the lives of Bloom (Brody) and his elder brother Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) as they grow from criminally prodigious delinquents into sophisticated conmen capable of pulling off incredibly complex schemes entailing an innate understanding of human nature and psychology."

Read the rest here in our online Culture section, and be sure to check that section at least once a week, where we'll be posting (usually on Fridays) pieces exclusively for the online edition.

James Martin, SJ 

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