Film Reviews

A Few Days In September Santiago Amigorena

Rating - 4/10

Santiago Amigorena's A Few Days In September is a dumb movie, dumb not in the style of a perpetually wrong moron, but in that special style of the slightly precocious and cocky who imagine themselves to be blowing minds by tossing out the most abused stock quotations in Introductory Anthologies of Literature. There are two main characters here who masturbatorily quote from the list of poems most likely to have been read at some point. One has an excuse, as he is an insecure loner described as a "dangerous idiot", and the audience is lucky he reads something that isn't Catcher in the Rye. The other character who responds to direct questions with self satisfied recitations of poetry he didn't write is inexplicably encouraged and even engaged by not one but two beautiful French women whose characters should seem to scoff, given the intelligence, worldliness and experience they're supposed to have. It just doesn't make sense, it thinks itself to be clever, maybe even awesome, but it's just dumb. This is a movie full of characters who are supposed to have uncommon, interesting lives beyond normal society and geographic barriers, who can do nothing but act unbearably dumb.

A few seconds after the title leaves the screen, the date appears: "September 5, 2001". There are few things quite so painful as somebody trying to be subtle while in fact being thuddingly obvious and transparent. These are merely A Few Days In September in the same way people like to smirkingly refer to "a little band you may have heard of called THE BEATLES." The resonance of the near future is supposed to hover thoughtfully over the film, but with its actual proceedings so vacant, it recalls how comics desperatedly chasing the spectre of "edgy" like to punch up lame jokes by placing them in the context of the Holocaust or rape. A Few Days In September plays a little bit like an inversion of The Aristocrats' joke. Instead of a parade of shock at the limits of the imagination ending with a mild punchline, here two hours of snoozy spy pursuit and a few of the most inconsequential murders end with "9-11", which itself has worked itself into the lexicon of desperately hip shock humor.

Just about any material can be redeemed by style, which Amigorena is sorely lacking in his directorial debut. Clumbsily deployed gimmicks such as extremely low depth of field, leaving most of the screen blurry, usually including something placed in the foreground just for the hell of it, are never as classy or scintilating as intended. The dialog, likewise, is a lot less smart than it thinks, as characters find themselves mouthpieces for simplistic and broad Euro-American debates even as they repeatedly chafe at being classified as representing their national culture. The cast is shockingly impressive for the failure of the material, as a squandered Juliette Binoche and John Turturro and and anti-climactic Nick Nolte have no resources to enliven the supposedly intriguing ciphers written for them. They put on a good face and fill their screen time with an abundance of actorly affectations to attempt to mend the substance void at the heart of the script, but ultimately their valuable time was wasted, as was mine.