some of my favorite things #7: birth (2004)

Jonathan Glazer’s follow-up film to his wildly kinetic crime drama Sexy Beast (2000), Birth (2004), did not receive the same sort of critical love that his debut had in England and to a lesser degree here in the States.  Which is sad, since Birth is just as accomplished, if not in fact the more risk-taking venture.  It’s a chamber piece of exquisite precision, but one that acknowledges that at its core, its narrative is pure, furious operatic melodrama.  That Glazer somehow maintains the film’s dryly comedic and somber tone despite its more outlandish subject matter is  wondrous… dare I say, even masterful.  Scripted by Glazer and Buñuel co-collaborator Jean-Claude Carrière and starring Nicole Kidman, Danny Huston, Lauren Bacall, and Cameron Bright as a strange, off-putting ten-year old boy who claims to be the reincarnation of Kidman’s deceased first husband, Birth treads frequently into strange, uncomfortable waters.  One can’t help but fantasize what Buñuel may have done with the same material.  Birth received mostly mediocre to bad reviews when released theatrically and it was quickly forgotten.  But it seems to be slowly gaining some much-needed reappraisal, like this little nod from David Thomson posted today on the  Guardian site.  Let’s hope that the tide continues to turn.

This clip (weirdly subtitled) is arguably the film’s pièce de résistance.  It begins with the boy, who has been stalking Kidman, being forced by Huston (Kidman’s fiancee) to never see her again.  As the scene continues at the opera, the camera focuses on Kidman’s face as she becomes unmoored in the realization that the boy may be telling the truth about who he really is.

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