AMERICAN PSYCHO- A film that teeters between Miracles and Mania, 13 October 2001


Having just finished American Psycho, I came to IMDB to get some clarification on the ending. And it seems I’m not the only one left vaguely adrift by the ambiguous ending.

I’ve browsed some of your comments, not all 400+ to be sure. But some of them. A good sampling I think, and this movie has three distinct cheering sections.

Those who consider it a masterpiece, those who consider it unredeemable, boring trash, and by far the largest segment, those who see it as a flawed masterpiece.

I fall into the latter category. And no, I did not read the book. But as others have stated any movie that requires you to read the book, to “get” the movie, is ultimately a failure as a movie.

So my review is based solely on the merits of the film. And contrary to what some have said, the film does have many merits. I found it brilliantly directed, and a superbly acted examination of excess, and boredom, and evil. An examination, satire, critique of a time, and type of thinking.

Even before seeing the ending, I thought how much Bateman lives in people. Found myself thinking, an examination of Bateman is an examination of men by the name of Reagan and Bush. How American Psycho is an examination of our times, and our modern theologies.

I found the movie as a whole riveting, loved the restraint shown (and disagree with those calling for more gore, I think Mary should be applauded for her deft hand, the scenes have more power for what is not shown), and was captivated by nearly every scene, by scenes others have called boring, but I found profound.

Bateman putting on his makeup, or simply trying to get a restaurant, and the near apocalyptic importance, such minutiae makes in the lives of empty men. The right card, or the right cloth, or the right table, or the right watch, how these are the signposts of an empty age and an empty soul, and how these things have more value than your fellow man… or woman.

Bateman attains everything the materialistic times tells him he should want, but once he gets it he feels nothing. Emptier than before, less than before. It’s only in the extremes of his addictions he begins to feel something, anything. He feeds to fill the emptiness, but the more he feeds the emptier he gets. He eats at his fellowman (woman) but in his bloodlust he eats at himself.

He is the American dream, taken to its cannibalistic extremes.

And never before has makeup, played such a mesmerizing part in a movie. Bateman’s(Chris Bale’s) face at times when he is under stress, takes on a plastic look, a glossy, sweaty sheen, and for all the world it looks like he’s wearing a mask… and the mask, his mask of sanity, is beginning to run.

Simply amazing use of makeup. And incredible performance by the lead actor. I wasn’t familiar with him before this, but everyone will be after this.

Upon first hearing about this movie, I had no desire to see it. I’ve grown up since the age of “Hills Have Eyes” and trash like “The Beyond”, watching people suffer no longer seems significant. I guess as we get older we ask more of our art than Jerry Springer, or the WWF, or slasher flicks. We ask of our art to tell us something true. Something of ourselves, and our world.

I think American Psycho under the deft hand of Mary Harron becomes more than my prejudices, and exceeds my expectations. Rises at times to dizzying heights not unlike art.

Mary’s restraint makes this movie. But I fear her restraint nearly sinks it as well. The ending is too ambiguous. Who is Bateman in the end? Is there a Bateman? And what did he do or did not do?

In the end,the movie will nag at you. Did he or didn’t he? And in the end, now that I write this I’m thinking maybe the answer doesn’t really matter, maybe in the end the answer is the same. In the end a sin of thought, or a sin of action, is still a sin. In the end we are left with a man, and a nation… whose mask is slipping.

I think like the first Psycho, time will prove this one…. worthy. I now add Mary Harron to the small selection of modern directors I will tiptoe through broken glass to see. Directors like Dave Fincher(Seven, Fight Club), Carl Franklin(Devil in a Blue Dress), Johnny To(Expect the Unexpected), Ringo Lam(Full Alert, Victim), M. Night Shyamalan(Sixth Sense, Unbreakable), and Peter Weir(Fearless).


SWORD OF DOOM (Dai-bosatsu tôge) (1966)

14 out of 20 people found the following comment useful :-
A criminally neglected Director, 22 June 2005

I saw this film first, years ago. Must have been 10 or more years back. And it made me think of Kurosawa. And how much more I enjoyed the films of Okamoto over Kurosawa.

I like Kurosawa, I am just not one of the rabid legion of fanatics for his films. The remakes of his Yojimba, Seven Samarai (which really are remakes of John Ford westerns, translated to the east) such as Leone’s Dollars movies, and Sturge’s Magnificent Seven, I prefer to Kurosawa’s films.

While technically a marvelous Director, Kurosawa’s work can be cold, distant. There is a stand-offishness there, that is similar to Fritz Lang’s willingness to stand back and bask in his angles, and patterns, the frame of the story.

Directors like Sturges are about the meat of the story, they are directors of moments rather than motion. Which is why I rate his Magnificent Seven higher than the Seven Samurai. It connects with me more.

Leone, while also a clinical director, concerned with framing, alternates that with a consummate passion for closeups, that makes his spare films, bloody with warmth.

I used to write it off to just East West differences, that accounted for the regimented to the point of distance… films of Japan. However, then I saw this film, SWORD OF DOOM, a film as clinical, and precise as any made by Kurosawa or Lang, but filled with a pathos and passion that dripped from every frame.

A longing… for everything and nothing.

Others have commented on this film: -from the patently odd assertions of this film’s protagonist as some “avenging angel sent by God” (if that was the case he would have felt no guilt for his crimes, and the glorious, berserk ending would not have come about. The beauty of this film is that it is about a man… floundering, peering into the last gates of hell, and hoping against hope for something to break his fall. What makes this film interesting, is that sense, given only through the eyes, of inner conflict in everything the Sword Bearer does.) -to the missing the point cries of “explanatory sequel/2nd half needed” and “compromised end”. I’ve seen the films this movie is based off of. They are all, complete, informed, every “I” dotted, and every “T” crossed, and every single one is grossly inferior to this film.

This film doesn’t need a beginning, and it doesn’t need an end. Doesn’t need a sequel or a prequel, it is a Masterpiece for the simple fact of its open ended nature. It transcends Alphas and Omegas, because it lives in that freeze frame between them. It is forever a film of the now, and one man caught in it.

The best review of all posted, and the one I urge you to read, is one of the earliest. Done back in May of 2000 by tais0.

To that review of the film itself, I cannot add or subtract anything. It is the best of all that I have read, the most brilliant. However I will clarify several mistakes regarding the director.

Someone wrote this film was an aberration for the director, and mentioned NIGHT OF THE HUNTER. However, that is not a comparison that makes sense. NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, a brilliant film, was the only one ever directed by Charles Laughton. Okamoto, who just recently passed away this February, directed 39 films.

And while this is his best, he directed several nearly as good, and just as beautiful. At his heart the Director had a love for musicals, like many of the greatest directors he had the heart of a composer. His early films included three crime/Underworld films with Toshiro Mifune. his two John Ford inspired DESPERADO films (mixing action with humor),and then finally a musical… that bombed horribly.

After that he got into the Samurai genre (the genre that was profitable at the time), but brought to it an editing style, and a use of sound, that was completely musically inspired. What is startling and brilliant about SWORD OF DOOM, is the soundtrack. The use of sound and silence as bold counterpoint to the story unfolding before your eyes.

That style permeates all of his films from 1964 on, to include: Warring Clans(1964), Samurai Assassin (1965), Sword of Doom (1966), Kill! (1968), Red Lion (1969), Zatoichi series Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo (1970).

Two of his films I’m dying to see are later works, infused with the comedy and love of music that characterized his often overlooked career. Dixieland Daimyo(1986)- the story of a quartet of Black jazz musicians lost in 19th-century Japan, and Vengeance for Sale (2001- the director’s final film)-light-hearted Samurai tale.

So by no means was Kihachi Okamoto a one hit wonder. I think history will reevaluate his contributions to film, and place his name up there with Kobyashi and Kurosawa and Seijun Suzuki as one of Japan’s best.



5 out of 5 people found the following comment useful :-

Absolutely Stunning!!, 10 July 2000


I’ve seen just about everything there is to see in the world of Cinema. I’ve seen Rouben Mamoulian, 68years ago, create the definitive monster movie, I’ve seen Pekinpah’s Wild Bunch go out in slo mo glory, I’ve seen Chow Yun Fat bleed his way through two hours, I’ve seen Cagney go out in a white heat at the top of the world, I’ve seen Belafonte lay Odds Against Tomorrow. I had honestly thought I had run out of surprises, I had seen everything worth seeing.

I was wrong.

I picked up, pretty much because of reviews I read here, this movie KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE. A little nothing, throwaway flick, that was done on the heels of Cagney’s wildly popular WHITE HEAT, and was pretty much ignored upon release. It’s said Cagney disliked the idea of doing another gangster picture. Thank goodness he decided to do it anyway, because this movie… out and out floored me!

It’s hard to call a movie from 50years ago brutal, and justify it. However that’s just what this movie is… deep in the bone, teeth rattling, brutal. In a world of Scorcese and Coppola Gangster riffs, Hong Kong Cinema, Slasher movies, and the nightly news it’s hard to account for this movies impact.

There’s nothing tangible in this movie, in a world of shock cinema, that one could call shocking. But yet… this movie has power, and energy, and yes a sense of brutality that blows away any dozen modern movies full of blood, or body parts.

This movies appeal is difficult to explain, but I guess if you had to sum it up in three words, it would be Cagney…CAGney…CAGNEY!!!

Today’s movies for all their CGI brilliance lack the type of center, and ,if you like, romanticism that actors like Cagney and Bogart and Raft, and directors like Raoul Walsh, and in this case Gordon Douglass, brought to the table. Particularly in the hard-boiled flicks, a menace that was somehow felt, rather than seen, and therefore more powerful.

I could go on, but all you need to know is that this movie in a world that has forgotten it, outgrown it, out-bled it, is the finest of its breed. Better than those that came before, superior to those that came after. It is the quintessential Gangster Pic. Highest Recommendation!

p.s. And I have to mention, I thought the courtroom scenes were well done and necessary, and everyone turned in great performances, especially the beautiful Holiday Carleton as Barbara Payton, who becomes Cagney’s reluctant partner in crime. Cagney turning in his most ferocious and seductive performance, is matched by Holiday. Her tension, and wild lilting ferocity and fear, burning through the movie like a fuse, until it explodes! Mesmerizing!! A must see movie!

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