Goodbye to Language
Jean-Luc Godard's latest free-form essay film may be, more than anything else, a documentary of a restless mind.
Q. In your review of "The Exorcism of Emily Rose," you wrote,"You didn't ask, but in my opinion, she had psychotic epileptic disorder, but it could have been successfully treated by the psychosomatic effect of exorcism if those drugs hadn't blocked the process."
I have news for you, there is no such thing as a "psychotic epileptic disorder/seizure." The symptomatology of psychosis and epilepsy do not correlate. Next time, please base your opinion on something that the fields of psychiatry and psychology acknowledge. Jonathan Fink, psychologist, Hilton Head Island, S.C.
A: Scott Derrickson, director of "The Exorcism of Emily Rose," replies: "It's true that 'psychotic epileptic disorder' is not the name of any real medical condition -- nor is the drug 'Gambutrol' real, for that matter. The use of the actual names of recognized medical conditions and pharmaceuticals in movies typically must be changed for legal and copyright purposes.
"To further address your concerns, it should be noted that in the film, the name 'psychotic epileptic disorder' is meant to be taken as a dubious medical term -- one that has been invented by the doctor on the witness stand. And the fact that the symptoms of psychosis and epilepsy do not correlate is pointed out by the defense, but that certainly doesn't negate the possibility that a person can have both conditions at once.
"This is all, however, beside the point, really. I can't speak for you, but it seemed quite obvious to me that your last paragraph was not intended as a literal evaluation of Emily Rose's condition or potential cure, but rather a symbolic acknowledgement that there are merits to both sides of the court case, and that the truth probably lies somewhere in the murky overlap between them."
Ebert again: Derrickson may have been too quick to write off psychotic epileptic disorder. Dr. Barton Odom, philosophy professor at Tarleton State University, informs me: "According to epilepsy.com, there are several syndromes in which the symptomatologies of psychosis and epilepsy do indeed correlate. So your sentence was correct as written: there is such a thing as psychotic epileptic disorder (several, in fact)."
Q. While reading my local paper over the weekend, I saw an ad for "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" that called it "The Best Reviewed Movie of the Year!" with a note stating this was from Rotten Tomatoes. So I went to rottentomatoes.com and looked up 2005 movies, and found that "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" has a Tomatometer rating of 85 percent -- very respectable, but hardly the best of 2005.
In fact, Rotten Tomatoes rates it as No. 35 in its list of 2005 movies. Rated higher than "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" are such wide-release movies as "Murderball," "March of the Penguins," "Kung-Fu Hustle," "Millions" and "Broken Flowers." Why (and how) can Universal Pictures get away with an ad that is blatantly lying? Doug Wicinski, Rockville, Md.
A. A Universal spokesperson replies: "Every year, there are a number of films that make the unsubstantiated claim of being the 'best reviewed film of the year,' but this is not the case with 'The 40-Year-Old Virgin.' Upon the weekend of its release, the film received a 90-percent positive rating from Rotten Tomatoes, the online site that aggregates reviews from the widest collection of critics. With that rating, the film became the best reviewed of 82 wide releases from major studios as of that date. On Aug. 19, Rotten Tomatoes posted a news report on its site with the headline 'The 40-Year-Old Virgin' is the Best Reviewed Film of the Year.' While this ranking does not, as your reader notes, take into account specialty films, documentaries and films that began in limited release, Universal Pictures cited the source as Rotten Tomatoes in all ads that touted the film as the 'best reviewed film of the year,' should any consumer want to verify the legitimacy of that claim."
Q. I know you liked "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" more than your readers did. You also liked it more than I did. I do a review column for an ad people's newsletter, and my main problem with this movie was the casting of Steve Carell as Andy in the lead. I never believed him in that role.
Everybody else was fine, especially Paul Rudd and Catherine Keener. But the role of Andy seemed made for either Adam Sandler or Ben Stiller, not Carell, which is ironic, since he co-wrote the script. I wonder what you think about the job Carell did. Liz Craig, Roeland Park, Kan.
A. It is hardly true to say I liked the movie more than my readers did, since it is a phenomenal box-office success, but I think Carell was perfect in the role. Sandler might have been too knowing and Stiller too macho; Carell projects an innocence that is crucial to the movie's success. I hope he will forgive me for saying so, but you can believe he is a virgin.
Q. Recently you have come under fire from readers who don't get the humor in your columns, as in your "The Dukes of Hazzard" and "The Aristocrats" reviews. The print media is the absolute hardest place to be witty. A little piece of me dies every time one of your witticisms is mistaken for a sincere attack. Andrew Zimmer, Los Angeles
A. I hope it is a very small piece. A depressing number of people seem to process everything literally. They are to wit as a blind man is to a forest, able to find every tree, but each one coming as a surprise.
Q. With "Saraband" being Ingmar Bergman's very last film and taking his age and his amazing body of work into account, I feel it is time for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to reward Bergman with its lifetime achievement award.
When I searched the Oscar database, I was surprised to discover that he has not yet already been given the award. Giving the award to a foreign film director is nothing new; in 1990, Akira Kurosawa received the lifetime award for his contributions to film. Nick Neely, Huntsville, Ala.
A. Absolutely. By general acclaim, Bergman is the greatest of living directors, and "Saraband" a magnificent farewell. Bergman won the Irving G. Thalberg Award in 1971, presented by the Academy's Board of Governors to "creative producers whose bodies of work reflect a consistently high quality of motion picture production."
But it is not precisely a lifetime achievement award; that would be the academy's Honorary Award, which according to the academy "is not called a lifetime achievement award by the academy, but it is often given for a life's work in film-making -- to Polish director Andzrej Wajda in 1999, for example, and to Elia Kazan the previous year."
Q. I wonder if it was just a coincidence that you posted your Great Movie review of "Crimes and Misdemeanors" on Sept. 11. I couldn't stop thinking that if the eyes of God are on us always (I grew up with that notion, and often it's not a very good feeling), what to think of those airplanes hitting the Twin Towers?
Or what to think of natural disasters like Katrina or the tsunami in Asia? Do you think the powers that be have the same "morals" as Martin Landau's character? Are we all poor romantic losers like Allen? I don't know. But the film sure is brilliant. Joao Solimeo, Vinhedo, Brazil
A. The timing was a coincidence, although the timing of my Great Movie review of "The Terrorist" was directly inspired by the bombings in London. I believe that events on earth happen because they happen. If one believes, as many religions do, that God gave man free will, then surely he also set the universe free to realize itself.
Those who interpret natural disasters as messages from God almost always think God is sending a message that agrees with their own philosophy. God never seems to send messages that causes them to wonder if they are wrong. A rare exception was when the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa, after upholding apartheid for years, decided it was immoral.
Q. In your review of "An Unfinished Life," you mention that the bear is played by Bart the Bear of "The Bear" (also of "The Edge," "Legends of the Fall," etc.). I'm also a fan of that Bart. But according to IMDb, the original Bart passed away in 2000. There's another Bart the Bear now.
Personally, I find this distasteful. By selecting an identical name so soon after the original Bart's passing, it's as if the new bear's handlers and agents are trying to dupe us and capitalize on the success of the beloved cinematic ursine. I imagine most people were not fooled by the appearance of Bruce Le and Bruce Lei after Bruce Lee's passing, but Bart's death wasn't widely publicized; most people could be fooled. Eric Petrisic, Orlando, Fla.
A. Next you'll be telling me there was more than one Lassie. I'm pretty sure there was only one Trigger, however, because Roy Rogers had the horse stuffed, inspiring Dale Evans to say, "Now Roy, don't you go getting any ideas about me."
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