Saturday, June 10, 2006

Krapp's Last Tape (2000)

Atom Egoyan does Samuel Beckett, and the results are impressive. It's a small, modest film about John Hurt as a man listening to tapes he'd made earlier in life, and there's a striking sense of stillness about it (Egoyan uses maybe ten cuts in the entire forty-minute film), so that every word and every movement becomes of exaggerated import. This is a technique often used to create a sense of weight, which it does here; unexpectedly, though, it also accentuates Beckett's sneaky wit. In particular, the opening five minutes contains one of the best sight gags I've ever seen, which wasn't something I was expecting from a project with this kind of pedigree. (Shows how much I know about Beckett.) John Hurt is the whole show here; he's clearly enjoying the wordplay (he turns the word "spool" into a mantra), and he's also skilled enough to get both the pathos and the absurd wit across, often in the same scene. Krapp's tapes are a physical manifestation of the memory process, with Krapp speeding past the parts he wants to forget and replaying the parts over which he obsesses, and this oddly funny and poignant film is about the perils of memory (which may explain why Egoyan chose to do it). Beckett, in essence, is saying that the overexamined life is just as unfulfilled as the unexamined one.

Grade: B


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