Friday, January 12, 2007

Edmond (2006)

You couldn't ask for a better adaptation job than the one that's been bestowed upon David Mamet's deeply misanthropic one-act play. Stuart Gordon's direction is crisp and careful, and his handling of the actors assures that the staccato rhythms of Mamet's work will emerge without sounding forced. Too, the actors are all fantastic; William H. Macy gives a barnburner of a turn as the title character, who descends into a concrete Hades after a prophecy from a fortune-teller screws his head the wrong way 'round, but the entire cast (mostly Mamet regulars) does right by the words. So there's no fault in the translation; the flaws in Edmond, then, must be attributed to the work itself. It's an interesting work, with much to say about the concept of manhood and monetary transaction as a form of trust which too often is betrayed (note how often Macy asks, "Is this true?" right before ponying up/being conned out of/being beat up for money). It's also pretty transparent in its desire to attract attention to the then-neophyte author, with its race-baiting politics and shocking acts of violence goosing the proceedings at regular intervals. Also, the final section of this is ill-advised, serving as it does to provide credence to Edmond's diseased worldview. If it had ended with a cut to black after the last conversation between Macy and Rebecca Pidgeon, I'd forgive it its flaws as part of the grand framework, an unsparing portrait of modern malaise expressed as denied salvation and frustrated connections. But it keeps going into bizarre juvenalia territory that I'd always figured was too cheap for Mamet. It's still a fine film, raw and wiry and electric, and a grand showcase for the rarely-explored darker side of one of America's finest actors. But the growing pains of new artistry are still evident after all these years.

Grade: B-


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