Good movie, but best of all time? Hardly . . .
As Good As It Gets
A waste of 90 minutes of my life
It's funny, it's tense, it features two great performances from two actors and the director expertly creates a web of odd tension where you actually don't know what is happening for the majority of the run time.
I blame this movie for awakening my mind to Rimbaud's poetry. I'm actually quite glad I saw the trailer for this. Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud were wild lovers, getting drunk on Absinthe and ruining local poetry readings. But that made their poetry- Arthur's poetry, anyways- better than before. Paul's was alright, but Arthur's was amazing. I have a whole book of his poetry including A Season In Hell, Illuminations and a series of letters. Also some writings about a girl named Timothina Labinette he was in love with (before he met Paul). And I have nothing against gay people, and I don't care if it's against God's word. I don't care if men were made to marry women. People can do what they want as long as they're not hurting anyone. Back to Rimbaud. As soon as I saw the real Rimbaud, I fell in love. But I could never understand his poetry because it wasn't the real thing. I was reading it online. But now that I'm reading the stuff that he actually wrote, I'm satisfied. The music in the movie is wonderful. Jan A.P. Kaczmarek does a beautiful job with the cello and the clarinet and the flute. If I close my eyes, I can imagine myself riding in a carriage with Rimbaud in the 19th century. I would love to go to a museum about him. Did I mention I have the whole soundtrack from 1995? Yeah, it's a CD. Yay.
A film that fails to live up to the provocative brazen confidence of the lives it depicts. DiCaprio manages to capture the arrogance of Rimbaud, but he has no opportunity to slide his youthful body into the intensity of Rimbaud's raw genius. Instead the filmmakers fetishise DiCaprio's body and his precocious pretense. They filmmakers suggest that Rimbaud has no care for love, sex or violence, taking them or leaving them with little thought, but they shy away from any sensuality or depth in their depiction of these perversely human tendencies. 150 years after the events they are depicting, the filmmakers, scandalised as they are with the bent of their material, are somewhat embarrassed about diving into the implications either visually or emotionally. Nothing is explained, the legend is barely depicted. This film is no excuse for other filmmakers to not deal with the material themselves.
On the surface, one would think that "Total Eclipse" would work as a film. A young and very gifted poet Arthur Rimbaud (played by Leonardo Di Caprio who looks the part, but cannot quite play it) is invited to Paris by Verlaine (Thewlis) and they become lovers and work together on some of the most revolutionary verse the literary world has ever known. Yet the problem with "Total Eclipse," from acclaimed Polish film-maker Agniezka Holland, is that its focus is all wrong. What makes Arthur Rimbaud and Verlaine fascinating are not their personalities, but their poetry. If the film focused on that, then it probably would have worked. Instead, this film narrate Rimbaud and Verlaine's cruelty at the expense of their literary contributions. This unpleasantly sadistic dynamic sometimes leads to some of the most lively and inspired scenes, such as when Verlaine ditches his wife and her mother at the train car and escapes with Arthur Rimbaud. But more often than not, Rimbaud and Verlaine come across as obnoxious bores. Since the victims of their malice are usually nice people, it becomes even harder to like or understand Rimbaud or Verlaine.Some might defend this picture by saying that Rimbaud and Verlaine were living life to the fullest. But living life to its fullest is not particularly thrilling, when it involves Rimbaud stabbing Verlaine's palm; Verlaine beating his pregnant wife and setting her hair on fire; and Rimbaud belching endlessly. If Holland is going to make a good film on this theme, then why not take two flamboyant people (like Rimbaud and Verlaine) and send them to Africa or another colourful part of the world where they can incorporate their life experiences into their poetry. That would be a more interesting film. Unfortunately, we get all this unpleasantness instead.
You can talk about the history, the biographical truth and fiction of the characters, and the homosexuality... but this is really a misfire because of the casting. DeCaprio is too Modern American to pull this off, no matter how willing he is to go the distance with such an unsavory part. Thewlis is too English an actor, with a mug that seems lifted straight out of the Swinging London films from the mod 60's. Neither actor exudes anything remotely French or last century. And the previous commentators seem to be obsessed with the homosexual "love" scenes but are unwilling to give notice to the straight and quite hearty love scene between Thewlis and Romane Bohringer. Not to appear a drooling pervert, but Bohringer's eye-popping figure is not a force that should be ignored. If no one else here will honor it, I surely will.