Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Edmond (2005)

Edmond (Stuart Gordon, 2005)

David Mamet's pre-Pulitzer Award 1982 one-act play Edmond, is a morality play set in the darkest, most sinful interiors of an unnamed American city. Yet, unlike other morality tales, the play leads us on to believe that something good will happen, that there is indeed redemption in the end of all these profanity, sex, and violence, only to realize, in that there is actually none. It's clever writing. It has trappings of a modern noir and the main character, Edmond Burke (William H. Macy), being the center of all misfortune as he walks away from the comfort and boredom of his dwelling to tread the alleys of this literary urban hell.

The film starts with Edmond being given a note by his office's receptionist that his meeting has been moved to 1:15pm the next day. While walking, he notices a magic shop, its address as being number 115 of the apartment compound. Taking it as some sort of sign, he enters. There, he has his fortune told. The fortune teller tells him that he doesn't belong here. Somehow, that triggers Edmond to finally realize that he is bored and unhappy and tells his wife (Rebecca Pidgeon), that he is leaving her forever. Thrown out by his furious wife, he meets a racist bar regular (Joe Mantegna), who invites him to drown his sorrows in a strip club. He searches the city's red light district for sex but each time, he only gets more and more disappointed.

It's curious as to why Mamet would have another director take charge of his play, which he himself adapted for the screen. Moreover, it is quite curious as to why horror director Gordon Stuart was chosen to helm the project. Before Stuart started his career with splatter film classic Re-Animator (1985), he worked as a theater director and has directed some of Mamet's plays. It shows in the film that Stuart is comfortable with Mamet's material and theme. Somehow though, you question, whether Edmond is Stuart's or Mamet's film. Obviously, Mamet lent Stuart his reputation which caused the enlistment of A-list stars, most of which are Mamet veterans. Stuart's directorial quirks surface when the film involves destiny and fate being prime motivators of Edmond's downward spiraling. Stuart's thirst for splatter also surfaces in the more violent portions of the film and I believe, lends credence to Mamet's somewhat abstract and vague propositions.

Of course, the play is indeed Mamet's material. Whatever Stuart contributed would add will only pump up or enrich Mamet's ideas. In fact, Mamet barely modernized his 1982 play when he adapted it into a screenplay. There is much confidence in the material which features profanity that would cause Oprah Winfrey to shriek in terror, and rhythmic banter that would tease psychoanalysts and philosophical commentators to gasp in wonderment. It's a good mixture of black humor of social and racial commentary, of philosophical musings, and personal anger (which might have been a personal repercussion of Mamet's divorce.

There's much to think about as to Edmond's demons. A white man living a middle class life, who just suddenly explodes and decides to withdraw from that life, with an honest belief that he doesn't belong there, and armed with a philosophy that fear is an instrument to show what you really want. He longs to have sex but finds that paid sex is too expensive, or he might just be too shrewd as shown in an episode where he asks for his ten-dollar change from a peepshow stripper. He only gets some when he's supercharged with anger and self-realization, and now, feels the need to change the entire world, starting with the waitress he picked up from the restaurant. Then, the film ends in a deadpan humorous note, which also serves as a culmination to Edmond's racism, violence, and insatiable need to belong. Edmond's adventure to self-realization is all too warped and twisted that it might turn off, or even be branded as pointless. But certainly, it has something to say, or if not, can be very funny.

The film's success really hinges on William H. Macy. Macy is very very good here. His distinct features, an incongruent head on top of a body that's well-taken care of, is a unique sight to behold. Here, Macy musters his physical attributes and his acting prowess to portray Edmond as an alien, an everyman who doesn't belong anywhere. He walks into a bar and he sticks up like a sore thumb (only that he has a bloodied face and a bloodied shirt for further attraction). Then he preaches and giddily announces his thirst for life --- that is not something that one would normally expect from anyone who has just been beaten up and have the whole world (at least world of hookers, crooks and shady pawnshop owners) kick him out of their places of business. Macy controls his character with an indifferent glance from his hugely unproportioned eyes, and a vocal ability to sound convincingly insane even if his words might actually have sense in them. Edmond's difference might have worked because of Mamet's writing, or Gordon's love for Lovecraftian protagonists, or Macy's effective method acting, but outwardly, Edmond works because we make him work. Present society's fear and stereotypes breed characters like Edmond who feel like they don't belong, who in a way, in good faith, breed discord and disconnect with society as shown by his outward racism, his shrewdness and his lack of trust to sex workers.

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