Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Watch or Die.

Turns out the best filmmaking so far in 2008 isn't playing in any multiplex or art house near you. It's not even on DVD yet, instead it's airing on HBO.
The fact that the life of John Adams, second president and underrated founding father of the United States of America, is so fascinating, engaging and thrilling should be as hard to believe as the idea that there was actually a time when the country was being mishandled, attacked and abused as it now does to other countries.
This miniseries however proves just that. Spread in seven magnificent parts, each one more intense and absorbing than the previous, "John Adams" is the kind of filmmaking that reminds us of the times when movies were deemed as "events".
With a scope that's both epic and personal, the miniseries covers the life of Adams and through his eyes examines the first fifty years of actual American history; from the Boston Massacre, passing through the signing of the Declaration of Independence (the scene where it's edited to have the appropriate words is brilliant), the first inauguration ceremony (which invites to patriotic fervor regardless of your nationality) and even the construction of Washington D.C. (which leads to a bittersweet observation on who its builders were).
Paul Giamatti leads the flawless ensemble playing Adams like a man who just wants to do good, but not the kind that ought to get you canonized or praised, but one that emerges from a deeper global consciousness. Suddenly it's not so curious why Adams has been so disregarded by history.
The glorious Laura Linney plays his wife Abigail, providing her with such a strength that you wonder how didn't the actual Abby live to be two hundred years old. Linney and Giamatti have a special kind of chemistry that makes their respect for each other the foundation of the real love between the Adams'.
They call each other "friend" which surprisingly makes for a beautifully romantic gesture that moves anyone to tears.
The extense supporting cast includes the always brilliant Tom Wilkinson as Benjamin Franklin, Stephen Dillane (who is fantastic!) as Thomas Jefferson and Sarah Polley as John's daughter Abby.
Directed by Tom Hooper the film is painstakingly detailed, but never selfconsciously painful.
And while praising the miniseries for its technical achievements, ensemble and crew might be enough, the driving force behind it (obviously powered by the aforementioned) is its fiery, emancipating spirit.
To find the present in the past should be more than enough to invite change into a decaying world that crumbles under its actions, but fails to acknowledge its mistakes and finally understand that history does repeat itself.
That a film strives to create historical conscience is as admirable and brave as you can get in any art form nowadays.
"Posterity you will never know how much it cost us to preserve your freedom" says Adams, before adding "I hope you'll make a good use of it, if you don't I shall repent in heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it".
More a bittersweet reminder than an angered accusation, "John Adams" makes us believe in a time when the USA had actual reasons to call itself the greatest country in the world.

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