Meg Ryan plays Manhattan English teacher Frankie Avery. When parts of a dismemberedyoung woman are found in her back garden, Ryan is questioned by Detective Mark Ruffalo.Ruffalo asks Ryan out, and before long they’re at it hot and heavy. But the day of the murder,Ryan was in the same bar as the victim, and witnessed, in the shadows, a man being fellated.That man had the same tattoo as Ruffalo, and Ryan begins to fear that her new lover is, at best,a liar. At worst…
In the Cut is gorgeously shot, turning Manhattan into a jagged, Gothic land of gold and brown and black. The frames pulse in and out of focus, emphasizing (some might say too obviously) the idea of how little one can trust one’s eyes. The thing is, though, that in many waysJane Campion’s handsome film is essentially a high-class version of the erotic thrillers thatpopulate cable TV, with some of the same problems. The thriller aspect moves at a ponderous pace, but the relationship’s narrative arc is no better, taking forever to tell us not very much at all.As for the sex scenes, they aren’t particularly torrid or interesting (though the oral sex scene thatRyan witnesses is very graphic, and fooled me into thinking it was hardcore until thecommentary set me straight). Neither plot nor character driven, the film becomes an assembly ofstunningly beautiful shots, but they aren’t enough to sustain us for two hours.
The music is very well served by the 5.1 track, swirling from one speaker to the next. Thesound effects are even better. Though the sense of environment is not constant (this is a film ofmany silences), when that effect is created, it tends to be for a very precise effect. For instance,when Ruffalo takes Ryan to a secluded woods, and starts showing her how to use a gun, heranxiety is matched by a sudden rise in the sound of wind through the trees. Very neat.
The colours range from drab to vibrant, depending on the context of the scene, and this isas it should be. The blacks are superb, there is no edge enhancement, and there is only a veryslight degree of grain. The contrasts are excellent, and dark hues of the colours in the nightscenes (of which there are many) are stunning. The film is never murky, even when itsatmosphere is.
Director/co-writer Jane Campion and producer Laurie Parker provide an interestingcommentary, one that covers both the nuts-and-bolts aspect of the production and its thematicinterests. That’s about it as far as serious features are concerned. There’s a mildly interesting,jaggedly edited featurette that provides definitions of the slang terms heard in the film, astandard-issue Makin-Of featurette, and trailers for In the Cut, The Missing,Sin and Trapped. The menu’s main page, intro and transitions are animated andscored.
A fine film to look at, but finally a bit wearing to sit through. The performances by Ryan,Ruffalo and Jennifer Jason Leigh are fine, and the cinematography to die for, but its narrativeis a too elliptical to grip.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- “Frannie Avery’s Slang Dictionary” featurette
- Making-of Featurette
- Theatrical Trailers