MOVIE BUFF-ET: Technically well-crafted “The Lighthouse” frustrates, bores movie buff

Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson in The Lighthouse / A24

Some movies, no matter how well made, just aren’t for some viewers. That’s the case for me and director Robert Eggers’ maddening new film “The Lighthouse.”

Eggers’ first film “The Witch” (2015) is one of the most disturbing and compelling horror movies in recent years. My regard for it had me eagerly awaiting Eggers’ next movie, but “The Lighthouse” was just too off-kilter for my liking.

The film may be the most beautifully shot and deepest movie of the year, but as sharp and glorious as the it looks in back and white, no matter how inventively and intricately Eggers framed and shot the movie, despite its symbolism, and the engrossing and yet still off-putting performances by Willam Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, the movie was a snoozer for me.

Not since the nonsense of “The Blair Witch Project,” which drew its success from a fantastic but never-repeatable marketing campaign that had some questioning whether the “found-footage” film was fact or fiction, have I been as disappointed with a movie hailed as widely for its quality of horror.

Eggers’ latest effort isn’t “The Emperor’s New Clothes” like “The Blair Witch Project,” but I need a bit more from a story than just watching two rather despicable characters driving each other crazy while abandoned on an island. The movie is inspired to a degree by the plight of three Eilean Mor lighthouse keepers who went missing in December of 1900 after storms hit the small island off the northwest coast of the United Kingdom.

Sure, there is the subtext that familiarity and proximity often breed contempt in relationships of all sorts. Yes, Eggers and his co-scripter and brother Max adeptly infused the script with the spirit of mythological characters Proteus (Dafoe) and Prometheus (Pattinson) in the film’s tug of war over whom will be the master of the light and lighthouse, but I still found the movie frustrating and boring rather than riveting or creepy.

No doubt Eggers is a fan of Lovecraft and Poe with the images and attempts at tension and shocks reminded me of both while watching the movie. I appreciate Eggers crafting such a literate movie, but the mystery of just what the heck is going on on the island just didn’t grab me enough to care about either of the characters. Also, when I have to recall ancient myths and the works of writers dead before I was born to make heads or tails of movie, it’s not exactly my favorite type of film going experience.

On a level of craft, I wouldn’t argue with anyone who suggests “The Lighthouse” is a great movie. The craft behind its production is impeccable. I could see Dafoe getting another Best Supporting Actor nomination, and even could see Eggers and his cinematographer Jari Blaschke getting Oscar nods for their work, too, but the movie’s story, tone, and pacing just didn’t work for me.

(R) 1 hr. 50 min
Grade: B

New In Local Movie Theaters

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Classic Corner – The Godfather Part II

Al Pacino in The Godfather: Part II / Paramount Pictures

It’s a difficult task to escape the law of diminishing returns, especially with movie sequels. It’s simply hard to top an original.

I’d argue James Whale surpassed his original “Frankenstein” with “The Bride of Frankenstein, and that Irvin Kershner fashioned a better film in “The Empire Strikes Back” than George Lucas did with “Star Wars.” Many feel James Cameron outdid himself with “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” when compared to “The Terminator.”

However, the best sequel ever made is getting two special, big-screen showings at 3 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Wednesday when the Malco Razorback Cinema plays “The Godfather Part II” this week.

I won’t say that Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather Part II” is better than his 1972 original, but I do prefer it to the original.

The split narrative of Michael Corleone’s struggles in maintaining hegemony among the New York City crime families along with the plight of his father Vito Corleone in building the family into an organized-crime power in flashbacks is a compelling structure that delivers both a sequel and a prequel to Coppola’s original masterpiece.

As he did in the original, Al Pacino portrays Micheal as the heavy head who now wears the Mafia crown, and through he did not win an Oscar for the performance, many film experts classify it as not only the top performance of his career but one of the best in film history.

Robert Di Nero, who did nab a Best Supporting Performance Oscar, is nearly as strong as young Vito, who masterminds a power grab for the ages to vault his family into a position of prominence that his heir Michael feels slipping through his fingers as rival families plot to overthrow him.

Set in 1959 with flashbacks to the 1920-40s, the Shakespearian arc shows that it often easier to gain power than it is to control or maintain it.

While there are a lot of films playing in local theaters this week with some of them being very good, “The Godfather Part II” is without a doubt the best movie playing in the area this week.