Kill Your Darlings - (Region A Import Blu-ray Disc)
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Victor, South Africa. 10 July 2014
The PHRASE â€œitâ€™s complicatedâ€ appears more than once in Kill Your Darlings, having nothing to do with Facebook relationship status updates. Itâ€™s almost the movieâ€™s signature.
As first uttered by Daniel Radcliffe â€“ playing a 19-year-old Allen Ginsberg, when the poet was still finding his footing at Columbia University and just establishing friendships with the writers who would become known as the Beat Generation â€“ itâ€™s a reference to Ginsbergâ€™s mentally ill mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who was in and out of sanitariums during the poetâ€™s youth.
The person who the line is spoken to is Ginsbergâ€™s schoolmate, Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), a dashing neâ€™er-do-well and fellow aspiring writer who quickly becomes Ginsbergâ€™s crush and tour guide to the literarily and sexually transgressive world of 1940s Manhattan, where the film is set.
â€œI love complicated,â€ Carr says in reply, with a purr halfway between seduction and a threat.
Though based on fact, the film is awash in delicious and difficult ambiguities. It centres on a killing that we glimpse at the filmâ€™s opening: Carrâ€™s 1944 fatal stabbing of David Kammerer (Michael C Hall of Dexter), an older admirer who had known Carr since childhood. Though Carr never denied the act â€“ in fact, he turned himself in â€“ itâ€™s not entirely clear if the killing was an act of self-defence against a homosexual stalker, as Carr, who died in 2005, claimed, or something more sinister.
From the movie, itâ€™s even less apparent whether Carr â€“ who served 18 months for manslaughter, and who went on to marry, fathering three children (including novelist Caleb Carr) â€“ ever reciprocated Ginsbergâ€™s puppyish lust.
The film shows the two young men exchanging a single, brief kiss, but it also shows Carr plagiarising â€“ soliciting and accepting term papers from Kammerer and Ginsberg as his own course work. As depicted by first-time feature director John Krokidas, who wrote the script with journalist-turned-screenwriter Austin Bunn, Carr is a narcissistic master of psychological and emotional manipulation, allowing Ginsberg, and perhaps Kammerer, to fall in love with him â€“ nay, encouraging it â€“ without requital.
Whether heâ€™s also a cold-blooded murderer is somewhat hedged. Kill Your Darlings clearly doesnâ€™t like Carr, though it stops just short of calling him a murderous, psychopathic liar. The film is hardly a murder mystery, anyway.
To a much greater degree, itâ€™s the story of Ginsbergâ€™s coming of age, as a gay man and a writer. Krokidas and Bunn do a great job of portraying a world where literature is sexy and dangerous.
Too often, films about artists arenâ€™t able to capture the creative process. Here, Radcliffe not only makes for a relatable romantic hero but also a credible literary one. Heâ€™s sensitive and increasingly fearless on both fronts.
As the story unfolds, Ginsberg grows up before our eyes, as a man and as a wordsmith, with Radcliffe marvellously rendering the naifâ€™s sense of sexual and artistic discovery as he is pulled deeper into an unfamiliar world â€“ one thatâ€™s frightening and alluring.
As writer Jack Kerouac, Jack Huston is convincing enough.
But it is Ben Fosterâ€™s William Burroughs â€“ whom we first meet in a bathtub at a party, doing laughing gas, and whose voice is a cross between a dissolute radio DJ and a death rattle â€“ who really sells the filmâ€™s sense of decadent rush.
The phrase â€œkill your darlingsâ€ refers to advice sometimes given to writers: always edit out the parts youâ€™re most in love with, because theyâ€™re probably the most self-indulgent. In this tale of longing, loss and regret, it isnâ€™t always possible to know whoâ€™s deluding themselves, or someone else.
But then it isnâ€™t always possible to know that in real life either. â€“ Washington Post
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