…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “baby boom

TIFF: The Debt


A remake of an obscure Israeli film, John Madden‘s new film, The Debt, starts in 1965 with Rachel Singer (Jessica Chastain), David (Sam Worthington) and Stefan (Marton Csokas) being congratulated for killing a Dr. Vogel, the Surgeon of Birkenau, a composite of three real Nazi leaders. These perfect-looking Mossad agents carry their celebrity spy status thirty years later.  Rachel’s daughter writes a book about them, unfortunately only Rachel (Helen Mirren) and Stefan (Tom Wilkinson) survive, and elder Rachel comfortably makes the people think the story ends there.

What proceeds and dominates the film are both a flashback and a solid balancing act. Rachel’s the new girl in the field, David welcomes her as his wife, the three learn martial arts and live and eat with each other, cabin fever included. Chastain is the heart of her section of the film. Worthington portrays a multi-faceted David, loving fake husband, butt kicker, wounded soul. Csokas is a believable group leader without trying to mug for the camera. We also see great glimpses of Vogel (Jasper Christensen), who conveys empathy despite being an irredeemable monster.

ph. TIFF

We forward to the older, bitter versions of Rachel and Stefan, and both learn that they must correct their big mistakes in the mission in different ways. The willing suspension of disbelief is slightly lifted since the elder and younger versions of the characters are never perfectly in sync. Comparisons with Boys of Brazil will be inevitable. I gave it a 4/5, but yes, I was being too nice.


If I was Gena Rowlands


ph. Orion

“I guess you don’t read the theatre section of the paper.”

Hit her, Marion (Gena Rowlands), hit her! There’s only the three of you in this block. However, unlike this classical period in his career, Woody Allen films have only been violent in the past six years and only twice within that time. Anyway, I’m criminally new to Gena Rowlands’ word. Someone give me a movie where she literally kicks ass. Gloria?

Also, I’d hesitate to do any physical harm to Claire. I love the actress playing her, Sandy Dennis, specifically because she can steal a scene from Natalie Wood. And Dennis actually looks better in 1988 than she did decades before that. I’m so bad in not knowing that Dennis did major work after Woolf.

I’m also reminding myself while watching bits of Another Woman that this is Woody Allen evoking American Ingmar Bergman. I’ll give Bergman’s right hand man Sven Nyqvist, this film’s cinematographer, in how empty New York looks, and I’ve never viewed that with suspicion until now. This won’t be the last time we’ll see New York so empty. And is that light bulb on top of that post or behind that window? Anyway, Bergman also influences Allen’s work here to the direction of subtlety and, well, passive-aggressive dialogue, secret emotions, distorted memory, women being unfair towards each other.

Let’s fast forward by four or five minutes, where we find out that adulthood is a series of broken friendships. Marion takes Claire and her husband to drinks in a dank pub with etched walls, Claire sulks and then tells her she’s an unconscious home-wrecker. Now we know why Claire utters that quote above. Imagine how hurt Marion feels by learning this. The way Claire gets destroyed makes it a dirty victory for Marion, but classy and newly introspective as she is, she does not take the trophy home. I can’t imagine anyone questioning her actions by this time.


The big leap.


ph. MGM

No one can do blasphemy like Woody Allen. Thing is I’ve been looking for this scene while skimming Hannah and Her Sisters and couldn’t find it, and I was gonna post a still of Barbara Hershey permanently coming out of the shower or the atrocious fashion. Oh, you want me to do that too?

When April (Carrie Fisher) makes Holly (Dianne Wiest) feel guilty about something the former did. Well, Holly didn’t have dibs on David (Sam Waterston), so finders keepers.

And when Holly and Mickey (Woody Allen) have a second chance. What kind of Jewish parent names their kid Mickey?

Also, Lewis Black, Julia-Louis Dreyfus, John Turturro and Richard Jenkins are in this movie? I need to rewatch this in entirety!


In the Mood for Love


Wong Kar-Wai’s In The Mood For Love is on at the Harbrourfront at 9 tonight as part of Longo’s Free Flicks about food. Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung) is a writer and asks Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung) to act out roles about fictional love affairs. If you’re able to scroll down and see a review, that’s because I wasn’t able to see the movie for a second time. I still can’t resist telling you how Maggie Cheung’s performance is what makes it a classic. Nonetheless, see you there!


Hausu


ph. Toho/Criterion/Eureka

Other critics have written about the curiously interesting film making techniques that Nobuhiko Obayashi has used in his feature debut, Hausu, which makes me question my sobriety until this moment as I’m writing this post. But I’ll talk about how marriage-obsessed this movie is. A female gym teacher’s having an arranged marriage, and audience members can deduce that the marriage had to be arranged because she didn’t have the volition to look for a man herself. A high school student, Gorgeous – seriously that’s the character’s name – is angry because Daddy’s getting remarried. Gorgeous and her friends are staying with her aunt for the summer. On the way, a poster tells then “Stay at the countryside. Get married.” The aunt’s lover died in the war but stubbornly waits for him forever, and eats young women so that she CAN wait forever.

Hausu is a part of the Japanese horror/Noh/kabuki tradition like its more coherent predecessor, Ugetsu Monogatari, since both have haunted houses with ghostly female hosts trapping new guests, national metaphor, yadda. Hausu is also a part of horror tradition in general because it kills of the useless ones. Who will survive? How many? Will it be Gorgeous, the young woman who might inherit her aunt’s house? Fantasy, the observant one, doting and waiting for her male teacher? Prof, the one who reads while cats with laser eyes – Andy Samberg oughta be sued – is attacking her and her friends? Kung Fu, her name being self-explanatory, although she presents herself as another obvious enemy against the house?  Melody, who shares the aunt’s interest in the piano? Sweet, the one who cleans the house? Or Mac, the one who gives the aunt a watermelon? You have two more days, today till Thursday. Go see it!

I do like these girls, walking through the countryside like that. Girls today would be too conscious that they might be watching their pedicures while treading on their impractical Louboutin heels. Or maybe that’s just me being sexist.

I wasn’t scared in a way that I wasn’t jolted by the movie, but it’s creepy and that’s good enough for horror. Enjoy this movie.


Hair


There are large expository gaps within the musical numbers in Milos Forman’s adaptation of Hair, as first pointed out by a Variety staff writer. I haven’t seen the musical on stage so I haven’t seen it done better. The songs in the film seem like a part of the conversation but director uses the songs to create one set piece after another. What he did to ‘Aquarius’ was awesome but it’s a song that no one can mess that up.

ph. UA

But with my second viewing, I discovered songs that I didn’t pay attention. In ‘Walking in Space,’ the song doesn’t perfectly match with the visuals, but I like the effort within the metaphor. The actress sings the song well. I don’t think it’s the best cast musical (the movie settled with actors who can kinda sing and kinda act, sometimes singing the most passionate songs with the deadest eyes I’ve seen in people), but there’s a little magic in the film when the vocals can sometimes hint on the pathos and beauty of the song they’re singing. It happens in this number.

Also, ‘Claude’s (John Savage) going to the Army’ is established in the beginning of the film instead of making it a shocking twist in the end. At least the movie has a story now instead of it being two hours of hippies – is that a pejorative? – dancing in Central Park. But with a little narrative, the audience lost the sincerity of the activist movement in the late 1960’s. Sheila (Beverly D’Angelo) stumbles into the hippies instead of being already a part of them. The film portrays guys like Berger (Treat Williams) as beggars, hustlers and apathetic deadbeats. Sure, there were probably a lot of beggars, hustlers and apathetic deadbeats within the movement, but they could have at least had a cast member who knows about the issues. Despite my limited knowledge, Hair is the most eloquent, articulate, incendiary, explosive musical I’ve listened to and this movie didn’t fully tap into those great qualities.

I hate watching movies that I used to like in high school, because the spark of rebellion I saw in those movies fade away.

Word vomit on the film’s context – there were a lot of movies in the ’70’s that tackled the ’60’s as the subject, like a nation took ten years to finally talk about the collective destruction and trauma. Most of those films were Vietnam War films, articulating the multiple deaths in a generation of men. But some focused on the counterculture and its battles fought at home, like Serpico, a film that portrayed a man’s limitless access to information and culture. Or Shampoo and Carnal Knowledge, about the feelings hurt during free love.

(p.s. I also forgot about Norman Jewison’s Jesus Christ Superstar, although it’s ambiguous as to which decade or time in history that the film is representing.)


Away From Her


ph. Warner

In one the first scenes of “Away From Her,” Fiona Anderson (Julie Christie) puts a pan on a freezer. There’s no music to put this action in context. Fiona’s obliviousness and her husband Grant’s (Gordon Pinsent, voice of God) confusion add to the mix of what I felt as an audience. Do I react in shock? Burst in inappropriate laughter?

After that scene in the kitchen and other after that she is aware of being hit by Alzheimer’s and its consequences and warns Grant about the latter. At times she walks within a room like a ghost, mourning lost memory without crying over it. There is a repeated shot of her looking lost in her vast snowy backyard. The minimal use of the film score, the lack of overwrought crying scenes. Mostly, this movie’s approach is about what’s not being given nor shown nor heard, letting the audience react in their personal way.

I’m thinking of other actresses that might be able to pull of the character, Canadian ones. Mary Walsh would rock the skiing scene. But Julie Christie is a solid statue as Fiona and doesn’t let go, as they say. No one can do elegance like the kind she puts into her character.

That sounds a little dreary to many of you, but there’s some verbally aggressive yet sometimes comic anger from the characters, especially the women. Fiona gives Grant the worst goodbye ever. Miss Montpellier (Wendy Crewson) condescends to him. Kristy gives him a torrential speech about the obliviousness of men, out of character for archetypal customer service characters. Marian’s (Olympia Dukakis) is just rough yet likable. The men get in on the action too. Grant comments on seeing his wife in the aged home, and Fiona’s new boyfriend Aubrey (Michael Murphy) can do so much with a look.

You can look at the film as Grant’s world crumbling just as much as its implied gender dynamics. He’s learning about women and female anger and unwritten institutions of womanhood that he’s been oblivious to. Through Fiona’s degenerative condition, Fiona, Grant and the supporting characters in their lives are feeling the end, and therefore things must be said and revealed.

It’s also a ‘Canadian story for Americans’ narrative, which shows especially in Marion’s words like ‘Kamloops, BC’ ‘Canadian Tire.’ The whole room knew where Kamloops is. There’s also the retired hockey commentator who gives some of the best moments of the film.

The only flaw of this movie is when Grant uses a metaphor to describe Alzheimer’s, like light switches in the house turning off one at a time. Then the film shows their house and the lights turn off the way Grant has described. I believe in showing or telling by not both. The rest of it is a story about loss with comic relief, surprising for director Sarah Polley’s reputation.