Brief comments on film by Amy.
Some old, some new. Domestic films and foreign too
Cranes Are Flying: I fear this 1957 award winner was the only movie of substance I managed to watch this month. (I’ve been too busy catching up on Castle, I’m afraid. It’s no Firefly, but this detective show will definitely do. I liken the experience to visiting your local grocery only to discover they are out of your favorite Ben and Jerry’s flavor and being “forced” to buy your second choice. It’s not New York Super Fudge Chunk but it will certainly hit the spot.) But if you are only going to watch one foreign film a month, this should definitely be one of them. Set in Moscow at the outset of World War II, Cranes are Flying is breathtaking in its simple tragedy. Weaving the story of star-crossed lovers Veronika and Boris with the national story of Russia during the war, it is poignant without being melodramatic. One can’t help but wonder if this seemingly patriotic film had a deeper message of the tragedy of life under communist rule. The final scene is a bit propagandistic but doesn’t defeat the overall beauty of this classic.
The Ugly Truth: Ugh. I am not sure I have much more to say about this film. How can a movie with Katherine Heigl, whom I appreciate for her no-holds-barred approach to comedic acting, and Gerard Butler, whom I just love to watch, be bad? Poor direction, muddled logic, and bad writing, for starters. Take my advice and go watch The Proposal again. Or better yet, go check out some classic romantic comedies made during a time when people knew how to respect both love and comedy. Here are just a few of my faves: Pillow Talk, That Touch of Mink, and It Happened One Night.
Whatever Works: Whatever works, it certainly isn’t Woody Allen’s latest movie. Starring Larry David, one of my all-time favorite cynical innocents, this film fails on so many levels it’s hard to know where to begin. I don’t know why I keep punishing myself by continuing to dream the impossible dream, which is that Allen will come to his aesthetic senses and start making real art again. The irony of this film is that unlike some of his more recent offerings such as Match Point and Cassandra’s Dream, it has a happy ending; and that’s the problem. There is no longer any tension in Allen’s filmmaking, no struggle to understand the meaning of it all. I guess the title sums up his shoulder-shrugging resignation to the meaninglessness of life. And I don’t think I’m just bitter over his shallow depiction of southerners and Christians (each of whom is either moronic, hypocritical, repressed, or all of the above).
Japanese Story: Perhaps I was mistaken earlier when I said I had watched only one film of substance this month. A more correct statement might be that I watched only substantive film that I liked this month. There are some movies that I dislike because they are flawed in some way that makes them ultimately self-defeating as art. In these cases, I can point to particulars that lead me to discredit, disparage or simply “dis” the movie and its makers. Others evoke such strong emotional responses that it is difficult for me to determine whether the movie is of poor quality or I just don’t like it. Japanese Story is one such film. The acting is good (it stars Toni Collette, so the quality her performance goes without saying), and the writing isn’t bad. Nevertheless, this was not an enjoyable viewing experience. I am certainly able to appreciate movies in which the characters share a different moral perspective than I, if that perspective is truthful in its presentation. So my distaste isn’t entirely due to a conflict of worldview. Actually, the film seemed to have no moral perspective at all, and perhaps this is what bothered me. All I can say is that at the end of the movie I thought, “Well, that was a waste of time.” After all, I could have been watching Castle.