Monday, March 30, 2009

Reflections on Ozu's Tokyo Story

For Fumiko, Noriko, and Kyoko

A loving daughter's gaze

Another day lost in time
forever gone and ever-present
The departing train leaves a dissolving black cloud

Both gone
The mother and the sister she never had

On forged rails of steel that offer no return
the other daughter gifted by fate
holds the mother's watch
In anguished reminiscence the time-piece ticks away in eternity
as she smiles the smile of loss and regret

Why did she leave us?

Three women in boundless love blossomed
in cruel obscurity and exquisite meaninglessness
The mother is gone forever
and the daughters lost to each other in Time's imperative

The towers of industry billow their smoke
to the boundless indifferent sky
while the agony and the ecstasy of aloneness and sweet regret
fade into the abyss of the past

The ships ply the harbour their engines rhythmically echoing
the aching heartbeat of a lonely old man

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Summary Judgements #4

The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
The ultimate road movie of good intentions and sincere charm.

Mulholland Drive (2002)
An ugly wet-dream.

The Man Who Wasn’t There (2002) Cold empty expressionism with no soul.

Good Night and Good Luck (2005) Looks great and the Morrow re-enactments are fine, but the rest is confusing.

Sideways (2004) Light on the palate with a fizz, but pretentious.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) A loopy forgettable romantic comedy with a dash of angst.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Thoughts on Letter From An Unknown Woman

The passionate heroines of Balzac, Flaubert, Stendahl, and Tolstoy are evoked by Joan Fontaine's luminous portrayal of Lisa in Letter From An Unknown Woman (1948), one of the great films of the 40s, and perhaps Max Ophüls' best Hollywood picture.

A teenage schoolgirl in Vienna during La Belle Epoch idealises Stefan, a young concert pianist who lives in her apartment block and is barely aware of her existence. As a young woman they meet and spend a day and a night together. A decade passes, she is now married to an older man, an aristocrat, who has accepted her child from the liaison with the pianist. A chance encounter re-ignites her sublimated passion and tragedy ensues. The story's conceit is that the pianist never recalls that day of passion. I can't accept this. He is no shallow cad, but a man of deep melancholy, whose dissipation is an almost inevitable response to his angst and not a fault of character. A sad wrinkle in an otherwise exquisite film.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Summary Judgements #3

Born To Be Bad (1950) "It's just a sex attraction." A classy melodrama from Nicholas Ray. In a savoury twist Robert Ryan and Zachary Scott play the saps to Joan Fontaine's charming gold-digger, who gets away clean in a new sports sedan with a pile of furs on the back seat. Me, I have a crush on the luminous Joan Leslie as the good girl. Fluid cinematography from Nicholas Musuraca, sumptuous art direction by Albert S. D'Agostino, and Friedrich Hollaender's elegant score add value.

Lost in Translation (2003) Is Tokyo really that boring?

A Very Long Engagement (2004) A very long movie...

A Love Song for Bobby Long (2004) A southern tale of a life's ambitions lost at the bottom of a glass of stale vodka and orange juice. Travolta's best role. Even Scarlett Johansson charms. Great soundtrack. The title track by singer/songwriter Grayson Capps is superb.

The House of Flying Daggers (2004) Stunningly beautiful visuals with a haunting soundtrack, otherwise forgettable.

Juno (2007) A quirky engaging look at teen pregnancy.

Sicko (2007) Michael Moore's brilliant critique of the failing US health system.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Lars and the Real Girl: His True Companion

Baby I've been searching like everybody else
Can't say nothing different about myself
Sometimes I'm an angel
And sometimes I'm cruel
And when it comes to love
I'm just another fool
Yes, I'll climb a mountain
I'm gonna swim the sea
There ain't no act of God girl
Could keep you safe from me
My arms are reaching out
Out across this canyon
I'm asking you to be my true companion
True companion
True companion

- from the song True Companion by Marc Cohn ( 1991)

Lars and the Real World is an achingly sad, funny, and beautiful testament to the lonely. As Saul Bellow wrote in his eponymously-titled novel, more die of heartbreak. Lars is cut-off, estranged from life, unable to cross that canyon that cuts him off from true experience. He is ill yes, but many of us are removed from him only by just a single trauma. Those of us who are uncomfortable in their skin, always painfully aware of their separateness, desperately envious of those who seem so at ease, so confident of themselves, and so certain of their place in the scheme of things.

Lars is healed not only by a sympathetic doctor, but by those who love him and his community. He was never really alone - he just never before had the capacity to reach out for love and connectedness.

Many sadly will never be given the same chance, those who through chance, circumstance, or wilful denial of the opportunity, will struggle painfully alone without hope along boulevards of broken dreams.

I walk a lonely road
The only one that I have ever known
Don't know where it goes
But it's home to me and I walk alone

I walk this empty street
On the Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Where the city sleeps
and I'm the only one and I walk alone

I walk alone
I walk alone

I walk alone
I walk alone

My shadow's the only one that walks beside me
My shallow heart's the only thing that's beating
Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me
'Til then I walk alone

- From the song Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Green Day (2004)