Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Movie Update 24

Would you believe I've seen a few more movies since the last time I wrote about a few movies? The first three of these are the second film I've seen by their well-regarded directors, and the last is the first by another.

All About My Mother

This is a movie that could have gotten unbearably depressing, but something about the colorful way it looks or its deeply human characters or the faith it has in humanity or something kept it watchable, and made me really like it a lot. Pedro Almodóvar seems to be a director's who's a lot more in tune with women than many men in his profession, and even dedicated the movie to them at the end. It's about a woman who loses her son, and then journeys back to her old stamping grounds, where she meets some old friends and makes some new ones. Penelope Cruz is the only one I remember seeing anywhere before, but they almost all instantly become likable, even if they're flawed as people, and it's an interesting movie just to watch. A lot of bad things happen, but hope never completely runs out. At least that's what I took from it.

Chungking Express

Wong Kar-wai employs a very unusual structure with this film. It's not that weird to split a narrative between two different and only tangentially related stories, but it's a good deal weirder to separate them almost completely in editing, with one going through all its paces and then wrapping up before there's a quick transition to the second. They're both love stories featuring lonely policemen and a snack bar, and they both have thematic similarities, although there are definite differences as well. I don't like all of the choices Wong makes, such as the low shutter speed effect when things are happening quickly, but it's mostly a well made, well acted drama. Wong impresses me about as much as any Asian filmmaker who's still working.


Made only a few years of Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless, Contempt sure looks a lot different. It's in widescreen and color, and the differences don't really stop at an aesthetic level. It's a very natural film, examining the breakdown of a screenwriter's marriage while he's also struggling with his current project. He's rewriting a script for an adaptation of The Odyssey (why hasn't their been an actual legitimate film version yet?) which is being directed by German auteur Fritz Lang (playing himself), and he finds himself disagreeing with his boss and then his wife after she meets him. A lot of the film is just the writer and his wife talking, evading the issue of what's really going on while being cruel to each other. It doesn't sound that exciting, but Godard does some really interesting things with the presentation of the material that makes up for it. You can read a lot of symbolism and analogy into it, or you can just enjoy the impressive cinematography and Brigitte Bardo's figure.

Written on the Wind

In the past, critics have looked at Douglas Sirk's work in two different ways. When he was contemporary and his films were making money in theaters, he was criticized for making old fashioned, overwrought melodramas. Later though, others saw a certain irony in what he did, like he was prodding at the falsehood of the American dream without calling too much attention to it. Watching the movie, I could see it both ways, but I would tend to agree with the more recent interpretation, because I have a hard time believing someone  who was so good at creating images on film could be so bad at depicting human interaction in the world of 1950s cinema. Maybe he just lucked into great directors of photography, but in any case, the irony is there, whether he intended to have it or not. Written on the Wind is a big movie with big emotions, and it's interesting to look at the absurdity of rich people at any point in history, so I had a good time watching the film and wondering about its real intentions. It's not perfect, but I'm pretty sure I liked it.

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