So I have had some stuff to do that I don’t want to jinx by posting about until I have more information. But, movies!
- An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009): So my feeling on this is that Carey Mulligan is delightful, and I walked out with a smile on my face and a skip in my step, since it’s a happy story about Learning Life Lessons and Growing while wearing fabulous 1960s clothes, but it seems a little insubstantial? I guess it didn’t really blow my mind that a teenager having an affair with a much older man who literally picked her up in the street turned out to be not such a great life choice for our hero. I don’t think it’s bad that she emerges more or less unscathed instead of as a ruined woman or whatever, but that combined with the whole glamorous fun times of having a guy take you to Paris and having your first sexual experience be all French cigarettes and Chanel no 5 makes the whole thing seem really awesome and less scarring than it probably should? It’s not so much that I need didactic storytelling here, so much as I think this movie was maybe too light-hearted. I liked the story of a girl, bored and stultified by the pressures of accomplishment and school and normalness, self-consciously making a mistake because it’s more fun and because the Times They Are A’ Changing, but like, pretending that you’re free when you’re letting yourself pretty much be bought, it is not really free. Jenny learns that, and Carey Mulligan’s so full of life that she covers up a lot of the films’ flaws, but it’s all a bit obvious with the life lessons and the Oxford and the so forth.
- DiG! (Ondi Timoner, 2004): This is a documentary about relationship (friendship turned to rivalry) between the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols, which basically means that I have no idea why I put this on my rental queue, since I don’t really care about either of these bands. But! It turned out to be really interesting. Because the filmmakers spent years filming these guys, you have all this footage of the real stuff that happened. On the one hand you have the well-adjusted Dandy Warhols, who started out indie but signed with a big label and, being moderately talented, eventually found a place for themselves with moderate success. (They never really got big in North America but they’re apparently pretty huge in Europe.) On the other, you’ve got the totally fucked-up BJM, a ’60s revival-type band with like a zillion rotating members, most of whom seemed to be on really a lot of drugs at all times, but who are headed by visionary and asshole Anton Newcombe. It’s totally amazing: you get footage of the two bands partying and performing together in the good old days, and of Anton Newcombe kind of stalking them to try to drum up a kind of rivalry, and of the BJM beating each other up and spoiling their big shot at an industry showcase, and of Anton Newcombe fully kicking an audience member in the head. It’s more or less from the point of view of Courtney Taylor, who narrates the film, and apparently some of the BJM were upset at the way they were portrayed. But I felt like a lot of the choices TImoner makes undermines Taylor. You come away with the sense that the Dandies did kind of sell out, they get really slick and still try to kind of have the Brian Jonestown coolness rub off on them, but you can’t really have it both ways. On the other hand, Anton Newcombe kicked a guy in the head. At some point you have to compromise something to exist in the world. (I was heartened to read on Wikipedia that a lot of the members who left the BJM in the movie had come back after the release, and that they actually played a couple of songs with the Dandy Warhols at Lollapalooza in 2005, so that’s nice.)
- Brief Encounter (David Lean, 1945): So I decided to watch this after reading this lame, hateful list of “overrated directors”. One of the directors he lists is David Lean, whose movies are supposedly overlong, and apparently none of his movies are really masterpieces. Brief Encounter is one hour and twenty minutes of perfect. They meet in a train station, they fall in love, it can never be, he touches her shoulder. The narrator describes falling in love by saying “I never knew such violent things could happen to ordinary people.” The just-too-overwrought piano of the score. Celia Johnson’s breathless voiceover. Absolutely fucking perfect.
- The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke, 2009): Wow. We saw this Saturday, and I don’t have a lot to say other than complaints about the people down the row from me who couldn’t make even the simplest plot connections without discussing them. Some movies you can maybe murmur to your seatmate without distracting people. The White Ribbon is not one of them, it’s so quiet it’s almost painful. One thing that surprised me, for such a hard, hard movie to watch, is how much people were laughing at the “light” moments (like a father tying up his adolescent son to keep him from masturbating LOL). It’s not that I blame them — it’s not the way I felt uncomfortable watching Inglorious Basterds, which deals with the spectre of Nazis in a completely different way — it’s more that everyone was kind of grasping for any kind of release, the whole thing was so tense. It starts out in black, black silence and then slowly dissolves to an almost impossibly bright white. It almost hurts to look at for a minute. It’s set in a German village in 1913, and it’s basically about this town suffused by cruelty. Mysterious, awful things start to happen. We don’t really get an answer to who’s doing those things, but I think we mostly know the answer from the beginning, no matter how much we try to deny it. It is actually much nicer than any of the other Haneke movies I’ve seen.