Thursday, 29 September 2005
Friday, 23 September 2005
which really appears to turn on their interlocuteur, who suggests a meeting at a local park bench. Meanwhile, Christine also attempts to exhibit her films at the local Center for Contemporary Art, whose curators marvel at a hamburger wrapper in the middle of the floor of a new installation because it looks so "real" (it is real, left there by the artist/workman).
There is a magical long tracking shot in which Christine and Richard walk a block together towards their parked cars, pretending that the block represents the life of their relationship. Part of the walk is in awkward silence, the actors somehow conveying in their looks away, tender smiles and blank turns of the head the full range of emotions experienced in a long-term relationship.
July pushes her characters towards danger and debauchery, but her treatment is so innocent and harmless. People are weird and do weird things; but they don't always hurt each other. There is still sweetness in this world. The humour is light and frequent; the characters, without exception, are likeable; the story wafts about suburbia like a dandelion seed in a warm late summer breeze.
Nugget: a bit like an American Mike Leigh film. The best way to sum it up? "Nice."
Tuesday, 20 September 2005
Nugget: quirky but highly informative.
The full review is now available on the FilmExposed website.
[Update: Friday 17 June 2011: looks like FilmExposed is no more, so that link is broken.]
There are rhythms to his speech, he seems to speak by repitition, and yet he wouldn't be able to remember what he is saying. It's as if he has learnt to live by rote. Although he claims not to be able to think, some of his sayings are most profound, almost as if he has rehearsed them or committed them to some part of his brain that isn't memory. "What does love mean?" his wife asks him. "Zero in tennis; everything in life," he replies, slightly jokingly, with the snort of a schoolboy telling a familiar joke.
Walking arm in arm with his wife, back to his own house, which he of course doesn't recognize, doesn't remember ever having seen, he says what his house means to him: "The opposite of walking outdoors."
What is home to him? "Home is yesterday." Yet, of course, he can't remember yesterday, so he would never feel at home anywhere.
The documentary was profoundly moving. His wife, Deborah, is an inspirational woman. She stayed with him for nine years after his illness and then divorced him and moved to New York, where she conducted a number of unsatisfactory relationships with artists, none of whom was enough like Clive to satisfy her. She realized, eventually, that she would have to go back to him, but that they couldn't be together. They renewed their marriage vows and appear to have developed a way to live and love, if only in the snippets of time between blinking, when all is forgotten, the slate wiped clean like an Etch-A-Sketch. She only seems him, though, on average, once a month, so the appearance of their relationship on film is deceptive. Most of the scenes are quite short, so we don't get a sense of how repetitive their conversations are, how many dead ends and deja-vus she must endure. Even when the conversation does loop, it's edited with an inter-title of "7 seconds later", "45 seconds later", "2 minutes later". If it were a film directed by Gus Van Sant, I imagine it would have been much harder to endure, but much more like what time with Clive Wearing feels like i.e. very wearing. Christopher Nolan made a more sinister film about the condition, Memento, in which the note-writing becomes a weapon, the lack of memory a void to exploit.
Clive Wearing is a man emancipated from time. He lives in an eternal moment that keeps resetting. He has no capacity to learn, no means by which to structure his thought, no footholds in the past, no sense of hope for the future, except the wish not to be alone. Every time someone leaves him, he asks them to come back "at the speed of light". Light-years are measures of unfathomable distances, and it is this lack of comprehension of time that distances Clive from other people in space, suggesting that time and space are linked. That without time, something essential to the human condition is removed. Perhaps that's all that death is: time stops.
Sunday, 18 September 2005
* a must-see: miss this and you're a damn fool
+ pooty good: a fair crack of the whip
= so-so: won't give you rabies, but don't break a leg to see it
- stinks royally: avoid like the plague
Now go watch some movies, dude!
Nugget: if you've seen the film before, there's no harm in seeing it again. I noticed a reference to The Talented Mr. Ripley, when Jude Law says "Americano" to Natalie Portman, which reminded me of the song he sings in the jazz club in Italy with Matt Damon. A better investment, though, might be the play script, so that you can compare it to the screenplay, yet still appreciate Marber's keen dialogue.
Friday, 16 September 2005
And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?
And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic Mills?
Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire.
I shall not cease from Mental Fight
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green & pleasant Land.
I wonder if people realize what they are singing when they join in this now patriotic anthem, sung before play on the last days of the Ashes at The Oval cricket ground. Do they realize (as Tom Paulin pointed out in his Radio 4 programme "And Did Those Feet", broadcast on Tuesday 28 December 2004) that Blake's words are interrogative? They question whether Christ really did walk upon our lands, whether London really is the New Jerusalem. This is a radical, anti-monarchical, revolutionary hymn, a call to arms "against a sea of troubles", hoping, "by opposing", to "end them". Blake was a Nonconformist; yet now this hymn is sung at Women's Institute meetings in church halls all across England (as, for example, in the film Calendar Girls (2003)), partly because it was sung by the Suffragettes (and thus, was again about overturning the current order). It is a central tenet of the common worship of the Church of England, a symbol of gentle conservatism, and is often sung at funerals and at public school memorial day services - even in Scotland at my own alma mater, Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh. It is often associated with socialist ideals: fighting together to improve society. I suppose, even despite these paradoxes and contradictions, that it is a suitable English anthem, for England prides itself nowadays on being a relatively tolerant and forgiving place (how true this is one could dispute), embracing these sorts of cultural anomalies and traditions, which don't always mean what they did when they started out.
Blake wrote it as the preface to his work Milton: A Poem (1804), but it is mainly known now as the hymn "Jerusalem", set to music by C. Hubert H. Parry in 1916. Its patriotism is echoed in Rupert Brooke's famous First World War sonnet, "The Soldier", the last of a sequence entitled "1914":
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
Its sense of liberty echoes also in my memory of the nineteenth-century American poem "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus, the concluding lines of which are inscribed at the bottom of the Statue of Liberty (and which I know through the opening animated sequence of Channel 4's old American Football programme, hosted by Gary Imlach in the early 90s):
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Inevitable, also, must be the connection with John of Gaunt's vaunted speech from Shakespeare's Richard II:
This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Fear'd by their breed and famous by their birth,
Renowned for their deeds as far from home,-
For Christian service and true chivalry,-
As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry
Of the world's ransom, blessed Mary's Son:
This land of such dear souls, this dear, dear land,
Dear for her reputation through the world,
Is now leas'd out,- I die pronouncing it,-
Like to a tenement, or pelting farm:
England, bound in with the triumphant sea,
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame,
With inky blots, and rotten parchment bonds:
That England, that was wont to conquer others,
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
Ah! would the scandal vanish with my life,
How happy then were my ensuing death.
Thursday, 15 September 2005
Monday, 12 September 2005
The bonus features are quite good. Once more, you realize the editor's craft because the deleted scenes would have slowed down the movie too much, or spoilt the rhythm of a scene or section. There's a particularly tedious one where Largeman (Zach Braff) talks to his dad (Ian Holm) about how his mom died. Holm hardly features in the film as a result, but it was necessary to cut it.
The Making of is better than average. We learn that Braff wrote the screenplay sporadically throughout college and had incorporated some of the stories he'd been collecting from his hometown and his friends. There are two commentary tracks, but I only listened to parts of one with Braff and Natalie Portman, which seemed worthwhile. There's another with Braff and the techie people like the DOP, which I didn't try. Disappointed that the trailer isn't on the DVD because it's one of the best I've seen, although I'm suspicious that some of those shots were contrived just to make the trailer look good. They give a good sense of the tone of the movie, though. A bit like The Terminal, it gives away some of the funniest bits - most notably the shirt made from the same stuff as the wallpaper.
Nugget: I really wonder if Braff can live up to this. I see on IMDb that he has two in post- and one in pre-production.
Sunday, 11 September 2005
He to she: I had a good time tonight.
She to he: Me too. [Pause] Well, I suppose I'd better -
[Pause. He looks at her. She looks at him. Pause. He kisses her, unexpectedly, like the first time she kissed him. It's not exactly unpleasant, so she doesn't exactly resist that much. Neither of them know if they mean it, or what it means. It goes on because neither wants to be the first to pull away.]
She: I thought I said...
He: I thought you did too...
She: I thought I said I didn't want to.
[Pause. He looks over her shoulder, his right, her left. He tries to look her in the eye. He wants to. It's the right thing to do, or feels like it.]
He: I don't know.
She: I told you about my last...didn't I?
He: Yes, you did. I don't know if I want to believe that.
She: What do you mean?
He: I don't know. It seems like a dream, I've thought about it so much.
She: What do you mean?
He: I don't know. It's just...not what I wanted, want to hear.
[But he keeps telling it to himself anyway.]
He: But what? That felt good, didn't it? It was nice.
She: Yes. Yes, I suppose it was.
He: What's the problem then?
She: I don't know.
He: You said yourself the first time didn't mean anything. Didn't mean anything to you. It meant something to me. Did you mean that?
She: Mean what?
He: That it didn't mean anything to you. It must have meant something at the time. Some impulse was true enough at the time to make you do it. I don't usually kiss my friends good night, much as I might like to.
She: Then why did you kiss me tonight?
He: Maybe you're more than a friend.
He: Yes, maybe. I know what I want. I don't know if you do.
She: No, nor do I.
He: Then what's the problem of just, you know, going with it? It felt good. I felt good. I hope you felt good. Did you feel good?
She: Yes, I did.
He: Would you like to do it again?
He: Right now?
She: Not just yet.
He: Why not?
She: I don't know. I'm confused.
He: Me too, but I do know that felt nice and I'd like to do it again sometime. We should practise and maybe I should take off my glasses so they don't smudge or your cheek.
[Pause. Neither really knows what to say, but he feels like he wants to kiss her again. It's easier that way, not having to say anything - not with words, anyway.]
War is a bloody thing, but it provides the occasion for compelling literature and the odd cracking motion picture. Hemingway faffed around on the front too, although I image he was more cock than Robin, yet - in the words of any shite football pundit, player or manager, to be fair to the lad - he did have the courage to aim the gun at himself in a hotel room, I believe, toward the end of his life, in fact, at the end.
Friday, 9 September 2005
[Update: Friday 17 June 2011: looks like FilmExposed is no more, so that link is broken.]
Wednesday, 7 September 2005
The abundant handful of stories interweave in the manner of Robert Altman, colliding, crashing into each other in moments of crisis and coincidence too serendipitous to be realistically plausible; but Haggis isn't aiming for that sort of scientific realism; he tells a fable that shuffles closer to the truth of human relations. Too often we imbue the words "humane" and "humanitarian" with optimism. Isn't it just as "humane" to take the selfish option, the easy way out, leaving principle behind and your fellow human beings to suffer?
Haggis's vision is troubling and yet important. He doesn't offer any solution to our problems, but some of his characters learn that the way they behave towards others cannot go on. This time they have got off lightly, but there will always be another outlaw cop, safe from redress in an institutionally racist police force, another customer or tradesman trying to screw you over, another black guy who's going to mug you or steal your car. All this is "humane"; all of us are "human". And yet, inexplicably, when we to crash into one another, there is something reassuring about that human contact, which otherwise we might not have; there is in it a thing of beauty. In Louisiana, middle-class white families are meeting their black neighbours across the blown down garden fence for the first time. They might still go off inside to reload their shotguns, but isn't it better that at least they have realized the other person is human, is more like them than they think, is infinitely capable of breaking down those convenient and necessary stereotypes we burden upon each other?
Nugget: a challenging and important movie, which raises more problems than it solves; but then social cohesion is not the job of the artist, nor of the politician or the policeman; we are all responsible for it and we should all realize our interdependence, regardless of who we are, what we do and where we find ourselves.
P.S. I changed my mind about this film when I saw it on DVD.