Before The Next Teardrop Falls

La Notte

La Notte is a film that takes place over the course of a single day and night about a marriage where love has faded away some time ago.

Giovanni is a successful writer with a newly released book in print. He attends a grand soiree with his wife, Lydia, thrown by a corporate executive impressed with Giovanni’s work and interested in hiring him to write corporate communications. However, it’s the executive’s young daughter, Valentina, that captures Giovanni’s eye and holds his attention.

Giovanni’s conversations with Lydia throughout reflect a coolness reinforced by Lydia’s observations from afar of his flirtations with Valentina. When the opportunity presents itself, Lydia rejects an affair of her own.

La Notte feels like watching the disintegration of a marriage in slow motion. It’s a sad story that lacks any payoff or sense of what Michaelangelo Antenioni is trying to convey. Lydia is a sympathetic character who doesn’t have a great deal of dialogue and whose feelings are shown mainly through her sad expressions. Unfortunately, until the final scene, her resignation to the situation seems pathetic.

There are some fascinating visuals; the lighting and silhouettes in particular will be appreciated for fans of black and white. What La Notte does well is instill a mood with interesting and creative scenes that are for naught, because the dialogue is insufficient for telling a strong story to compliment the cinematography.

Advertisements
Posted in Film | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Sins Of The Father Are Visited Upon The Son

Save Yourself

Save Yourself is about three disaffected characters dealing with the collateral damage caused by their parents’ actions whose stories intersect in a suburb outside of Pittsburgh.

Patrick’s mother passes away when he was young leaving his alcoholic father to raise him and his older brother Mike. After an evening spent at the bar, his father runs over and kills a young boy on his way home. When Patrick learns about the incident and sees the evidence on the car, he calls the police to turn his father in much to Mike’s dismay and consternation that lingers under the surface as an unspoken rift.

Caro is overwhelmed by the burden of caring for a schizophrenic mother whose condition progressively deteriorates as she abandons her to lead a peripatetic life working in assorted restaurants as a waitress and living out of her car. After meeting Mike, she agrees to move in with him and Patrick in the hope of bringing some semblance of stability to her life.

Verna is a high school freshman who tries her best not to call attention to herself. Her parents established a ministry in which her father serves as pastor. When her older sister Layla comes home with a biology textbook that contains material dealing with sexual education, her parents mount an aggressive campaign to oust a popular teacher. Verna’s classmate is the niece of the fired teacher and as retribution bullies and tortures her to no end.

Written in third person alternating POVs, Kelly Braffet has an uncanny knack for portraying disconnected members of society who through no fault of their own are dealt a terrible hand and easily fall through the cracks. Her characters manage to muddle through with resignation and an admirable grace. The only disappointment is the climactic scene takes a sudden town into Crazytown that seems as if it belonged in a different story for what was otherwise an excellent novel. Nonetheless, Save Yourself is worth the read.

Please note that I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Posted in Books | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Turn The Other Cheek

In A Better World

In A Better World is a film about handling bullies who draw strength from intimidating others, and it portrays parallels between a small town in Denmark and a war-torn sub Saharan country.

It opens with Christian, a young boy whose mother recently passed away. Since his father is often traveling, Christian is sent to live with his grandmother, and this results in the need for him to change schools. Christian befriends Elias, who is tormented by the school bully, Sofus. The addition of a newbie fuels Sofus’s abusive behavior. Elias’s parents complain to the teachers and administrator, but this falls on deaf ears.

After being subjected to their routine harassment, Christian attacks Sofus with a bicycle pump and beats him up badly, after which Elias looks up to Christian in admiration.

Later in the story, Anton, Elias’s father intervenes to break up a playground scuffle between a small boy and Elias’s young brother. The boy’s father arrives, yells at Anton, and recognizing that Anton is Swedish when he speaks (Danes have a rivalry with Swedes), the boy’s father hits him several times in an attempt to start a fight, but Anton refuses. In his discussion about the incident afterwards with Elias and Christian, Anton defends his approach claiming it takes a better and bigger man to refrain from violence, and he explains the other way is how wars get started.

Consistent with Anton’s philosophy, he is a doctor who volunteers in an African refugee camp where he treats men and women who are victims of horrific violence. Anton faces a quandary when the local warlord responsible for the atrocities enters the camp seeking treatment for his severely infected wound. Anton agrees to treat him out of moral compulsion.

When the warlord makes a crude comment about necrophilia in reference to a female patient Anton tried desperately to save in vain, Anton orders the warlord expelled from the camp. Incapable of defending himself, the warlord is suddenly at the mercy of a crowd of his victims who surround and drag him away to his fate, which is certain to be death.

In A Better World struggles with the idea of how to confront a bully. Since Anton alters his approach between Africa and Denmark, it’s ambiguous which one Susanne Bier advocates.

There are some fascinating shots throughout the movie that are used to set the mood for the upcoming scene. They are creative images in their own right, but because the technique is used with some frequency, it slows down the story.

Posted in Film | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Carry That Weight A Long Time

 The Past

The Past is about a non-nuclear family’s internal strife. Marie awaits her husband’s arrival at the airport with a pleasant expression in the opening scene that stands in contrast to the unfolding story.

Having brought Ahmad back from Iran to finalize their divorce, Marie asks her boyfriend to sleep at his place in the interim to avoid any awkwardness while Ahmad stays at the house.

Ahmad bonds with Fouad, the boyfriend’s confused and unruly toddler. His mother lies in a coma in a hospital while his father’s girlfriend tries to discipline him. Fouad is in search of stability where there is none, and represents children that can’t express themselves in need of protection.

Although he isn’t her father, Marie’s teenage daughter Lucie has a close relationship with Ahmad, and she opens up to him about problems that occurred during his separation from Marie.

The Past is an interesting film about the strains modern relationships exert on a family and some of its consequences. Through Fouad and Lucie, children serve as collateral damage caused by forces outside their control that they can’t understand when a family unit frays at the seams. Through his empathetic ear, Ahmad is somewhat of a magical Persian who seems to understand and fix everyone’s problems in the story except Marie’s.

There seems to be a connection with Asghar Farhadi’s other movie A Separation. In The Past, there is an underlying message that life is better in Iran for an Iranian, which is consistent with A Separation where the catalyst for that family’s predicament was the wife’s desire to emigrate to America. Farhadi’s portrayal of his characters carries an implicit notion that women have a responsibility for holding a family together or conversely tearing it apart.

Although Farhadi’s films have received international acclaim that is deserved, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the audience he is speaking to is Iranian.

Posted in Film | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

In Sickness And In Health

Amour

Amour is an unconventional love story filled with sorrow. Georges becomes nervous when his wife, Anne, suffers a momentary lapse of cognizance, so he insists on scheduling a doctor’s appointment. The diagnosis is a blood vessel is restricting blood flow to her brain, and after an unsuccessful surgery to treat it, Anne’s prognosis is terminal, which plays out through a gradual deterioration of her awareness. Anne resigns herself to her fate and chooses to spend her remaining moments of coherence with a sense of normalcy at home doing routine things she enjoys; reading a book, and listening to classical music to remind her of her days as a piano teacher.

The story centers primarily on Georges and the emotional toll Anne’s condition exerts on him. Their daughter’s visits and conversations with her father were an interesting choice, which serve as a way for Georges to express feelings of helplessness at the inability to ease his wife’s burden, and ultimately he surrenders to the grim reality.

Amour portrays the lengths a spouse will go to be with their loved one, but its flaw was that noticeably absent in certain scenes were simple displays of affection necessary to make Georges’ sacrifice convincing. In the opening scene, the couple’s interactions seem indifferent as they arrive home from a concert performed by the Anne’s student. Later, Georges is waiting at home alone after Anne’s surgery rather than being with her at the hospital when she’s released. Without sharing some warm moments on screen while Anne is lucid, Georges’ actions initially come off as one of obligation rather than love.

Nonetheless, for its performances and dialogue, Amour is a film worth seeing.

Posted in Film | Leave a comment

A Family Affair

August Osage County

August Osage County opens with Violet Weston suffering from cancer and powerful pain killers with addictive side effects. Beverly, her husband, hires a home health aide to ease the burden that caring for a loved one inflicts. Violet expresses her displeasure by spewing a racist rant against Native Americans that characterizes her awnery disposition and expresses her frustration at losing her independence to care for herself.

When Beverly goes missing, Violet’s sister, three daughters, and granddaughter are summoned home. Later, his body is discovered as the result of suicide.

Following his funeral, the scene at the dining room table serves as the foundation for this family drama. Violet launches into a series of diatribes and castigates her daughters for the failure in their relationships. It is intended to irritate and provoke them as her harshest criticism is reserved for Barbara, her eldest daughter, for choosing to move so far away from home.

There is a mean-spirited aspect to Violet’s critique in what she describes as “truth-telling,” but is little more than airing the family’s dirty laundry. The source of her indignation is the sacrifices made to provide a better life for her children and the disappointment she feels over her inability to understand the choices they’ve made.

In response to why she’s so mean, Violet relays a story from her childhood about her mother’s cruelty, and when taken together with a scene of Barbara standing outside a car while her daughter rolls up the window to silence her, it conjures up a generation gap that exists where one generation can’t understand the preceding one, and is reflected in the story by four generations of women suffering from the same problem.

The trouble with August Osage County is the conflict between Violet and Barbara is taken to a level of excess that undermines both characters. The argument in the dining room scene escalates to the point where Barbara physically tackles Violet. In a subsequent scene, Barbara is trying to get Violet to focus on the issue at hand rather than quibble over their meal, so Barbara shouts, “Fuck the fish, fuck the fish, fuck the fish,” and throws her plate of fried fish at the wall so her plate shatters. An interesting story was being told that somehow descended into a bunch of screeching women yelling at each other.

Although it doesn’t redeem the movie, there is a wonderful performance between Violet’s sister and brother-in-law, played by Chris Cooper and Margo Martindale, about treating their son with kindness, otherwise it will ruin their marriage.

Posted in Film | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ex-es and Ohs

Enough Said

Enough Said is a romantic comedy about Eva, a divorced masseuse raising her teenage daughter. At a party, she strikes up a conversation with a poet named Marianne that she agrees to take on as a client. While making an exit with her friends, she is introduced to Albert, another divorcé with a teenage daughter. Although Albert isn’t the type Eva would ordinarily be attracted to, the two hit it off and start dating shortly thereafter.

As Eva and Albert’s romance develops, Marianne and Eva discuss details about their personal lives at each massage session; Marianne ridicules her ex-husband and Eva shares dating anecdotes about her new beau. The more Eva learns about Marianne, the more fascinated she becomes.

Unbeknownst to Eva, Albert is Marianne’s ex, Albert is unaware Marianne’s her client, and Marianne’s doesn’t know Albert is her boyfriend. Eva discovers this twist of fate when on separate occasions she sees Albert and Marianne’s daughter with each parent. Feeling trapped and uncertain how to handle the situation, Eva chooses to ignore it and doesn’t inform Albert or Marianne, but Eva’s high regard for Marianne’s judgment and her critique of her ex begins to poison Eva’s relationship with Albert.

Enough Said depicts a common weakness of subverting one’s visceral reactions in favor of the opinions of others. Rather than do things that truly make one happy, too often many seek approval from others perceived as more sophisticated or better, which leads to poor decisions.

Throughout the movie there was a running comment where people upon first meeting Eva and learning of her occupation ask whether her male clients get aroused. The lines are not delivered for comedic effect, it doesn’t come to anything in the story, and somehow it seems misplaced.

Nevertheless, Enough Said is light-hearted entertainment that is pleasant to watch.

Posted in Film | Tagged , , | Leave a comment