Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Film Review: Mongol

Mongol reminds us that it is possible for a movie to be big and slight at the same time. Like the thunder and lightening that constitute its symbolic and narrative pivot, Mongol is all portent; if the title forecasts an apocalyptic storm, the film delivers only scattered showers. (Indeed, the final scenes are humid with the threat of a sequel.) The problem, I think, is that director Sergei Bodrov has little feeling for his main character, which is not surprising, given that his main character is Genghis Khan (née Temudgin) the charismatic leader of the nomadic tribes that would, ultimately, conquer nearly all of Eurasia. Telling his story is like narrating the destruction of Pompeii from the volcano’s point of view: it’s hard to imagine the inner life of a force of nature. Of course, Genghis Khan was a human being—though not, as one reviewer has suggested, one subject to typical standards of plausibility, which is what makes him most compelling and enigmatic: in the process of our approach, we have no purchase. There are no firsthand accounts of his life, and the paradox of his nascent empire—it was broadened through ruthless violence but sustained with relative tolerance—meant that life, for many of his subjects, continued as it had been before their subjugation. Genghis Khan himself was a mystery to them, and has remained so to us; the centuries since his death have only clouded our perception, as successive generations have scratched their fears and aspirations on the palimpsest of his legacy. Think of Bodrov’s work, then, not as a daring revision—Genghis Khan’s life has been under constant revision since his death—but as a modernization. In the process of making him accessible to contemporary audiences, however, Bodrov has domesticated and diminished him: if the final subtitles didn’t insist on it, we might not recognize our stoic hero as Ghengis Khan at all.

The film stutters to a start and never really rights itself. Temudgin, the soft-cheeked child of a stern nomadic leader, goes with his father to choose a bride for himself. The girl who ends up choosing him instead is Borte; we know from her preternatural self-assurance, and from the precocious nature of their conversation, that she and Temudgin will be a good match. This match—the film’s only propitious event not aided by Tengri, the god who seems particularly invested in Temudgin’s survival and success—will have to wait several years for its consummation. In the meantime, Temudgin witnesses his father’s ignominious murder, survives the disintegration of his clan and the murderous intentions of its new leaders, flees captivity, falls into and is rescued from a frozen-over lake, sanctifies his relationship with his blood-brother Jamukha, is re-captured by the pretenders to power from his old clan, and escapes again. The film’s epigraph about the young cub growing into the brutal tiger has prepared us for this story of nine lives, but it nonetheless feels preposterous, and, worse, arrhythmic. After forty minutes, the movie has re-started three times and we know no more about Temudgin than we did at the opening credits.

Indeed, the entire movie feels like exposition, and not just because the first half or so is a flashback; Bodrov is an obdurate director, and he cuts away from important scenes when more sustained attention might give us real insight. Instead of palpable hardship, suffering, or moral stubbornness, we get plot. Why show us Temudgin’s two escapes from his rivals’ camp when neither one demonstrates his ruthlessness or endurance? We see him escape, but not with any particular difficulty. When we see him again a new day has dawned. His hands are still bound at neck level, but his composure is implacable, his body unscarred: Did he spend his night breathing through reeds at the bottom of a creek-bed, or in a motel? All we need to know is that he made it and he’s angry. Bodrov’s narrative is artless, and reflects his deterministic view of history: to him, Genghis Khan’s life is a tapestry—static, two-dimensional, and fixed. The camera takes it in simply by panning to the right. Bodrov is faithful to sequence but indifferent towards causation; events happen, but they seem linked only by their order. There’s no urgency or irony here, no sense that things could have turned out differently. The possibility of departure and the acknowledgement of contingency are what make historical fiction exciting, but Bodrov isn’t interested in what might have been. Mongol has plenty of blood, but no life of its own.

It’s this fundamental conservatism that gives Mongol the pallid taste of propaganda. Aided by Tengri, Temudgin’s growth and his empire’s metastasis are inevitable. We never see the arduous and mysterious work of coalition-building, which might answer the question, What could Temudgin offer the Mongols that no one else could? Whatever this is, it’s the keystone of the world’s largest empire and would give this movie the density that it needs. But Mongol is all surface and no center. The prolific Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano gives Temudgin a credible cunning and resolve—his eyes shine like a card sharp’s from behind his beard and heavy fur hat—but not a voice or a vision. Bodrov himself is fascinated by violence—when blood is shed it tumbles like rubies from an overturned chest—but confounded by war and utterly unaroused by statesmanship. He casually adumbrates Temudgin’s politics, as though worried that viewers, still traumatized by too-long games of Risk years ago, might begin to twitch anxiously, and rushes us to another gruesome battlefield. Battles are shot in graphic close-up, which only emphasizes the irrelevance of their political justification—and the incoherence of their choreography. Still, audience members gasped appreciatively when one of Temudgin’s unfortunate victims was thrown backwards by the spear that perforated him and then stuck him, like a note, to a tree. All in a day’s work for a nation-builder. But what about for a film director? Mongol’s romance is tepid, its action vivid but pedestrian. One concludes that the only reason for its existence is to suggest that the central Asian autocracies enjoying a modern-day political revival have a terrifying historical precedent. They may be the real tigers-to-be of the film's epigraph.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Revisiting the Lost Ark

Last night, we saw Raiders of the Lost Ark (not Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark) on Westminster Street. Along with Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, Jaws, and The Muppet Movie, all of which my dad had taped on Betamax from the TV--often with entire commercial blocks intact--Raiders was one of the cinematic staples of my childhood. Sick days home from school consisted of eating toast with strawberry jam, drinking ginger ale, and watching one of those movies. Naturally, after the depredations of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which left me feeling more enervated than any flu, I took in Raiders like a panacea.

On the whole, I found its remedial powers to be intact--diminished, perhaps, by time and successful imitation, but not effaced. I still reveled in the scene in which the two government officials--from the Department of Laurel and Hardy Look-Alikes--meet with Indiana Jones and Marcus Brody to recruit them to go after the Ark. The meeting, which is, we understand, to be in the strictest confidence, is held in what might be the most reverberative room on the campus; amid the sibilant echoes of the gothic revival architecture, the characters churn through layers and layers of exposition, but the scene never gets bogged down in it. There are more words in this single scene than in all of Crystal Skull, but they feel necessary and interesting in their own right; dialogue in Crystal Skull merely describes, like captions, what is already apparent on screen. "I thought it was closer," Jones mutters to no one after falling just short of a jeep he had leaped towards; "Throw me the skull!" shouts another character, later, during a frenetic scene involving the throwing of a skull. "Get me the hell out of here!" sulks one theater-goer to his date.

If language in Raiders has a reality outside of the film's visuals--if it has an echo that suggests its physicality--action does too. That is, we spend much of the movie straining, along with the camera, to catch moments of extreme and brisk confrontation. When Indy slides beneath the Nazi jeep, comes out the other side, and then pulls himself up from the back, we wince sympathetically with the pain of road-burn. It's not real, but it feels real: the camera shakes and bounces and suggests that the reason we're seeing this at all is that we're on a jeep a few feet away. Compare this with the digital effects of Crytal Skull, which exist solely because the camera shows them: nothing, really, is happening. This ethereal quality makes the movie less fun, not more, because it lowers the stakes.

Still, Raiders has aged. It's not nearly as funny as I thought it was, but it is much more racist. Natives of a country are always inscrutable, malleable, and disposable, and they live loud lives that end bloodily. Indeed, Indiana Jones is as good at creating carnage as he is at exhuming its aftermath. Future archeologists, digging up the remains of a strange city called "Cairo," will wonder what war took place circa 1936 that left a small army of Egyptians dead, next to their scimitars and fruit stalls.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I took the photo at the top of this post last night with my new digital camera, which was a wonderful birthday present. Wonderful for me, that is; incredibly irritating for everybody else.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Indiana Jones and the New Indiana Jones Movie

There is a moment about halfway through Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull that unwittingly characterizes the entire movie: Jones, strapped to a chair in a Peruvian jungle, is forced to stare into the deeply concave eye sockets of the titular skull, through which, apparently, ancient forces communicate. Jones, old and getting older, meets the vacant gaze of his--and our--future; the Communists who have ensnared him wait eagerly; the skull glows like a convection burner; a motionless wind begins to howl; it is the sound of the movie talking, and we feel nothing. For Steven Spielberg, sentiment and spectacle are inseparable: his movies, big and broad-stroked, are perfectly engineered to match the scope and to focus the ambition of his ideas, which tend to be deeply felt if dimly outlined. His best movies, like brass instruments, turn bluster into music. Crystal Skull lacks the artistry of precision—the miniature detailing—that governs Spielberg’s other efforts and makes them sing: the film's energy is tempestuous but its interior is so empty—and its landscape so arid—that nothing is stirred up. The movie, like the skull, is shiny but dumb. When Spielberg blows, all we hear is a breeze.

Spielberg was lucky to have an actor as dexterous and game as Harrison Ford in the first three Indiana Jones movies, because they were as complicated and inscrutably rigged as the temples who are their inevitable stars. Ford admirably handled the Jones-esque challenge of navigating the tenuous structure of these films: by making the right moves, and, primarily, by being limber enough to straddle the chasm between Spielberg’s irony and sincerity, he ensured that they did not crumble. But we sense in Crystal Skull that age has finally caught up to him, and that he has lost the ability, or the inspiration, to cling to both sides of a widening fissure. He looks rather resigned to falling. Indeed, for most of the movie, he appears retracted and dazed, as though awaiting a clearer directive from the gnomic skull, or, better still, from Spielberg himself. His face expresses the weariness of asking When will I be blown up? again and again, and then actually being blown up, or at least having the tar beaten out of him by a Russian heavy.

These moments, violent and lurid and incoherent, are supposed to be among the movie’s pleasures, and it skips from one to the next like a child fording a stream on raised rocks. Everything in between is perfunctory and nervously efficient. Crystal Skull begins with an atomic blast and ends with the apocalyptic destruction of an Amazonian temple by a whirling spacecraft. So much for lyricism. Jones escapes from the nuclear test but not from the scrutiny of the FBI, who have linked him to known Communist George “Mac” McHale (Ray Winstone). He is forced out of his position, Professor of Whatever—so much for tenure—at a prestigious “New Britain” university, but is stopped from leaving town by young “Mutt” Williams (Shia LaBoeuf), who claims to be the son of recently-vanished archeologist Harold “Ox” Oxley (John Hurt). For those inclined to keep track, that makes four improbable nicknames, three of them utterly gratuitous, which is not only a dubious distinction for a movie not exclusively about the military but also further evidence of George Lucas’s shortcomings as a writer. In Crystal Skull, the nickname is a dependable substitute for character, exposition, and the barest pretense of recognizable human interaction. But who needs human interaction when there are computer animations that can do nearly the same thing, and twice as loudly?

“Ox,” it turns out, has been kidnapped while searching the Amazon for a crystal skull that has something to do with El Dorado, the city of gold, and something to do with power. It has also made him insane. Already a little crazy is Col. Dr. Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), a Soviet military archeologist whose specialty is psychological warfare: she scours the globe looking for artifacts possessed of the sorts of powers that will enable the Soviets to control the world. It is never clear just what the power of the crystal skull is; worse, the movie never posits a theory, so the film’s architecture feels just as ersatz as its effects. What gave the previous Indiana Jones movies their parlous fun was Jones’s moral ambiguity; his adventures were more than a little self-interested and had a sinister edge. Here, he doesn’t seem so much corruptible as vacuous. We never sense that the reason he wants to beat the Commies to the crystal skull is that he wants it for himself: he just wants to do the right thing.

In fact, doing the right thing is the movie’s real guiding principle; if it hadn’t already been taken, it would have made an apt title. Crystal Skull is about atonement, commitment, maturation, family, education (but not too much knowledge—that’s a bad thing), following one’s real calling, and carnivorous red ants devouring an unconscious Soviet thug in their underground tunnels. (I’m not sure if this counts as irony, but it sure was nifty.) The movie is as dull and tendentious as it sounds, and all the swordfights, explosions, and trips down waterfalls in the computer-generated Amazon can’t change it. In the end, our impulse to care about what happens next is thwarted; nothing is at stake in a world of digital effects and the gauzy edges of cinematographer Janusz Kaminski’s soft focus. The movie has exchanged Spielberg’s sense of wonder and humor for Lucas’s sense of grandeur. Their next movie, I suspect, will be one long chase, unpunctuated until the final exclamation point. So much for story.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

You will leap to name it

Yesterday, in Warren, we sat in chairs outside the Coffee Depot and read. M. had the New York Times; I had Mary Oliver's American Primitive. I had forgotten about Mary Oliver until I saw her entire oeuvre on the bookshelf of one of our friends in central Massachusetts; I am glad to have been reminded. There is something miraculous about her writing--about its depths and density, belied by the slimness of the volume itself. In her poems we go down, down, down: from the clouds to the ground; from the branches of trees; from our own eyes. No poet I can think of has made me so aware of the earthward course of poetry, its down-turned gaze and its rooted, gnarled ecstasy. "Moles" is a two sentence poem, the first a line-by-line excavation of itself: we descend with Oliver and with her moles through the earth's strata, and turn over each layer in our mouths, carefully.
Under the leaves, under
the first loose
levels of earth
they're there--quick
as beetles, blind
as bats, shy
as hares but seen
less than these--
among the pale girders
of appleroot,
rockshelf, nests
of insects and black
pastures of bulbs
peppery and packed full
of the sweetest food:
spring flowers.
Oliver's alliteration not only moves us through geologic layers, but also helps us feel the earth in our mouths. So when the second sentence--and the poem--ends with the word "delicious" we almost have to agree. We have tasted it, too.

The poems in American Primitive make me think of my own experience of Ohio, though Oliver's Ohio is rougher, provisional, and always nearly swallowed by the land around it. Still, they evoke vernal pools and voluble toads and the coming to life of a liminal town in the spring; they give us a way to watch that we don't have in the city.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Film Review: Then She Found Me

Helen Hunt’s Then She Found Me is a modest, innocuous movie; indeed, it has already been formatted to fit your TV screen. This really is not such a terrible criticism: there is plenty on television that is worth watching, and some of it is even better than what comes out in theaters. But it is, for the most part, scaled differently than film, and designed to meet audiences in their family rooms; it tends to be polite, even deferential, like any houseguest. Then She Found Me has been conceived with this same sense of decorum, and what we notice as we watch is that it makes few demands on us, other than our time. Its scenes are short, rhythmic, and conservatively choreographed, as if to keep from confusing us; it is more interested in action than in introspection, in the spectacle of crisis than in its traumas and resolutions; it is also heavily self-mediated. The film is ostensibly about faith, but we come away distrusting anything not verified on a screen. It is a movie that not only meets us where we live but tells us what a great place we’ve got.

Helen Hunt, who directed—from a screenplay that she co-wrote, and re-co-wrote for about ten years, based on Elinor Lipman’s debut novel—stars as April Epner, a 39-year old teacher jilted by her neotenic husband, Ben, played by Matthew Broderick. Imagine if Ferris Bueller had not been impossibly precocious and supremely confident—in other words, if he had been anything like an actual teenager—and you might picture someone like Ben; at thirty-something, he’s much more adolescent than Bueller ever was. He is, anyway, a poor match for April, who is not only ready for marriage but desperate to have a child. Her story—she was given up for adoption when she was a baby and was raised, albeit lovingly, by the Epners—must explain some of her avidity; the rest is genetic, or instinctive. A weaker woman might, in these same circumstances, question the whole idea of motherhood, but April’s conviction is unshakable, even axiomatic: she really, really wants to have a baby. Does her fierce desire come from an impulse to atone for her birth-mother’s sin, or to redeem her? Is it a form of vengeance? Then She Found Me doesn’t address these thorny questions; what’s worse is that it doesn’t even acknowledge their legitimacy. It reflexively ridicules questions about April’s maternal delinquency, but this—the question of her growth—strikes me as the movie’s real penumbra. Instead we get a primer on faith. Indeed, the movie’s philosophical curiosity begins and ends, it seems, as the movie itself begins and ends: with a “Jewish story” (we are told) about a boy on the stairs and the father who tells him to jump. If the story is meant to consider whether God’s unconditional gift is a safety net or our own resilience, the movie itself seems to have no trouble concluding, feebly, that God is actually just “difficult.” We get it: all parents are the same, complex and unknowable. This is very nice to believe but its facileness—or its sophistry: we don’t understand God, therefore God is difficult—is symptomatic of the entire movie.

The problem with Then She Found Me is of conviction: it doesn’t know what it is, or it doesn’t believe it is what it says it is. Lacking faith in its own intentions, it’s either naïve or calculating. It’s not only about April’s Pentateuchal long-suffering; it’s also about her nascent romantic relationship with Frank (Colin Firth), the divorced father of one of her students; and Bernice Graves (Bette Midler), her birth-mother and a morning TV talk show host, who decides, for no discernible reason, to contact her. Then She Found Me is an issue movie, a romantic comedy, and an indie drama (Complete with zany mother!) but none of it coheres, or sticks with us. Frank’s courtship is charming and rumpled in the way that only Colin Firth can make it, but it’s also pretty dull—or would be, if April didn’t routinely go out of her way, and out of character, I think, to make him look foolish. It’s a plot sustained willfully and complicated gratuitously. Too uncomplicated, on the other hand, is Bernice Graves, her name shortened and reduced from the book’s more literary and inauspicious “Graverman” and her character, we imagine, purged similarly. Bernice lies to April with a pathological eagerness, but the movie never confirms what we sense: that, her own life a catalogue of near-successes and half-accomplishments, she lies to reinvent herself. It appears that her life really is, as April puts it, “fabulous”; it needs no justification or biographical revisionism. We want Bernice to be as duplicitous and disingenuous as she seems to be—the latest in an enduring literary tradition of gleefully treacherous parent-figures—but it turns out that she’s not so awfully bad. Then She Found Me, like Firth’s Frank when he’s seized by shame or fury, turns and walks away when it should boil over.

But confrontation is not really in Helen Hunt’s repertoire. Perhaps flummoxed by the weird dynamics and utter absence of melody in two early scenes of rupture and reconciliation—Ben’s explanation that he wants a separation is a single, pallid shot, and, later, Bernice’s supplication for April’s forgiveness is played, clumsily, for laughs—Hunt cops out and has what ought to be the film’s two most powerful revelations shown on a screen. The first, a picture of a fetus on a sonogram, gives credence to the second, Bernice confessing a secret on her TV show. It’s not even live: April rewinds the videotape again and again as if to saturate herself with it, which in this movie passes for dramatic action. In its blatant self-justification, this scene reads like one of Bernice’s own tall tales. Really, who insists these days that something is true because she saw it on TV? But Then She Found Me, as though afraid of the rough and unruly lives that people muddle through, with or without a difficult God, reduces its characters, its conflicts, and its own scope, to the size of a small screen. Forget that pesky still and soft voice: only TV has the answers.

(Then She Found Me may still be in theaters somewhere. But you may only be able to catch it on TV, where it will strike you as being several rungs above whatever show preceded it and whatever show comes after.)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thursday Notes

at 5:00 at Cable Car. It's part of the geographically expanded Newport Film Festival. (Not yet consumed by Dunkin Donuts and its rapacious, protean font.) Here's an article from the NYT about the film's unorthodox release schedule.

Outdoor movies on Westminster start this evening with Breakfast at Tiffany's. The show begins at dusk, weather permitting.

Also, music on the hill at 7:00 at the First Baptist Church. Tickets are $15.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Two ways of looking at a blockbuster

One. It never happened.

Two. Or did it? Explain.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Film Review: The Visitor

In Iron Man, Tony Stark prepares himself for battle against the world’s dark armies by forging an industrial-strength metal suit; the trade-off for his heroic near-invincibility is the forfeiture of his humanity. The Visitor charts an inverted course to heroism: its main character, self-contained economics professor Walter Vale, becomes more heroic as he becomes more human—more vulnerable to the world’s meanness, more awed by its luster. But that’s how these stories have always gone, right? Either you take up the sword and fight like a god or you take a deep breath and die on a cross. Walter’s story lacks the awesome spectacle of sacrifice and the grim satisfaction of material victory—Thomas McCarthy’s script is too grounded to permit these airy, allusive extravagances—but it offers the smaller, subtler pleasure of watching a man learn how to live.

Despite obvious, if unexceptional, success in the respiratory and cardiovascular departments, Walter (Richard Jenkins) hardly registers as sentient; he’s more like a machine adequately programmed. He haltingly performs his rote professorial functions—and even these just barely—and his eyes show neither sympathy nor comprehension when a student explains that his paper is late because of “personal issues.” No matter what you may think of the mettle of today’s college students—and I’m glad that this wasn’t the issue for McCarthy—you would expect at least a flicker of recognition or regret to cross Walter’s eyes. But there’s nothing. Jenkins has a great face for the part: craterous and indifferent, it’s a mask that suggests how far away Walter is from the rest of the world. It isn’t just at school that he feels like an interloper; he putters around his own house, two stories in suburbia, with a stranger’s exaggerated fastidiousness, and plays his grand piano like it’s the control panel for a nuclear reactor. Quiet desperation may not go far enough to describe Walter: try spiritual asphyxiation.

When his colleague Charles requests that he go down to a New York City conference to present a paper of which he is a putative co-author, we can read Walter’s revulsion on his taut lips and in his unqualified refusal: the prospect of visiting the pungent world really is that unsavory. But Charles prevails; Walter resignedly concedes, and drives down to the East Village where he has kept a small apartment for two decades. It turns out that the place hasn’t just been gathering dust: two immigrants, believing that the apartment belonged to someone named Ivan, have been living there for the past several months. Tarek (Haaz Sleiman), from Syria, and Zainab (Danai Gurira), from Senegal, have made the place their home, and Walter, after initially throwing them out, relents, and invites them to stay while they look for another place. Tarek and Zainab accept, and then Tarek reciprocates: he invites Walter to re-enter the world. Slowly, through lessons on the djembe, evenings out at jazz clubs, and performances in drum circles, Tarek introduces Walter to the rhythms of an articulated life; he reminds Walter of the sturdy pulse of his own heart, and of the gathering complexity—like the drums’ polyrhythmic patterns—of who he is.

This resuscitation is wonderful to watch but we know that the good times can’t go on indefinitely. One evening, after an ebullient session with a Washington Park drum circle, Tarek is arrested for sneaking through a subway turnstile. We know he didn’t do it, and Walter knows he didn’t do it, but the officers who caught him are determined: from their perspective, he looks like a criminal. Even so, the fear we see in Tarek’s eyes as he is taken into custody seems disproportionate; our system guarantees that an innocent man with a witness can make his case. When Walter returns to the apartment to explain Tarek’s bad luck to Zainab, we learn the reason for his terror: they are both illegals, and Tarek, she confirms, will surely be sent to a detention center. The movie doesn’t exactly pick up speed here, but it acquires something like inertia. The veil removed from his eyes, the carapace of self-pity shed, the name-tag from the academic conference (now almost forgotten) discarded, Walter is ready to act--to defend and free his new friend, no matter the cost. In a beautiful reversal, Charles, the university colleague, calls Walter to ask him where he is; Walter assures him that he will explain everything as soon as he returns to campus. He doesn’t say as much, but we know what he’s talking about: personal issues. Personal issues are not the stuff of pyrotechnic conflict or even extrusive, demonstrative acting, and Jenkins and Sleiman, during Walter’s visits to the windowless detention center, play against each other with terrific restraint and sensitively modulated understatement: if they are strengthened by their certitude about the justice of their case, they are both overwhelmed by a system callously uninterested in things like perspicuity, equal representation, and human dignity.

When Tarek’s mother Mouna (Haim Abbas, with incredible posture and conviction) arrives in town, stricken because she hasn’t heard from her son in almost a week, the movie doesn’t feel overburdened or implausible; it feels necessarily expanded. The film, in a sense, has been building to this encounter: Walter, newly dropped in the current of living, is helpless to stop its onrush. What began as an inexplicable and irrational gesture of hospitality brings Walter into close, even intimate, contact with strangers and awakens his own sense of love and responsibility. One might take issue with the low-burning romance that seems to flare up between Walter and Mouna (Even though it is never, crassly speaking, consummated, its tensions strain our credulity; and why are movies so obsessed with a certain kind of love, anyway?) and with the film’s de facto exoticism of Tarek, whose dignified self-actualization is yet more evidence from Hollywood that the surest path to enlightenment is the one that leads farthest away from the American university system, but there’s no denying the plain power of these relationships. And anyway, the movie doesn’t promise to make things right—it’s too honest for such blandishments—just to help us see things anew.

(The Visitor is at the Avon on Thayer St. through Thursday evening.)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Monday Sundries

I saw Then She Found Me at the Avon last week; I'll have a review posted soon.

Last night, we went to see The Visitor, also at the Avon. Like Then She Found Me, it's a small movie; but where TSFM feels cloistered and insular, The Visitor is capacious and reverberative. Adoption, in The Visitor, isn't a consolation and a last scene in a long drama, the way it seems to be in TSFM, but a privilege: it's a way to connect with one other person in an exploding world, and a means to one's own revival.

Also, the film's last shot is one of my favorites from any movie not by Ang Lee.