Watching: There and Not There


I want to love every film that I see. Unfortunately, that’s not possible. I’ve have watched twenty films in the last three weeks, I feel exhilarated. I can’t shake them from my head. I’ll start with Death in a French Garden, a quirky and memorable love triangle with a subtle and enigmatic supporting performance by Richard Bohringer. Cronenberg’s sharp use of editing to quicken a scene and Julianne Moore at the end of her world in Maps to the Stars. Timothy Spall’s grunt, and Mike Leigh’s direction of landscape in Mr. Turner, Leigh was this close to me and my partner Maja after a Q&A. There were questions of self-worth in Winter Light, and Wild Strawberries, the latter being one of Maja’s personal favourites. Walk the Line is a fairly typical Hollywood biopic of Johnny Cash and June Carter with great performances and great songs. The strangeness and uniqueness of Drowning by Numbers, the girl on the skipping rope, the great outdoors, as Roger Ebert says whether you love or hate Peter Greenaway you don’t understand him. I continued to be taken on a journey with Greenaway with The Draughtsman’s Contract, a film that spends its opening minutes introducing many people and then shows us the beautiful outdoors once again.

In The Secret Garden, the children chanting for Craven’s return with a stunning long fade out in the distance of fire. Every time I hear Zbigniew Preisner’s track ‘Rain’ for this film I can feel the world opening up. In Alice in the Cities you’re on the road with Wim Wenders, the human story of a young girl and photojournalist who has to unexpectedly take care of the child. Take Out Your Handkerchiefs, a film that crosses the line of relationships but it’s Bertrand Blier so it’s done in an absurdist comic way. In Wrong Move, again you feel like you’re with Wenders’ characters. In The Straight Story an old man is on the road, I just wish that the side characters could be as memorable. Gone Girl, a twist which I’ve seen in many TV murder mysteries, not Fincher’s best but the critical nod that this film is the Gaslight of the 21st Century, a film which I haven’t seen makes it sound more interesting I suppose.

The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, a masterpiece, my film of the week, Michael Gambon is towering, hilarious and scary in the same moment. My favourite scene is when Albert (Gambon) goes into the ladies room where Georgina (Helen Mirren) and Michael (Alan Howard) are together in a cubicle, Mirren’s strong side tells him to fuck off. Gambon says he’ll go back out, when Mirren appears we discover Gambon is still there. The whole film is Mirren’s nightmare she begins to wake up after a tragedy and has finally risen from her bed in the final scene. The satire Election maybe has too much voiceover, but I love this film’s attitude by letting the morals as Alexander Payne himself says ‘sit there’ in front of the characters. The New World, a film that I want to love as much as Mark Cousins but I’m not sure. You think that Christine is going to be about Dennis played by John Stockwell, than the character of Arnie played by Keith Gordon, who changes so drastically that the film shifts its protagonist. I watched Kings of the Road and I need to see it again in a few years, my least favourite of the road trilogy but I watched it in a third sitting due to other life commitments. And finally To the Wonder, before seeing it Mark Cousins said “Dreading seeing To the Wonder in case I don’t like it and my idol Mr T Malick falls from his pedestal and smashes into tiny bits of rubble and dust. He then said, “Finally saw Terry Malick’s To the Wonder. Sad to say that he didn’t take me there. Too much and not enough.” This film tells its story beautifully and subtly. Ben Affleck has few lines. Everything is clear and unclear at the same time. Who are these people? What else would you expect from the latest offering of Terrence Malick. Films should first be seen, then remembered. For each film that you see that means something to you, log one image of it in your brain, cherish it, and remember it.

2 thoughts on “Watching: There and Not There

  1. Oups.. I meant, here are my comments:

    Let’s start with Peter Greenaway. I watched Drowning by numbers one night simply because it was downloaded to my computer and I had no access to internet. Otherwise I would definitely have watched something else instead. However, I quite liked the weirdness of this film. The images that most clearly stick in my mind are the close up of bloody road kill that a young boy is marking out on the asphalt. At the end of the film I was a bit annoyed when the last of 3 husbands decided to get into the swimming pool in spite not being able to swim. After all, he knew that his wives sisters had already drowned their husbands!

    His Wife and Her Lover is like stepping into a terrible 17th century painting full of people who have been eating way too much, gone out the back door to throw up, and now returned to stuff themselves even more. The artist have also decided to pain most of the image is red colours to emphasise the madness. Look at the Dutch painter Hals for an example. I felt a bit ill after watching this film.

    Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner gives me a similar, but more pleasant feeling. He moved me to Romantic English countryside and the late 19th century. The whole film seems shot in the same romantic style Mr. Turners himself use when painting. When I later watch other Mike Leigh films including Meantime and Life is Sweet they seem very different. Overall Mr. Turner is a pretty ok film although Timothy Spal is groaning so much that I can’t help to keep associating him with the Harry Potter rat Peter Pettigrew.

    Maps to the stars was just awful. Terrible film all way through and I am surprise not more people walked out of the cinema when we were watching it.
    To the Wonder was better. On a scale from 1-10 I would give it 7 but I liked The Tree of Life Better.

    Wild Strawberries is the best Bergman film ever made. Also one of the best Swedish films of all time. I have been trying to explain the symbolism of the film title to non Swedish people before but not succeeded. I will try again. The original title is “Smultronstället” which literally translates to ”The place were you find/pick wild strawberries”. I remember as a child waking up early in the morning in mid June and going off into the Woods barefoot still wearing my nightshirt to pick Wild Strawberries and bring back for Breakfast. Wild Strawberries taste better than regular ones and only grow during the absolute best time of the year. In Sweden these little berries have a special symbolic status I think, they represent childhood, sweetness, summer and meadows. The place were they grow, Smultronstället, is therefore the place were you can find the things you long for the most. In this light, Ingmar Bergmans film about the old sentimental university lecturer makes perfect sense to me. He travels physically across the country and gets rewarded for his achievements at the university, but his real reward comes from visiting the house of his childhood where we travels by mind back in time to the place he longs for the most.

    Now off to Walk the line. Johnny Cash and June Carter are both great country artists and the best part of the film is undoubtedly the music (even though the original songs are better). Learning more about their lives was also interesting and makes me long to visit the American South.

    The Secret Garden is a beautiful children’s l film. I watched it when I was home sick in bed feeling. While watching it I forgot to feel sorry for myself and got completely absorbed into the magical world of the old stone country house with all its secret rooms and the even more secret and painfully beautiful garden. The story and the pictures reminds you of what is felt like to be a child. When secret worlds can be found just around the corner.

    I don´t really remember that much from The Straight Story. It is about an old man who travels around trying to get to his brother. Either is was not a very memorable film or I was just really tired when watching it.

    Gone Girl is ok. A loving relationship that ends in a disastrous marriage. The film is playing with your mind so that you think you know who is the good character and who is the mean one, but you end up surprised. Or well.. actually I wasn´t very surprised at all. I thought it was pretty predicable but still enjoyed it. It was quite bloody but not so scary. I especially like the shower scene even though I cannot understand why the wife was still bloody after having spent, presumably, a couple of days in hospital. Surely they must have showers in American hospitals?

    That’s all the things I wanted to say about this blog post. Nice one!

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