May 10th: Summer Hours
Besides Juliette Binoche, who I always adore, my favorite thing about Summer Hours was the lack of conflict. Three siblings are trying to decide how to divide up their recently deceased mother’s art collection. Some of it has to be donated – tax reasons – some of it has to be sold, some people want to keep some things, others want to keep everything just the way it is. There is a potential for overblown arguments – bringing up horrible memories from the past that explain who exactly everyone is and why they think the way they do – but the film never goes there. Instead, we get a tiny little movie about memories and how they’re passed on through objects. Where do the memories go when the objects are no longer there? Is it really possible to keep someone’s memory alive when all of their material possessions are lost? How might oral history contribute? How are the pieces we walk quickly by in museums embedded with outside meaning and can they retain that meaning?
May 11th: A Tale of Two Sisters
Today I was telling Scott how I like my horror either smart or dumb but not in between. A Tale of Two Sisters was somewhere in between. It sure was psychologically thrilling, but takes some cheap turns (as only movies that start in an asylum can) and ends up in a flashback that is disturbing but cliche. Asian horror is hard for me. There’s lots of this:
And not enough this:
May 11th: The Lives of Others
It’s hard to think of what to say about this film. Besides a poorly placed freeze frame at the end of an otherwise serious political thriller, I can find nothing to complain about. I think the most accurate term would be “tight.” This movie was tight. Every hair on every head seemed perfectly placed and thought through. I loved the lead actor Ulrich Muhe (aka: Kevin Spacey) who never made what seemed like a fairly typical Orwellian government man seem cliche. His character spends most of the film listening to headphones, and yet his full character arc is clear.
Unlike Summer Hours, this movie isn’t quiet at all, and yet most scenes consist of intimate bedroom conversations listened to by the government. I think this tense stillness is what makes The Lives of Others so thrilling whereas explosions and murder desensitize us in other films.
May 12th: The Battle of Algiers
I’m trying to keep these reviews short since I watched a lot over the past couple days. Almost all the movies we’ve watched so far have been excellent, but this one just seems over the top amazing. That’s right. You will rarely hear me say that word (I hope), but The Battle of Algiers is amazing. Brian already wrote about it here.
May 12th: My Neighbor Totoro
I’ve seen this movie three times now. The first was at my weirdo younger cousins’ house. They didn’t have TV in their house (weirdos) so they had a bunch of weirdo movies, and this was one of them. Animation always kind of weirded me out as a kid, and this one was really over the top (weird). Then I watched it about 10 years later and realized how magical and warm and fuzzy it is. This viewing was no different. But make sure to watch Totoro in the original Japanese. The voice work of the little girls is miles above the Fannings’ in the Disney version.