Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

2010 - best and worst .....

We are a little behind here at the Movie Projector - I only saw UNCLE BOONMEE at the cinema yesterday, and the dvd of BEACHES OF AGNES has been sitting unwatched on a shelf for the last 9 or so months, but they are both my films of the year in that they are totally unlike anything else and left one dazed and exhilerated. Cinema then in a nutshell....

One knows one is leaving usual cinema terrain as the Thai UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES unspools: a water buffalo tethered to a tree at night breaks free and trots away and then stops for a while as we examine this strange animal as it takes in the night scene being at one with nature, then its owner enters, picks up its rope and takes it back. What is the beast thinking? Is it willing to go back? Then we join Boonmee's placid sister and his nephew as they travel to his bee farm to look after him in his final days as he is dying of a kidney disease. The pace seems very slow at first with shots held for longer than usual but then one falls into it. Nobody seems surprised when Boonmee's late wife Huay who has been dead for 19 years materialises at the dinner table and they talk to her. Boonmee, who is philosophical about his impending demise as he has lived before several times, asks her how he will find her in heaven: Huay replies: "Heaven is over-rated, there's nothing there. And anyway ghosts don't associate with places, they associate with people. We'll find each other."

Boomnee it seems has the ability to range over his past lives as he comes to the end of his current one, aided by the spirits of the forest who also include his son Boonsong who has changed into a weird creature with red eyes [from having mated with monkey spirits]. Then we come to the mesermising sequence with the Princess and the catfish, set against a stunning waterfall which one could sit and watch for hours - as the Princess disrobes and enters the water where the catfish is waiting for her... perhaps the water buffalo or the princess or the catfish are also past (or future) lives of Boonmee? - as apparantly his other lives can be male or female, human or animal.... (the connectedness of things?)

People who are not prepared for it will be left confounded but others will leave the cinema stunned at the experience of it all. It is therefore an experience rather than a conventional movie. Apichatpong Weerasethakul tells a story that doesn't ask or need to be understood. As he awaits his death, Boonmee, Huay, Jen, and Tong visit a cave with white sand floors where Boonmee reveals that this was the place he was first born. He then dies there. For me maybe the movie should have stopped here - there is a coda showing their life afterwards as they sit around a hotel room and the monk Tong takes a shower, but this really, after what went before, is rather like watching paint dry and seems superfluous. Apart from that its depiction of the enduring relationship between Boonmee and Huay, and the in images of a dying man comforted by family and friends, the film offers an experience of the permanence of love.

The permanence of love is also really what THE BEACHES OF AGNES is all about, as Fench director Agnes Varda now in her 80s makes the most unusual documentary ever about looking back over one's life and work. Her fascination with beaches comes to the fore as she and her friends (like Jane Birkin) arrange mirrors on the beaches as she recollects her parents and childhood and early career and her marriage to Jacques Demy and the films they made and the actors and friends they knew. At the end she is surrounded by her children and grand-children and she and they are the most delightful company. This is the most perfect way to get old and still remain fascinating and interested in everything. We experience the loss of Demy [who like Boonmee was nursed by loved ones], the courtyard where he and Agnes worked on their projects, clips from their movies, that New Wave era, their time at the centre of the counterculture in California in the late '60s (where they discovered Harrison Ford, but couldn't use him in Jacques' MODEL SHOP as he was not considered actor material by the studio!; Agnes was making LIONS LOVE with Viva and the HAIR creators).

As IMDB puts it: "Agnès Varda explores her memory - growing up in Belgium, living in Sète, Paris, and Noirmoutier, discovering photography, making a film, being part of the New Wave, raising children with Jacques Demy, losing him, and growing old. She explores her memory using photographs, film clips, home movies, contemporary interviews, and set pieces she designs to capture a feeling, a time, or a frame. Shining through each scene are her impish charm, inventiveness, and natural empathy. How do people grow old, how does loss stay with them, can they remain creative, and what do they remember?" (I have already written extensively here, as per French label, on Demy and Varda).

I saw Varda's LE BONHEUR when I was 19 in '65 and it was one of those films that made a very strong impression, so its been good to finally see it again now that there are Varda box-sets, and to finally discover her CLEO FROM 5 TO 7, with its delightful picture of Paris in the early 60s. That is one of my discoveries of the year, as below:

The 2000s label covers my other films of 2010 as per reviews of A SINGLE MAN, THE GHOST, I LOVE YOU PHILIP MORRIS, THE HURT LOCKER, INGLORIOUS BASTERDS etc. I shall be turning to I AM LOVE and TOY STORY 3 shortly, 44 INCH CHEST remains a terrific comedy ensemble piece of Winstone, Hurt, McShane, Wilkinson; IT'S COMPLICATED and LETTERS TO JULIET are the best of the romcoms; disappointment of the year has to be NINE and disaster of the year SEX AND THE CITY 2 (which is not worth mentioning). Polanski's GHOST is thriller of the year but surely the East Coast of America is not as bleak as depicted here (shot as it was in Europe) while McGregor (for his brilliance in the Carrey movie) and Colin Firth are actors of the year; actress = Tilda Swinton. Firth is no longer a lightweight actor and after also finally seeing McGregor in Greenaway's THE PILLOW BOOK one has to be amazed at his daring and taking of risks.

Of the late 2010 releases as we go into 2011 I shall be looking forward to catching THE KING'S SPEECH (with that great cast including Claire Bloom), Mike Leigh's return with ANOTHER YEAR, 127 HOURS, THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT etc.

Television (here in the UK at any rate) served up some treats: classy drama (or 'heritage tv') is back with Maggie Smith leading the ensemble in DOWNTON ABBEY, the revived UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS with a splendid Eileen Atkins taking charge, classy thrillers like SPOOKS and SHERLOCK and the splendid film of Nigel Slater's food memoir TOAST, while Tom Hollander scored with his comedy series REV and Rufus Sewell as the Italian detective ZEN.

My discoveries of the year are: Visconti's 1965 SANDRA (or OF A THOUSAND DELIGHTS), Clements 1957 THE SEA WALL (THIS ANGRY AGE) (I shall be seeing the recent version shortly), BLONDE IN BLACK LEATHER (a throwaway 1975 Italian comedy for the domestic market with Vitti and Cardinale having fun) - see Italian label, Ozon's UNDER THE SAND with Charlotte Rampling (to be reviewed), Varda's CLEO FROM 5 TO 7 and a brace of early Dirk Bogarde's: APPOINTMENT IN LONDON and CAST A DARK SHADOW where he is delightfully spivvy bumping off older wife Mona Washboure and having designs on wicked lady Margaret Lockwood and splendid Kay Walsh!

2011's revivals will include that early Fellini boxset and all those Chabrols to revisit (2 boxsets!), and Gerard Philipe (as Modigliani) in LES AMANTS DE MONTPARNASSE with Anouk Aimee and Lilli Palmer, as well as some other yet-unseen Romy Schneider films.

(Previous years' discoveries here at the Projector included Cukor's THE CHAPMAN REPORT, Jean Seberg in MOMENT TO MOMENT, Lana's LOVE HAS MANY FACES, Sarah Miles in I WAS HAPPY HERE, Lilli Palmer and Jean Sorel in ADORABLE JULIA, Demy's LES DEMOISELLES DE ROCHEFORT (on dvd and on the big screen), THE OPPOSITE SEX, ALL FALL DOWN, early Loren in TOO BAD SHE'S BAD and WOMAN OF THE RIVER, ABDULLA THE GREAT (Kay Kendall's missing 1955 film), Mangano in MAMBO and THE TEMPEST, Minnelli treats DESIGNING WOMAN and THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE, Linda Darnell in THIS IS MY LOVE (1954) and the 1954 KNAVE OF HEARTS as per reviews.
Right: I WAS HAPPY HERE, 1966 / below: ADORABLE JULIA: Jean Sorel and Lilli Palmer in Trafalgar Square, 1962

No comments:

Post a Comment