Reasons to Keep the Faith

On this broad, roomy branch I’ve placed stories from the many that have impelled me to jot down notes.  I debated over the inclusion of this branch under the weight of all not here, the possible misinterpretation that this is anything but a beginning trace of what is.   So much exciting excavation’s being done these days. 
So below is the sampling placed here knowing more and more stories that give us reason to keep the faith are coming along.

The stories associated with our final Farewell Discourse:

  • Queen to Play. 2009, 2011 USA release.  Director Caroline Bottaro, written by Bottaro from a novel by Bertina Henrichs.  With Sandrine Bonnaire and Kevin Kline.

No one is thrown under the bus, no characters are sacrificed in this story of a cleaning woman who dreams chess and then risks the emotional growth required to put herself into that world of neatly squared black and white with all the presumptions of class and gender and intelligence that huddle behind it.  This story  of the strength it takes to have and hold a changing heartmakes makes it clear that emotional growth is work.  And when we make a change we ask for that work and strength, too, of those who are connected to us through love, those who have become dependent on our being a certain way – for them.  And how their resistence can force us to choose between them and the change we hope to risk.  As our cleaning lady/chess player Hélène asks, “Why awaken if it only makes one unhappy?”  And here, all of it becomes further complicated by the contrast of assumptions about a woman who cleans houses and a woman who plays chess.

Hélène’s opening into another self begins with a yearning glimpse of a woman she imagines living a breeze filled life of love and chess, that is to say a life beyond a cleaning lady.  But her narrative is less of transformation than of letting go to uncover, to allow for her nascent self.  Her chess mentor Kröger has learned from a regret that lingers in his heart concerning his dead wife, a painter, who was “extremely talented.  But she never believed in herself.” This time with Hélène he gives what is his to give, permission.  “You have a thing that can’t be taught…Many people search their whole life for it without ever finding it.”  And in a leap of faith Hélène takes the risk of acting on his permission, spreading her wings to set full sail at end into – who knows?  None of us do.  But why not, as Kröger the permission giver says, “Be yourself and enjoy it.”

Express belief, name it.

  • The Sessions2012.  Writer/director Ben Lewin. with John Hawkes and Helen Hunt.

I walked out of the theater after watching this difficult film energized and in a state of “wanting to speak, too.”  Whenever a work of art encourages me to join in I take notice.  I’ve always thought feeling a desire to contribute signals that the story’s unearthed something fresh, yearning for air.

This is a tale of a journey taken together by a woman who heals and a severely isolated and reduced man.  Along the way they tease out the essentials from the tangled mess of encrusted assumption and fear we carry about the nature of our sexual being.  The difficult subject of sexual therapy is so clearly in the hands of a writer/director who has the courage to go straight across that dangerous terrain.  And to do it he has created a story populated by fearless characters (not the least of which is the sex therapist played by Hunt) who are so willing to try to go there, to follow wherever the action leads them.  Women, as compared to men, are supposed to be experts in this realm of emotions.  But of course it’s all a new world of discovery for us, too.

And the man of the story is so extremely crippled he can risk that place of no control, that place we all fear, because he has nothing to hold on to.  All the traditional attributes of the male are sealed off to him.  He’s got nothing left to lose so he lets go into other narratives yet unexplored.  And so traveling in the company of this man and this woman we all together traverse the unfolding embryonic.  Thrilling & scary.

  • White Material, 2009.  Directed by Claire Denis. Written by Claire Denis with Marie N’Diaye.

Here, in her story about the enddays of the colonial enterprise in South Africa, Claire Denis meticulously lays bare the damaged soil of humanity ravaged by the toxicity of racial oppression.  (I can’t
help but have pop into my head Isak Dinesen’s I once owned a farm in Africa – the romantic front end of that telling that mostly overlooks the nasty underpinnings of such enterprise.)  White Material unfolds with relentless honesty through the eyes of a woman being forced by historical circumstance to relinquish her land, which is to say her way of life.

All of this is illustrated through the torn tension of the love between the mother and son in their first scene together.  The mother goes into his room and says, empathetically, that he is a complete embarrassment and disappointment to her in his dissipation, his wild dog-ness.  And he does go on to becomes a skinhead, totally believable with true “reasons” given for his turn to pure brute cocked triggeredness.

This mother’s denial of her son’s loss to her parallels her absolute denial of her land’s loss; denial of the political caldron all around her; denial of the threat to her existence in spite of being directly told that she must leave, up front by the helicopter army man, along with many other signs all along the storyway.

The parallel between the son and the plantation/land the mother loves so much becomes allegory back and forth, reverberates the meaning of the whole which is the complete destructive and corrosive disease that colonialism is, here at its endstage.  Even with the most hard working, straightforward traits and intensions on the part of the mother/landowner that would be admirable in another context.  This story reveals how much denial it takes for this woman with these admirable traits to exist in this human contradiction.  Until denial becomes her only trait.  In her fierce refusal to question the colonial system through which she’s prospered this woman becomes the embodiment of that system’s illogic and moral debilitation and is, along with her family, ultimately destroyed.

As relentlessly truthful and difficult as this film is, as destroyed as the family at its center ultimately is, its story left me uplifted.  Even such intense material as the mass human quake of social change can be a source of lightness because it opens onto something new.  That instead of churning away endlessly poking at ancient sores, Denis has with rigorous honesty shown the root source of the human illness of appropriation of the rights/energy/property of others, systematized in colonialism, that causes the disease.  This creative act of exposing the roots is what loams out the new ground before us, some mysteriously, yes, we’re not sure how, but there it is ahead of us.  We’ve only to follow her certain fearlessness, and keep putting one foot in front of the other…

Yes, very BBC and stiff upper lip etc which is to say very well done in that one foot in front of another, dependable story style.  Set during the time right after WWII, which would be in my mother’s generation of young women.  And if we need a reminder, and we may well, that medical science has only most recently given us the assuredness of safety in childbirth, both for the child and for the mother, this story is it.

The possibility of death for either child or pregnant woman was, until this most recent instant, ever present in every birth.  This biological fact has always been thoroughly repressed in our narratives except as the death shines light on the occasional male widower’s backstory or as a punishment for specific or general wrong acts by men and/or women.  And the option of reproductive control has been nonexistent except by uncertain, whispered (that would be suppressed and encrusted with guilt and untoward connotations) and the risk (again punishment) of potentially deadly methods.  And so here, in this story of secular young women and nuns we revisit that reality told honestly and with empathy through the auspices of the charitable and religious organizations filled with the women who did the work of helping those mothers and those children in lower class London after the war.

  • In Treatment: HBO.  Three seasons 2008-2010. Rodrigo Garcia executive producer, writer and director of a majority of the episodes. We’ve been looking for a way to get Rodrigo Garcia into the weblog since stumbling on his truthful cinematic character explorations in Mother and Child and Nine LivesIn Treatment production still

In Treatment, created for the short form of the television episodic, is like a 19th century novel built out of serialized installments.  The lives of its characters are laid more or less equally bare through the story device of a therapist and his patients in a cycle of weekly visits.

Can we be adults?  Can we allow in ourselves and encourage in one another growth into something approaching our potential for emotional consciousness?  This is the underlying question asked by this revolve of 5 stories, each structured around a central patient coming in for a therapy session, the last of which is of the therapist himself – a weary, sometimes weak soul.  No hero here.  But he does have that healer’s endurance as a medium, a seerer and conduit for his patients’ weighty burdens, the wear and tear of sorting through repression, anger, resentment, displacement, desire and hunger cravings – those admitted and not.  What vials of dynamite we are! Ancient hurts sutured over we ask and yet resent those we seek out to help us in the untying.

There’s little “control” here but much playing at the edge of the emotional cliff and for a while I worried we might just go on over with this vulnerable doctor and his patients.  But low and behold, as seems to be the nature of this empathetic story teller Mr. Garcia, these humans keep trying.  And some of them do dig just deep enough to find a way forward to that self beneath all the lies and inherited should-bes we tell ourselves and one another.  Hard to watch at times.  But there’s a faith being expressed here that we can unearth the clumps, untie the knots that left untended grow and twist us from inside.  And a faith that with some luck we can find others who can help with all that fire which is so beyond holding for any one of us.

Growth on this branch from our Salon and Parlor on spiritual questing:

  • Meek’s Cutoff.  2010.  Directed by Kelly Reichardt.  Written by Jonathan Raymond.

A person’s got to put her feet up and just receive to experience this exquisitely slow depiction of a small wagon train’s trek across central Oregon’s dust and sage. The themes are biblical: crossing deserts with water buckets near empty; visions a plenty, and then a lack of vision; wandering a wilderness not knowing if you’re going to make it to the promised land (the Willamette Valley) or die wandering.  From the opening frames of fully covered women carrying precious items over their heads as they ford a river, every gesture, every scrap of dialog has allegorical meaning.  Meanwhile, this story’s über realism unspools to put you there, each hot, tired, insecure footstep of the way. 

About the time the thirsty group is mislead to an alkaline lake by their blustery, big talking, buckskinned guide – the Meek of the title – this becomes a tale of doubt about how we make our choices of the men we follow.  These pilgrims often tell themselves their fates are in the hands of God, but they’ve put the survival of their bodies in the hands of Meek.  And soon enough it becomes apparent their survival is really in their own hands. Who knows how to find the life saving water?  It’s possible, no one does.

The landscape morphs into their antagonist and then delivers the character of an Indian, (Piute, Cayuse, Nez Perce –“one of those” Meek says) captured, bullied by, and then set in opposition to the guide Meek. By now the story’s become the story of Emily Tetherow, a young wife of a thinking nature who can’t seem to call up enough obedience to follow Meek into oblivion.  She asks her husband, “Is he ignorant, or is he just plain evil?  That’s my quandary…”  And her husband’s answer, “There is no way of knowing.”  To which she responds, “I don’t blame him for not knowing.  I blame him for saying he did.”  And “guiding” them all into this pickle.  Emily puts her trust more and more in the Indian all the while never knowing if she herself is perceiving correctly. She thinks she can understand his language, but it’s an act of faith, not knowledge.  Faith forced by brutal, desperate circumstances. Is the Native man, the indigenous man familiar with these barren hills, in fact leading them to water?  Or to death from thirst?

Reichardt leaves us with an “open” ending to her story as Emily gazes at the Indian moving on ahead.  The filmmaker provides us with no answer to the question of the group’s salvation.  And in this she portrays our present day dilemma, our crisis of doubt and faith in the paths we’ve followed that brought us here, to this moment.

  • Of Gods and Men Des hommes et des dieux (original title) 2010. written and directed by Xavier Beauvois.

This story gives itself over, accepting and tender, to showing the round of days in a small order of  monks, of each and every one, their lives given over to meditation and silence in an ancient and austere practice of the worship of God.  Every sentence and action is considered and deliberate.  Soon enough the choices these men make in line with their faith bring them, Christ like, to having to follow through on the consequences of those choices as the “real” world of the hate and violence inevitably, inexoribly stalks their isolated mountain monastery. That world of men, unwilling to leave the monks alone with their God and their good works, comes to them.  Destruction flows into an unprotected clearing.  As we know, it’s one thing to declare faith, it’s another to keep it come what may.  And of course, those being helped and for whom the monks must make the difficult choice to stay and put themselves in danger, are mostly women and children.  The usual collateral damage when violence wins the day.

  • Incendies, 2010.  Written and directed by Denis Villeneuve.

Set in the Lebanese civil war of the 1970’s and its aftermath.  If a person ever needed a narrative justification for the absolute necessity of the separation of church and state, this story is it.  An up close and personal tracing of the damage done when the bondage of ancient tribal prejudice justified by religious ideology comes up against an act of love. From the opening scenes of a young woman’s thwarted attempt to escape her clan with the young man she loves, to that boy being executed by the girl’s brothers, to the girl’s story continuing on through torture, rape, and abuse – all justified, encouraged, sanctified by religious sects at each other’s throats and all at core rooted in, surprise surprise, controlling the reproductive power/capacity of the body of woman. The mystery of this girl’s story is slowly unveiled through the investigations first of a sister who is the child born of that doomed, trying-to-escape love, and then, in the world of men – that is the world of religious terrorists – by her twin brother.  Hard to watch without getting furious at such reckless waste of life (all the while under a dogmatic ruse of proclaiming its sanctity) and yet these two young people, twins saved to the West by their mother, unlock her story and that of their own origins.  Only then do they understand what it took from their mother to escape such generational wounding, retribution, and hate.  All in the name of religion.

And for something completely different:

A break from our usual fare in the Parlor, but worth the time on a rainy afternoon if for no other reason than it’s by a woman who’s  survived the Hollywood con-ag industry of production for a good long time.  Ms. Myers is something of a romanticist in the female story line, but I did sense a slight shift to the realistic here as she seems to be encouraging a certain refusal to give in to that desire bred into us:  a desire that says love (equated with sex) can spark eternal even in a marriage left by the husband years and years ago.  We so want to tell ourselves that we are not changed by life, or that at least our sexual attractiveness narrowly defined is not changed.  Maybe if we wear enough turtlenecks…  This works against a woman’s arduously won acceptance, an act requiring much clarity of vision, that she is in fact a different person, years later, than she was then.  (This is not all loss.  I, for one, am happy to not be in the same head I was in when I was 20, even if attached to that body.)  And the husband, too, is much changed even if he does not know it.  I have respect for Ms. Meyer’s story for its reveal at end of honest meaning, for its little twist of change in the old romantic, woman’s movie formula.  That there is no going back.  Only an opening to the forward and leaving behind what no longer applies, no matter the maturity that remains may take for some till middle age to appreciate, if we get there by then.  But what else is life for?  Except to grow?

Previous additions to this branch:

Tackles the back end of the story of the sexy, intelligent woman who does get the married man for herself and what happens next.  Of course, just getting the man doesn’t prove to be enough.  This other woman must have her own baby.  But in a twist of fate she loses her infant and then decides she’s responsible for its death in a spate of displaced, better late than never guilt about the rippling vector of hurt she’s caused. The truth is much that happens, like someone we love leaving or the tragedy of a baby dying, catalyzes irrevocable change in us.  And so in this story the road T’s out into a choice between the otherwoman carrying the self hate that combusts from her original act of betrayal, a lacerating energetic which threatens to spread and engulf everything, or help herself find a path through.  And this by letting go her spoiled anger to clear ground for an honest admission of what has happened, the pain it’s caused in others, her part in it.  Then, maybe, shecan hope for a modicum of release.  And from that joy.  At end, a fine, hard edged bit of looking in this story.  And much in it of a reaching forgiveness.

  • Speaking of other women, if you’re ready for more mulling on this theme of fidelity, or not, in a marriage you might want to take a look at  Last Night, 2010. Written and directed by Massy Tadjedin.

Is everything, after all, animal-need based?  Perhaps that’s what this movie is saying, or coming down on the side of;  that we can’t, past a certain point, given certain circumstances, especially when young (i.e. in the reproductive stage of life) help ourselves.  That men are particularly susceptible to not being able to help themselves, esp. when zeroed in on by a beautiful, sexy women who can’t help herself.  But a woman can when approached by an old buddy lover?  Curious-er and curious-er.

  •  Days and Clouds, 2007.  Directed by Silvio Soldini, story by Soldini and Doriana Leondeff.

Not that most don’t know this is a fine movie already, but just to give it a nod, and by way of reminder.   How we define ourselves through the work we do.  How the loss of a husband’s working life shakes a marriage with denial, assumptions, cars breaking down, etc.  And how a marriage can transform and survive because both parties in it help each other to grow in response to inevitable change – bending when threatened, yes, but not breaking. The very definition of marriagelove as we wish it could be commonly practiced.  The wife in this union gives up a part of her being too, joining his loss of his breadwinning identity.  She forsakes her mastery and knowledge of fresco restoration, volunteer labor she has to give up to go earn money.  It is the precious, expressive, fine parts of us that are most at risk when it gets to down and dirty survival.  But the couple here keep their empathetic love for one another as best they can and stay focused on what matters so as to not lose their humanity, the lovepart of them.  And these best parts, at end, do hold steady, come through this journey of challenge intact.  When the wife sees the completed restoration, begun with but completed without her, it is a scene of particular forgiveness.  The Christian imagery reminds us of the mystery, our tussle with faith, and how we can give each other reason.  Sweetness there.

 And then:

  • In a Better World, 2010.  Written and directed by one of our favorite, well, Narrauteurs here in the Salon&Parlor, Susanne Bier.

(See our complete Discourse on In a Better World.  Also, our original Discourse on her After the Wedding.)

The theatrical release of this film raced by almost entirely unnoticed, alas.  I caught it in the cheap seats at a Seattle final run theater, which was however satisfyingly packed (with mid aged people.)  Once again Bier tackles the big issue of violence, this time through a man deeply rooted in two spheres – as a doctor in “thirdworld” Africa stitching up the victims of the reign of terror of the latest despotic Big Man and as a father of a son who is the target of a schoolyard bully in “firstworld” Denmark.  Bier’s main character is himself a nurturing form of Big Man, a healer in a doctors without borders sort of way, who finds out on a visit home that his precious, sensitive son is, just as much as the mothers and children of Africa, in the vector of violence.  How can he act in the face of the very real danger of these shimmering electrics without matching violence with violence, the “traditional” male response?  At least in Denmark Bier’s man, in a delicate manage of trial and error, refuses the violence dependent aspect of maleness for the sake of moving his family past that malignant energy’s blockage.  In the process this father grows his relationship, and love, with his son.  And together they discover an other way, the best sort of inheritance.

  • Rabbit Hole,  2010.  Director John Cameron Mitchell, with Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart .

A gem, this compact story of grief and loss.  And not just run of the mill loss, but of the worst sort, the loss of a child.  We enter this hard place slowly, after the child has died, awaking to the aftermath of the emotional devastation on the parents.  How loss of this magnitude wounds us.  How these wounds are irrevocable and remain with us always.  Can a human eventually kneed some shift within?  As the mother of the dead child asks her mother about the hole in her heart, “Does it ever go away?”  The grandmother answers, “No.  It changes though.  The weight of it.”  This story’s a map for what we have ahead, those of us, which is everyone eventually, who suffer loss.  How we let go, women and men together, and yet differently.  How we survive in spite of  believing we can not, and do, go on.  And remember.

And from the Vaults,  a fine meditation on the opposite course from that charted in Rabbit Hole of the damage inflicted from loss:

  •  Ordinary People, 1980.  Directed by Robert Redford, screenplay by Alvin Sargent from a novel by Judith Guest.  Here too, is the suffering caused by the death of a son.  But the family in this story, and its pivot on the surviving son, are torn asunder by the mother’s inability to allow her pain of loss to go fallow.  She instead feeds on the blackrock metastasis of it.  In an incredible performance, Mary Tyler Moore embodies the mother more than mere characterization.  (Reminded to the Salon by netizen Virginia Bogert.)

And more:

  • The Other Man,  2008.  Written and directed by Richard Eyre from a short story by Bernhard Schlink.  With Liam Neeson and Antonio Banderas (as you’ve never seen him before.)   How we mourn. How we let go.  How Liam, this manly actor, allows us to see a powerful man in pain, searching for some understanding of what’s happening to his life.  The plot’s about a married woman having an affair.  But this story is about the husband, his discovery of the affair and his primal, driven response in the hunting out, luring and trapping of the other man.  And all of it as obsessive cover for his incomprehension in response to his great loss, both literally and emotionally.  How to endure the force that tears away our dearly entangled?   And how to live with the shock of finding we don’t really know each other in that way we all think we do in marriage.  This story turns on character.  But not just character as in a character oriented story, (we’re always in favor of that!) but a man’s character. And what makes it, what deepens it, morally.  How does a man call up this deepness when he’s under the extreme stress of jealousy and hurt and pain, and when he is sorely tempted to default to his primal reactions?  Because to take cover in the primal is easier.  Way easier than growing empathy when engaged in the “warfare” of emotional extremes.   The man, Liam’s Peter of this story could give in, easily.  And possibly no one would think the worse of him for it.  But he does not.  With the help of his daughter and the mutual friends of his marriage who, too, loved his wife, he grabs his chance to rise to be, to become better than, perhaps, any of us have practiced to be.  A beautiful story seen through the empathetic eyes of collective forgiveness.
  • The Messenger, 2009.  Directed by Oren Moverman.  Written by Allessandro Camon and Oren Moverman.

Can’t remember if there’s even one explosion in this story of loss endured by the humans, and their families, we ask to deliver death for us.  Sounds like the movie’s hard to endure.  But it isn’t.  There is such empathy in this filmic labor of love and respect, in its follow of the two messengers, themselves quite crippled in their spirits.  The war myths chip away as these men together wait, again and again, for the door to open and stand to receive the blowback from the grief laid on that doorstep in this tale of how we reach for life even, maybe especially, in grief.  And at end, an understanding’s formed there of our crazy human heart; decent, questing for comfort, companionship. The holiness of that.

  • Lady Chatterley, 2006.  Directed by Pascale Ferran, written by Roger Bohbot and Pascale Ferran.

Yes, I know.  There’s a risk just typing this woman’s name of all sorts of sexsearch hits coming our way.  Braving on, I’m listing this Nature of Love Salon suggestion from Netizen Barbara Hartinger anyway.  If  proof is needed that the slant of interpretation’s entirely dependent on the context of the historical moment, this film’s that.  As much as we can trace its origins to Lawrence’s novel of 1928, this Chatterley’s take on topic Love belongs in the here and now.  What if a man and woman could reach across the encrusted divisions of gender and class to experience being with one another?  What could that be like?  Along with all its precursors, this Chatterley, too, begins with sexual attraction.  But here it’s not of the visible impulse only, not look-ism, not greed, not possession.  No, the primal attraction coursing through this Connie Chatterley and her Oliver Mellors is of a fundamental human need:  to have physical connection to another person; to have the solace of touch at the deepest, most urgent level we have, the reproductive.  He no less than she.  What is it to not be afraid of where the dis-ordered, yet un-named substance of self emerges, lava-like, via emotions?  And where could the practice of such fearlessness, finding form in us, lead?  That disorder within, as terrifying as it can be when reduced to our child’s fear of abandonment (as in the recent Blue Valentine) is also the chance for dis-covery we give each other.  And its still cooling substance, as shown in this tale, can lay the ground for something emotionally genuine and completing in the Nature of Love.

And more:

All in all this is a good one if you’re up for a sweet Thanksgiving story that gives thanks for our blessings of love. And at end, a pretty honest and humorous portrayal of a family and their separating daughter, April. Of her coming to understand the relation of all things, especially what it takes from the residents of her apartment building (relations of another sort) to cook a Thanksgiving dinner for her family, themselves in loving doubt over April’s ability to accomplish that greatly under-understood remnant 20th century ritual done, so often alone, in the kitchen by so many of our mothers.

A light German movie. Who knew? A woman’s highly ordered life is forced open by her niece, a young girl suffering the loss of her mother, the chef’s sister, which is therefore also the chef woman’s loss. This is a story of how we try to step aside, hoping loss will somehow pass us by; of a woman, a master chef who, by her obsessive perfectionism, turns food, her great gift and reason for living, from joy to dread, how, even as we apply ourselves to the development of our talents, a good thing, applying our intelligence to our gifts, we can make this very application a way to avoid life, too.  The loss of those we love does tuck way forever some treasures, but in that loss other treasure can be allowed that could not grow before. In this story, that’s the love between chef and niece. Loss is a chance, a grab at shift. Brings its own gifts, not simply darkness.  And then, on top of everything, an Italian chef comes into her kitchen! Always late. The exact opposite of everything she is, except for the love of food. Need we say more?

  • Don’t MoveSergio Castellitto director, written by Margaret Mazzantini, 2004. 

In this fine suggestion from netizen Gloria B. a good part of the charm is watching Penelope Cruz play an ugly woman abused by the world. At least at first she is. And then we get to watch her blossoming from being loved irrationally.  Very cinematic.  Very Italian. And unashamed portrayal and argument for the acceptance of how we can be swept away by the emotion of desire swelling to a certain color of love and eros beyond the limits of the rational mind. Beyond explaining. Because this is, as certainly as our amazing intellectual feats which we think of as “rational,” this too, is who we are.

Girls I know it’s hard on you, but your mother loves you very much.  And I know you love her.  Through all the ups and downs I’ve come to realize that what we call love is really the exchange of energy over time.  It’s simple quantum mechanics.”  Major Hank Marshall to his daughters in Blue Sky.

More newly come to surface:

How much it takes to let go.  To not take revenge.  To not kill.  A detangling of the complex ensnarement of male bondage to one another through violence in a story of two male beings defined by an act of gang hate committed in their youth and justified by the rotted roots gone deep in the conflict of Northern Ireland.  How the violence takes fierce hold in them, simmers and bursts to fire flaring out at end, as seemingly always, through body blows.  Man to man.  The ravaged struggle of the victim-man to undo, to not be torn asunder by the irreversible damage done to him and those he loves.  And the understanding, which is still not enough, of the man who did it to him.  A rigorously honest piece of filmmaking.

I know, I know a lot of buzz around this one so a bit of jumping on the bandwagon here.  And as it deals with the serial killing of women it’s not for those who can’t tolerate violence, but it’s a good one if you like mystery thrillers.     Just out on Netflix, streaming or disc.  SEE COMPLETED DISCOURSE.

  • BlessedAna Kokkinos director, written by Andrew Bovell & Patricial Carnelius,  2009.

Women in Film/Seattle sponsored this film at this year’s SIFF.  And it is an incredible and rigorously honest plunge into the world of children and their mothers told in a collective, almost operatic voice.   Afterwards I felt like I’d experienced an example of the Narrative Otherways.  Yes.

Newly come to surface:

  • An EducationLone Scherfig director, written by Nick Hornby, 2009.

My kind of chick flick.  This girl’s story of how the boyman steals her heart and its, sort of, happy ending.  Not entirely realistic for 1961, although the ruinous danger of pregnancy certainly was.  But I’ve decided to forsake being too focused on realism, this time at least, in exchange for this show of a girl’s intense concern for being cultivated (how outrageously quaint this seems now) and the manipulation of this concern by an emotional predator.

  • Summer HoursWritten and directed by Olivier Assayas, 2008.

Mysteries of men and women as only the French can do it.   And with humor.

I can’t resist putting in this nice tidbit of documentary making from the musings of those who ponder, why are we here?  After all, just to hear Cornel West say we must “vacate the language of failure,” to be reminded that the Greek word methados, the root for our word method, means to be “on the path,” or to think on Adorno’s “truth is a way of life,” well, is worth the price of admission.

First Blast:

  • Monster, 2004. Written and directed by Patty Jenkins.  So terrifying I got sick afterwards.
  • Away from Her, 2007.  writ/dir. Sarah Polley.  Short story my Alice Munro.  A map for when inevitable loss comes.
  • The Dead Girl, 2007. writ/dir. Karen Moncrieff.  Multiple emotional uses for a dead woman.
  • I’ve Loved You So Long (Il y a longtemps que je t’aime), 2008.  writ/dir. Phillippe Claudel.  How to go about healing. Kristin Scott Tomas allows herself to act such an incredibly complicated, sometimes ugly, inside and out, woman.  Deep damage and how the juice of life can return, just barely, and only because of and through the tenacious love of a sister.
  • The Savages 2008.  writ/dir. Tamara Jenkins.  The academic family life and the sibling struggle to grow.
  • Humpday, 2009.  writ/director Lynn Shelton.  Seattle’s home grown story of rigorous honesty between two men friends.
  • Marrried Life, 2008.  dir/writ. Ira Sachs with writer Oren Moverman. More fun with homicide.
  • Separate Lies, 2005.  writ/dir. Julian Fellowes with writer Nigel Balchin.  Transformation through infidelity.
  • Conversations with Other Women, 2006.  dir. Hans Canosa. writ. Gabrielle Zevin.  From Romance to Realism between old flames.
  • Beau Travail, 1999;  Friday Night , 2002;  35 Shots of Rum, 2008 dir. Claire Denis. (See MS&DP netizen Caryn Cline’s comment below)
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    • Caryn Cline
    • April 3rd, 2010

    One of the prime movers behind “the end of the male narrative” is French director Claire Denis, especially BEAU TRAVAIL, FRIDAY NIGHT and 35 SHOTS OF RUM. She collaborates with a woman cinematographer, Agnes Godard. Her films play more like meditations than traditional three-act structures, which is something that I like about them. The story lines ebb and flow, and major narrative events happen off-screen: in that she resembles Ozu.

    Another storyteller is Swiss-born, Canadian filmmaker Lea Pool, whose work may not be available on DVD–at least, the films I admire, such as ANNE TRISTER (a great film about the creative process) and A CORPS PERDU.

    These two are reasons to keep the faith.

    • We welcome Caryn’s reminding us of Claire Denis and I’ve added her suggestion of the director’s films to our list of RTKTF. I’ve put Friday Night, 2002, in my Netflicks queue and Beau Travail, 1999 to watch again. As is often the case in these cases, 35 Rhums 2007, is “Availability Unknown”.
      As for Lea Pool, this is a director I’m unfamiliar with. So to remedy this I’ve ordered up The Blue Butterfly, 2004, and Lost and Delirious, 2001. But, as predicted by Caryn, Anne Trister and A Corps Perdu were not available for easy access. Perhaps at our local artfilm rental house…Always worth support, yes.

    • Caryn Cline
    • May 21st, 2010

    One film I would add to this list is FEMALE PERVERSIONS, directed by Susan Streitfeld and written by Streitfeld and Julie Hebert. I saw the film at SIFF many years ago, and was very impressed with it then. I noticed it is available on Netflix.

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