Friday, February 29, 2008

Films We Saw This Week

And the last, and probably the week before that, too, because life gets messy periodically.

We've only called out dates and directors' names when there's a possibility of confusion, when the movies were made more than a decade ago, and to highlight film-watching trends here at La Casa de Los Gatos.

Yes, we do have a Spike Lee fest scheduled. Also a Japanese fest. We already did Kurosawa a couple of years ago, although, unlike Ozu we have to say you can watch a Kurosawa movie every night for a couple of weeks without feeling like you're watching the same damn thing.

Spike Lee's When The Levees Broke, Part I

Spike Lee is one of America's best directors. Beautifully shot, beautifully assembled, this documentary is a must-see. Yes, it hurts. He does it all in such a calm manner that the violence of the indignities inflicted upon the hapless residents of New Orleans is felt even more keenly than one had thought possible. Take your meds, keep a glass of sippin' stuff close by, and a box of tissues or a handkercher, and watch it anyways. Don't try to watch all three DVDs at one sitting. Unless, of course, you're a terminally ill person who plans on committing suicide.

Kon Ichikawa, Biruma no Tategoto (The Burmese Harp, 1956)

This film is based on a true story about a Japanese soldier who became a monk and remained in Burma after his compatriots were repatriated to Japan in the aftermath of the Japanese surrender in World War II. It really ought to be required watching for warmongers, but it's not the type of film they would watch. It's pretty painful. War is ugly, is the theme of the movie. And the pain and sorrow and suffering it brings leads the protagonist to abandon his uniform, his friends, his country, his home, and his family, and give himself over to the message of the Buddha. Painful but cleansing watching.

Divorzio all'Italiana (Divorce Italian Style, 1961)

We sandwiched this movie between the previous two, because we can only watch so much realism without going completely fucking insane. Thus, we are proud to report that, not only are we not insane, but we actually enjoyed this misogynistic little film although we'd like to slap the writer-director senseless. It was funny, in a sick sort of way.

Imagine Me and You

This film is not going to win the award for Greatest Movie Ever Made, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's about a woman who falls in love on her wedding day — with the flower girl. Unforgettable lines: "My husband's as useless as a fart in a jam-jar" and "You're a wanker Number 9!" Given that it's a movie about lesbians, it managed to avoid both sticky sentimentality (OK, I'll give you the Dino & The Turtles song, but being a hardcore Zappa fan, all I heard was Frank's take on it) or leering letchivorousity (I made it up, so what?). A nice little film about love.

Les Enfants du Paradis (Children of Paradise, 1945)

We've only seen this film, oh, three times, and it's well worth it. Arletty plays the woman with whom everyone is in love, and we're ready to believe it; and the directorial eye is in love with light throughout, and it shows. The amazing — most amazing — thing about this film is that it was shot in 1945, almost literally under the noses of the Gestapo and in the midst of the fiercest war France has probably ever known. Timeless, ageless, and beautiful. It is to watch.

Ma Vie en Rose (My Life in Pink)

This is a very sweet, touching film about a little boy who's different. Just different. It's not clear if he is transgender or gay or what, he's just different. He likes pink, and he likes to dance, and he talks to cartoon characters. And because of that, his family is ostracised and goes through some very painful readjustments. Ultimately, this film is about what happens when you have a quirky, eccentric, odd, or just plain — different — person in your family. Society would like us all to be die-stamped clones. And sure, we all brag about our individuality and difference, which we prove by running out to buy exactly the same "cool-this-week" item that everyone else has. So what happens when we have to deal with real difference? Do we squash it and hope it'll stay in place? Or do we accept it and live with the pain and isolation that are its commonest gifts?

In addition to these masterpieces, we also watched a bunch of old Daily Show DVDs (we don't have TV or cable at La Casa de Los Gatos) and two Ozu Yasujiro movies, both of which developed serious problems midway through viewing causing us to take it as a hint from powers beyond that we should fucking quit with the Ozu movies already.


Charlotte aka TM said...

After the Levees Broke was phenomenal. Lee got it so right. It was quite an event here when it came out with a free showing at the dome and Spike in attendance. People either loved it or hated it. I loved it.

It's crazy how levee breaches and the lack of response to the city affected everyone. Two and a half years later hardly a day goes by that Katrina isn't mentioned or you hear another story. Just last week a co-worker shared her story of 3 days spent on the roof of her house waiting for rescue. I've worked with her for 2 years and never knew about that.

ThePoliticalCat said...

Yes. Yes. Before Katrina hit, we all here were waiting on tenterhooks (while the FratBoy in Charge played air guitar and ate cake with his friends); but once the coverage started coming out of NOLA, we lost it. People would show up at work crying, we couldn't eat, we couldn't sleep, we sat glued to the TV or the computer watching the horrible scenes. Jesus. I seriously believe Katrina turned the tide, in a manner of speaking, for Bush and his cronies.

After those terrible days, all our Republican friends stopped talking up the Bush admin. The only thing we could talk about for months was the destruction of New Orleans. And how the people in charge sat back and let it happen.

The fact that NOLA is rising again makes me so happy, you don't even know.