Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

01 June 2008

Getting Behind Again...

I have been having a weekend this weekend. This is the first weekend this summer session that has really felt relaxing. And I think what has really made it feel like a weekend is the fact that I've been able to relax enough to read a book: Aimé Césaire's Discourse on Colonialism. It's angry and smart and poetic (even though it is a polemic) and it strangely re-energized and excited me. Post-colonial theory is not my specialty (as you know) but this was a good, interesting read.

And I am obviously not used to seeing this many movies. I just keep getting behind.

First, another Carmen narrative. This one is Carlos Saura's 1983 film Carmen, which is filled with dancing. I haven't seen a lot of Saura. I love his film Tango, but a good many more of his films feature another kind of dance: flamenco. Carmen doesn't always work. Actually, I lie. Where the narrative falls apart is near the end. I just never believed that the choreographer would actually kill Carmen. But up until that point, Carmen is riveting. It's filled with flamenco dancing, and they spend much of their time rehearsing in the dance studio. Saura films long sequences of a play-within-the-movie, the most exciting of which is Carmen's very first fight with the other women in the sewing shop. The dance features about thirty women, and it's amazing. This sequence alone is worth adding this movie to your Netflix queue. The print is great, too. This DVD is a new Criterion release, as part of their Eclipse Series. So the picture doesn't have any of the darkness or haziness of most 1980s films. The picture is clear, without any grit or murkiness. Which is great, because the fashion (as I am sure you remember) is bright and mismatched, and you wouldn't want to miss any of that.

Yesterday afternoon I sat down with Ken Loach's Palme-d'Or-winning film from 2006, The Wind That Shakes the Barley. It is about the Irish War for Independence and the Irish Civil War in the early 1920s. And it's great, if pretty much a downer. Cillian Murphy is the film's star. He plays a doctor who joins a local band of fighters for the IRA. This movie made me really angry in a good, political kind of way. I was reading Aimé Césaire, so I was already feeling pissed about Colonialism, and this movie came along at a good time. I know very little about Irish independence or the current state of political warfare over in Ireland, so I am not going to write anything about it here, but both The Wind That Shakes the Barley and Discourse on Colonialism made me think about Iraq and what we are doing over there. We are, more or less, currently a colonial power in the Middle East. It is all fine and well to say that we are there protecting them or protecting our own interests, but people deserve to have sovereignty over themselves. They deserve to be free. And when a group of people (e.g. the USAmerican military complex and its private contractors) is given immunity from prosecution by the elected goverment of the people of a free state, that state really isn't free.

I've added two movies to my 2008 list this week, too (bringing the total to a paltry six):

This week I saw the playwright Martin McDonagh's first feature-length film for free at FSU's student cinema. Um. I liked it well enough, I guess. I like Colin Farrell more and more with every movie of his I see, that's for sure. The film... well, it's very Martin McDonagh. Does that say enough about it? It's horribly violent, occasionally racist and homophobic, but it's also quite funny at times. And it has its own sense of justice that I'm not sure I agree with, but is interesting food for thought (maybe). I am equivocating a lot because I don't think I'm recommending this movie to anyone. As I said, I liked it, but it doesn't really work. It's a comedy about murder and violence. And, since it's McDonagh, the violence and murder are serious issues in the film that the characters struggle with. So the film yo-yos from being a sort of madcap farce to a serious drama about the consequences of taking another human's life. Consequently, the film never hits its stride. I feel like this careful McDonagh balance works much better in his plays (The Pillowman, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, The Lonesome West, etc.) than it does here. But if you like McDonagh, you will probably dig this.

Finally, last night Julie (after many shenanigans) took me to see Bryan Bertino's The Strangers. I don't normally go to see scary movies, but Julie loves them. Normally she finds other scary movie buffs to accompany her, but as it is the summer, there really isn't anyone. Anyway, I rather liked it. But I'm still not sold on the whole scary movie thing. I mean, why is this fun for anyone? The Strangers is a kind of fluff... like a romantic comedy or a fantasy movie that has nothing at all to say, but gets its job done, diverting enough without being deep. The Strangers has a couple of really great scary moments, but as Julie points out, all of this is made exponentially creepier by the fact that the killers wear masks the entire time they are terrorizing Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman.