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

07 December 2014

Quick Thoughts on Two More Movies

I still really don't know how I feel about Birdman, although I know I like it more and more the more I think about it. While I was watching it, though, I think I was more on the fence about it than I am now.

I do know that the end of Birdman is very, very funny. I laughed and laughed all through the credits sequence. The film ends with a kind of great practical joke.

Weirdly, I think I just believed that the guy playing the Birdman had magic powers. The film said he did, so I didn't question it. I realize that later on in the film we are supposed to figure out that he imagines all of his superpowers, but I was completely on board with the whole having-superpowers thing.

I wonder if this was because Iñárritu's last film was about a man who had superhuman abilities. One of the things that I think I found difficult about Birdman was how little it was like Iñârritu's earlier films – I love his earlier work, so I sort of missed the international feel that his stuff usually has. Birdman is a very U.S.-centered movie.

But so much of it is so excellent. Those drums! The score is just this drummer. It's incredible. And the acting is great. My favorite performance was Andrea Riseborough's but the work is pretty great across the board with Edward Norton being the other real standout.

***

Force Majeure, which I saw tonight, is superb. Force Majeure is a Swedish film directed by Ruben Östlund (it was called Turist in Sweden). It's about a man and his wife and their two kids on vacation at this posh ski resort in the Alps. Early on in the vacation, an avalanche comes toward the family while they are lunching on the top of a mountain. The way that the parents and children react to this event and the fallout from their actions is the topic of the remainder of the film.

And it is a real puzzle. Force Majeure asks lots of questions about what we prioritize in our lives, about the futures we create for ourselves, about ways of dealing with confusion and crisis. It's a very, very smart movie that troubled me deeply.

The acting by the lead performers Johannes Bah Kuhnke and Lisa Loven Kongsli is excellent, and the photography is gorgeous. There are also a bunch of beautiful supporting performances.

My favorite section of the film was a strange luminescent/dance/nightclub sequence late in the film's second act. This film about masculinity and fatherhood and dealing with being male suddenly erupts into an intense fluorescent monosexual world of beer-swilling shirtless twentysomethings all screaming and (perhaps?) hoping to prove something. In the middle of this world stands our late thirties protagonist, wearing all of his ski gear and looking as lost as he's ever been in his entire life.

Force Majeure is about feeling at a loss as to what to do. But the film itself doesn't leave its viewers behind. This is a careful, sensitive character study that is beautifully done.