Thursday, January 14, 2016

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION (1981)
LA punk isn't generally my thing (I'm a New York punk guy), but this was a very interesting documentary about some of the bands of the period and why they were doing what they were doing (and how the rest of society was reacting--or overreacting, in a lot of cases). ****

CLASS OF 1984 (1982)
This movie plays like someone saw the punk movement and freaked out. A teacher transfers to a city school where crime is rampant and runs afoul of a group of punks. Bizarre movie; it plays like a horror flick, and it's one of those exploitation movies that wants you to think about the problem it's trying to tackle, but then makes you crave blood in a way that's satisfying when you get it. Not a bad movie, and very visceral, but... bizarre. ***

MY SWEET AUDRINA (2016)
Lifetime needs to stop half-assing these VC Andrews adaptations and just make something truly turgid and sordid. Where's the commitment to the real weirdness of this kind of Gothic horror? **

LA CEREMONIE (1995)
Well-observed film by Claude Chabrol. Sadrine Bonnaire plays a young woman who is either dyslexic or illiterate, but who schemes her way into a job as maid and cook for a wealthy family that lives in a country town. Also in town is the postmistress, played by Isabelle Huppert, who is rumored to have murdered her own daughter and who has turned the wealthy family into the symbol of everything that is unfair and unjust about her life. The two strike up a friendship that at first seems opportunistic (the postmistress keeps trying to use the maid for information on the family), but becomes something much more dangerous and symbiotic. What happens next is somehow both shocking and inevitable. ****

EQUINOX FLOWER (1958)
This is Yasujiro Ozu's first color film, and it's fascinating to look at some of the details he captures. For some reason or other, I was really taken with the way Japanese culture in the fifties is a combination of tradition and midcentury modern touches. The color made it all stand out, but that little detail is only part of the larger theme of the movie, which is about how gradually traditional ways are dismantled and give way to something more modern. The film follows a successful businessman whose marriage was arranged. A friend's daughter eschews the idea of arranged marriages as something old-fashioned, preferring instead a marriage based on infatuation. He envies her this, but when his own daughter wants to follow her heart instead of the traditional path, he becomes rigid and forbids it. What Ozu asks us to consider is at what point tradition ceases to be necessary, and whether happiness is more important than tradition or even success. The businessman's wife openly reminisces for the days of World War II and hiding in bomb shelters, nostalgic for those times because even though it was a struggle to live, the family had more time together; she misses family dinners and holidays; he thinks she's crazy to prize such things over financial stability, even though he works so much now that he barely sees his family anymore. I've seen a number of Ozu movies over the years, and this might be the one I've connected to the most. I was moved by one man's unwilling journey of tolerance and understanding. ****

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