“The Square”: vicious satire that starts out as a sermon on radical hospitality

This Sunday, I thought that a local church had a special service showing “13th”. a film I’ve already watched twice (Nov. 14, 2016 review — then I later saw the showing is Nov. 19). So I went to the one daily remaining showing of “The Square”, the new “morality play” and vicious (conservative) satire by Swedish director Ruben Ostlund; and, expecting an exploration of Christian personal values about other people, expected that to become my sermon and church, on a lively Sunday morning at Angelika Mosaic in Fairfax VA (there is a church service there in a rented theater).

The title refers to an exhibit in a Stockholm museum, the “X-Royal” (for a reason), a bordered white space you could step onto as a safe space, a “sanctuary of trust and caring”.

The lead is Christian (Claes Bang), an attractive slender married heterosexual man in his 40s with two young daughters, who espouses a Leftist philosophy of ultimate charity for the needy, particularly for street panhandlers.  But like many on the Left, he is not above wielding power for its own sake, especially sexually over women, as shown in one confrontation where one of his partners challenges him about the time he went inside her. The movie starts precariously enough (after an initial anti-establishing shot of a homeless man on the streets of the perfect EU welfare state), as he is about to speak publicly, and another woman toys with his chest hair to attach a microphone.  In this movie, you notice these things.

As far as the space, I’m reminded of a huge maze exhibit at the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain in late April, 2001, when I visited.  A young man from Brazil stood behind me in line and said that the whole point of this “sculptor” was to make you wait in line so you can “feel like shit.”

Very early in the film, Christian is robbed of his cell phone, wallet and cufflinks, in what seems like a setup confrontation in the streets.  (As I wrote this an fumbled my own iPhone its flashlight came on for the first time ever.)  Soon Christian is challenged to practice what he preaches. He inveigles his tag team hhsidekick Michael (Christopher Laesso) to support him, ultimately in a bizarre effort to hand deliver a letter to every family in a walkup apartment accusing them of the theft.

The film turns into a 140-minute sequence of skits, often with bizarre rhythmic sound effects, exploring the whole issue of how we personally treat people whom we perceive as weaker than ourselves. There is an experiment where museum visitors are challenged to prove they “trust people” by leaving their phones and wallets out in the open on the Square.

Whatever plot structure there is, gets driven by two attractive young male journalists (Daniel Hallberg and Martin Soder) who, in an early presentation, explain how you make content go viral, not only with original perspective but with some shock effect to get a visitor’s attention. So they come up with a video of a blond little girl holding a cat who gets blown up, with some Arabic warnings at the end. It seems that maybe this was hacked. But I was reminded of LBJ’s 1964 ad challenging Barry Goldwater with a mushroom cloud. That may cost Christian his job, which seems especially timely now.

But near the end there is a skit at a dinner, where attendees are challenged to do with “survival mom” type threats.  A man, his body completely waxed smooth (“thmooth”, he’s in the movie posters), comes into the dinner acting threatening, walking on all fours like a pre-human ape, with props. The guests are challenged to remain calm and inconspicuous so they can let somebody else take the threat (think about Las Vegas and Paddock Oct. 1)   But the scene winds up with attempted rape.

Somewhere in the middle there is a skit about the ALS ice bucket challenge. They have no monopoly on this “chain letter” which doesn’t even need a refrigerator’s ice maker.

Wiki picture of the actual museum in Stockholm.  I visited the city in Aug. 1972,

Picture: Occupy DC, December 2011 (mine).

Name:  “The Square
Director, writer:  Ruben Ostlund
Released:  2017
Format:  1.85:1  in Swedish, subtitles
When and how viewed:  Angelika Mosaic, Fairfax VA, 2017/11/12, Sunday morning
Length:  142
Rating:  R
Companies:  Magnolia Pictures
Link:  official

(Posted: Sunday, November 12, 2017 at 5:30 PM EST)

“The Killing of a Sacred Deer”: “Lobster” director plays again on our unspoken fantasies to build horror

The Killing of a Sacred Deer” opens with a beating heart, encased in a chest cracked open like “The Lobster” (May 22, 2016).  Then we see a surgeon take off his gloves and dispose of them.  We see his sleek hands (a line later used a few times in the script written with Efthymis Flippou), and that at least his forearms are still softly haired, as if the ultimate future of infection control were not yet in place.

I’m introducing the latest quirky horror comedy (or satire) from Yorgos Lanthimos, and it has a plot concept that feints of ephebophilia, and then plays on male fetish obsessions that have been frankly significant in my own life to build a plot and a rather horrific and tragic climax.

The music score, with Schubert, Bach, and especially Lygeti, underlines the urgency for the characters, but maybe it could have added Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder (“Songs of the Death of Children”).

Stephen Murphy (Colin Farrell) is the heart surgeon and cardiologist in a Cincinnati hospital. (The city looks sharp in the film, especially in multiple scenes across the Ohio river from Covington, KY.)  In his past, he once lost a patient at age 46 apparently during some routine bypass surgery. That deceased patient’s verbal teenage son, Martin (Barry Keoghan) starts showing up in Murphy’s life, mostly by self-invitation.

Murphy has built an impressive family in his palatial home, with wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) and gender fluid son Bob (Sonny Suljic) and teen daughter Kim (Raffey Cassidy). At first, the daughter teases Martin about his lack of body hair (some teens would normally have more) and Martin pretends to be ill and shows up at Murphy’s office for a physical. There is a scene with a stress test, with eight leads, where Martin asks what would happen if he were hairy, and Murphy admits he would have to be chest-shaved, and that it could take a little while to grow back.  Murphy even gets into mention of “hormones” (reminding me of my own Ft. Eustis days). Martin even asks to see Murphy’s chest.  There’s also, as I recall, an odd line about replacing a grabby metal wristwatch with leather. Martin acts as if he believed the world had some sort of fascist conspiracy to eliminate less desirable men (like the Nazis did) as if this could be eroticized. For a little while, the film has you wondering if indeed Murphy is falling into an illegal relationship with the teen boy.

But at midpoint, the film takes a surprising twist. Bob, and then Kim, develop a kind of guillain- barre syndrome, with intermittent and then persistent leg paralysis, when medical tests can find nothing wrong. In a particularly arresting scene Martin threatens Murphy by suggesting that he (Martin) is causing the syndrome with some supernatural curse.

I’m not sure that the conclusion, which involves some vengeful violence against Martin and then a lottery to find the “deer” is necessarily all that convincing.  Some critics will say that Stephen gets his wish, to play god again. That’s a problem with setting up an erotic premise like this:  it is hard to find somewhere to go.

Wiki picture of downtown Cincinnati.  My visits: 1992, 2012.

Wiki picture of a Holter Monitor on a young adult male, underscoring Martin’s concerns.

Picture: Mt Vernon, Ohio, 2012, my trip.

Somehow the title and tone of this film reminds me of “The Killing of Sister George” (1968, Palomar, dir. Robert Aldrich, with Beryl Reid.) I;m also reminded of Judd Apatow’s “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” (2005, Universal) with Steve Carell as hapless.

Name: The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Director, writer:  Yorgos Lanthimos, wr with Efthymis Flippou
Released:  2017/10/27
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Angelika Mosaic, 2017/10/29 fair crowd
Length:  116
Rating:  R
Companies:  A24, Film4, Hanway
Link:  distributor

(Posted: Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017 at 8:30 PN EDT)

 

“Heli”: a young factory worker in Mexico protects his sister after she accidentally draw him into a drug ring

Heli” is a gut-punching dramatic film about involuntary family responsibility in the third world, specifically rural Mexico in an area overrun by drug cartels. The film (in Spanish with subtitles) is directed and written by Amat Escalante, with other writers Gabriel Reyes, Zumurt Cavusgolu, and Ayhan Ergusel. The film was shot in 2013 and has shown in Cannes and Sundance and is now becoming available on DVD from Strand Releasing (June 27).

Heli (Armando Espitia) is a an slender, appealing young man, about 20 with wife Sabrina (like the 1955 film name, Linda Gonzalez), 12 year old sister Estela (Andrea Vergara), and father (Ramon Alvarez). Dad works at the local auto assembly plant, which looks very modern (and perhaps tried to take American jobs – to Donald Trump’s consternation) and Heli has been working the night shift for some time. Estetla has a boy friend Belo (Juan Eduardo Palacios) who seems to be going through paramilitary training (maybe from a drug cartel) where he is forced to roll in his own chunky vomit.

Belo stores drugs in the family’s house, and when Heli finds them, he destroys them by throwing them into a well. But soon the house is raided, we think by police but they may be drug dealers disguised as troops. Dad is shot, and the rest of the family, as well as Belo, are captured.

The film’s middle section has one of the most graphic torture scenes ever filmed I’m recalling New Line’s “Rendition”, where Jake Gyllenhaal’s character witnesses “my first torture”) in which Belo’s private parts are set on fire, as if to imply permanent castration and epilation, and affront to “the virtue of maleness”. But soon Belo dies and his corpse is hung from a bridge in a public lynching.

The film had opened with a shot of Belo and Estela in the back of a pickup truck, leading to the lynching, as a prologue before the opening titles, a story preview familiar from the films of Jorge Ameer.

Heli is spared with worst but still injured. He eventually talks to police and is in the position of being the sole protector of his younger sister as well as wife and baby. The sister has become pregnant. Heli’s injuries cause him to be inefficient working on the factory assembly line, and soon he gets fired. But, as in typical screenwriting, he must prevail.

A reasonable comparison could be made to Steven Soderbergh’s 2000 film “Traffic“.

Guanajuato archeological site, near where film was shot (Wiki).

Name:  “Heli
Director, writer:  Amat Escanante
Released:  2013, 2017
Format: 1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Strand private screener on Vimeo, 2017/6/22, DVD BluRay available 2017/6/27
Length:  105
Rating:  R
Companies:  Strand Releasing
Link:  BluRay

Picture: Big Bend, mine (Thanksgiving 1979 Sierra Club camping trip, looking into Mexico).

(Posted: Friday, June 23, 2017 at 10:300 AM EDT)

“Two Lovers and a Bear”: in northern Canada, a polar bear plays guardian angel to troubled lovers fleeing their pasts

Two Lovers and a Bear“, by Kim Nguyen, is a bizarre little film that pits desperation and the will to live against a harsh environment, and argues for befriending wild animals to boot.  The film touches the fringes of sci-fi and erotic mystery without going very far.

Roman, played by the charismatic and boyish Dane DeHaan, drives trucks and run errands in Iqaluit (actually, Apex) in Nanavut, formerly part of Northwest Territories, above Hudson Bay, Canada, well above the Arctic Circle. He has an off-on relationship with a more bookish girl friend Lucy (Tatania Maslany) who wants go to Montreal or Toronto to college and study pre-med. Both he and Lucy have issues with abusive pasts.   He also has the unusual talent of befriending wild animals, especially a particular polar bear, with whom he carries on conversations (voice of Gordeon Pinsent).  (It occurred to me that Reid Ewing could have played this role, given his history with dogs on social media.)   The film shows a few impressive shots of the polar bear alone, and gives us a moment to ponder whether climate change will endanger is magnificent and free animal, well up the scale in intelligence.

Roman resents her leaving and even kicks her out when she wants to make up, but then they do make up and go on a journey south together on a snowmobile, oblivious to a coming spring blizzard.  The bear has three conversations with Roman in the movie, and is obviously concerned for Roman’s life. The bear knows he can survive but humans can’t (again, ironic, given the climate change issue).  Dangers mount, as Roman falls into an crevasse but Lucy gets him out.  They then have an interesting sequence inside an abandoned military facility that they stumble into, but this doesn’t give them enough wisdom to avoid tragedy.  But the Bear seems to have the key to their entry into heaven.

The early scenes in the film make indoor life in the village look more prosperous than we expect.  There is a party scene in a home early in the movie.  Everything, including Internet, seems to work.

I’ve had a couple of encounters with wild animals.  In Maine in 1974 on a trail on Mt. Katahdin, I saw a black bear in the distance, but he didn’t pay attention to me.  A few years ago on the Appalachian Trail near Stoney Man in Virginia, I saw a mother bear with her cub. She saw me but did not act concerned. She calmly crossed the trail with her cub and ran down the mountain.  On the day of Hurricane Sandy (in the DC area, a long way from the area of major damage), a crow twice chased me back into my garage, as if to warn me of the storm.

There have been a couple of films from Russia about the far north with similar moodiness, such as “The Return” (2003) and “How I Ended This Summer” (2010) and “Leviathan” (2015).

Wikipedia picture, Iqaluit.

Wikipedia picture, Apex.

Name: “Two Lovers and a Polar Bear”
Director, writer: Kim Nguyen
Released: 2016
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix, Instant play, 2017/5/23
Length: 98
Rating: R
Companies:  2oth Century Fox (rather than Searchlight, unusual for Fox), Entertainment One, Netflix
Link:  official FB

(Posted: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 at 7 PM EDT)

“The Salesman”: dramatic film from Iran layers with an American classic stage drama

The Salesman” is Asghar Farhadi’s candidate in the Oscars, and at this writing it’s unclear whether he will be able to attend, given Donald Trump’s political and now judicial crisis over immigration.

It comes as a surprise that Iran, with whom the US has no formal diplomatic relations and considerable official antagonism, looks as modern as it is in film and that the people live rather self-interested lives, with relatively little reference to Islam.  True, in the opening scene an apartment building starts to collapse because of construction next door, and the flat that the lead character, actor and teacher Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and wife Rana (Taraneh Aldossti) move to looks cramped and cookie-cutter.  The improbable house “fall” does satisfy a tenet of screenwriting, that a film should open with the characters being put in a real crisis, in order to hook the viewers. I don’t think that’s always necessary.

The film provides an excellent example of layering:  the top level story, leading to a tragic death of a older theater principal and landlord, embeds scenes from Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman”, and from the Persian story “The Cow” (Gholem-Hossein Sa’edi) which Emad teaches to his teen boy students in his day job (with a BW film excerpt).

The 1949 Miller play, especially the scenes shown in the film (in Farsi) certainly plays on the values of “sales culture”, where the husband proves he can manipulate customers to indulge a dependent family. In the play, that culture produces tragic results.

In the highest level of the story, Emad and Rana find that a female prostitute had lived there before, and the possibility of johns returning creates the tragic unraveling of the high-level plot.

Wikipedia link for scene in Tehran similar to film.

Name:  “The Salesman”
Director, writer:  Asghar Farhadi (Iran)
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Angelika Mosaic 2017/2/5, small audience, late afternoon (Super Bowl competes)
Length:  126
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Cohen Media Group, Amazon Studios
Link:  official

(Posted: Sunday, February 5, 2015 at 8:30 PM EST)

 

“The Wailing”: dense Korean horror, with “stranger”, shaman, and a pandemic, and a lot of symbolism, but still dangerous parallels

The Wailing” (or “Goksung”), directed by Hong-jin Na, may strike many viewers as a long (156 minutes), repetitive and cult-like Asian horror film.  But the director goes for slow-space mystery, involving immediate neighborhood, local life, and family, to give what otherwise would seem like a zombie premise some sense of real menace.

In a mountain region in South Korea, in a small village, people start falling sick with a kind of rabies, behaving wildly with violence, then bleeding out and frothing and disintegrating into rigor mortis quickly. Policeman Jong-goo (Kwak Do-won) first buys the theory that the disease could be caused by unusual poisonous wild mushrooms.  But then he learns of a new Japanese “immigrant” or “stranger” in town, and a mystery “Woman in White” (like the classic film) literally called “No Name” (Chun woo-hee).  Then his own daughter (Kim Hwan) is sickened.

What follows may seem like a confined metaphor for AIDS (at least the visual horror of some early Kaposi’s sarcoma cases) , or perhaps a bio-terror event.  Films like “Outbreak” (1995, which I saw while working as a sub in a chemistry class) and “Quarantine” (2008), and even “The Andromeda Strain” may come to mind, but this film, for all the outdoor scenery (augmented by rain machines in filmmaking) still seems rather stagey in comparison. A few of the death scenes are on the edge of real-life horror (I recall Laurie Garrett’s book “Coming Plague”, which pretty much anticipates the real life horror in Liberia (brought home to the US for a few health care workers overseas) with Ebola in 2014.  (Note: the latest news is that the Ebola vaccine is going to work.)

The movie works in a shaman (Hwang jung-min), who presumably has been exalted by overcoming an existential trial and managing to keep people loving him.   But there is real question as to his connection to the stranger, and the stranger’s death.   Then there are the ritual dances and burnings, as well as the expected plot development over suspicion of outsiders – very relevant to our own political debates today.

The film uses a lot of symbolism that is apparently familiar in oriental religion and used in manga (maybe even in Japanese Danganronpa), and some specific notions about demons and devils.   For example, a worm provides an early metaphor with what will happen. Yet, western audiences may find plenty to compare with their own perils.

Most of all, there is a continual somber mood.

There are several YouTube videos with lengthy (spoiler) analyses of the symbolism in the film.

Name: “The Wailing”
Director, writer:  Na Hong-jin
Released:  2016/5
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix DVD; also Amazon instant available
Length:  156
Rating:  R(?)
Companies: Fox Searchlight International; Well Go USA
Link: official 

Wikipedia: garden pavilion in South Korea, link.

(Posted: Friday, December 30, 2016 at 11:45 PM EST)

“LION”: a loving couple in Australia adopts a runaway from India, who as a successful grown businessman looks for his birth mother

LION”, is the English translation of “Saroo” or “Sheru”, and is also a three part biographical film of the youth of Saroo Brierley, now a writer and businessman in Tasmania. Australia.

Saroo was born in Ganeshh Tilai slum near Khandwa, India.  One day, at age 5, he got separated from an older brother Gunnu who was supposed to look after him, and ran away, eventually living in the streets of Calcutta.  He had enough street smarts to escape the possible introduction into child sex trafficking, and wound up in a welfare shelter.  But he was fortunate enough to be adopted by a well-off loving couple in Tasmania and raised in Australia., from whom he took their English family name. He learned English and forgot a lot of his Hindu.

In the middle section, Saroo excels as a teenager and young man, with the parents winding up with the privilege of raising a “Clark Kent”.  At least that’s how Indian-English actor Dev Patel (“Slumdog Millionaire”) portrays him.  He goes to hotel management school and to work, but one day, after seeing a Hindu food at a party, begins to remember his past and long to find his birth mother.  The third part of the movie shows his locating his home on Google Earth and returning home to find his birth mother.

The couple (played by David Wenham and Nicole Kidman) had also adopted a child who turned out to be autistic, and the film shows some strain in Saroo’s relationship with his new brother, reflective of having been left helpless by his natural brother by accident.  The couple confides to Saroo that it did not want to have its own children, because there were too many poor kids in the world that needed care.  Usually, most people need to have their own children to get in the game, so this is remarkable.

The film is based on the 2012 book by Saroo, “Homeward Bound” or “A Long Way Home: A Memoir” (Berkley).  The film is directed by Garth Davis and the screenplay was adapted from the book by Luke Davis.  The wide screen photography shows stunning shots of the central Indian desert, with all the slums and manual labor in a quarry, and of Tasmania, and also Melbourne.

Name:  “LION”
Director, writer: Garth and Luke Davis, Saroo Brierley
Released:  2016/12
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Common, 2016/12/25, small auditorium, evening, near sellout
Length:  116
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  TWC
Link:  official site

Illustrations:

Wikipedia photo of Hobart, Tasmania harbor.

Wikipedia photo of countryside near Kandwha, India

The title of the film reminds me of the PBS-Sundance documentary in 2006 “A Lion in the House” (Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert) about five families in Cincinnati copying with children with cancer; a rather hyperbolic title.

Posted: Sunday, December 25, 2016 at 11:30 PM EST

“Closet Monster”: Connor Jessup plays a gay teen coming of age, with the help of a playmate hamster

Name:  “Closet Monster
Director, writer:  Stephen Dunn
Released:  2016
Format:  1.78:1
When and how viewed:  Private screener from Strand, 2016/12/24; DVD available Jan 10, 2017
Length:  89
Rating:  R
Companies:  Strand
Link:  Strand, Fortissimo

Closet Monster” (written and directed by Stephen Dunn) gives us an appealing gay teen Oscar (Connor Jessup), in a coming out story, looking back into the past through the eyes of his talking pet hamster Buffy (voice of Isabella Rossellini).

On the present day level.  The kid, growing up in Newfoundland, faces the tests of artistic, creative teens forced to focus on the practicalities of an adaptive daily world.  His boss at a hardware store (looking more or less like a Home Depot) tells him he is the least competent employee when letting him go, after earlier goading him on how to sell other people’s work.  He applies to various art schools.

And he deals with a homophobic father (Aaron Abrams), in a second marriage, a father himself drifting into abuse and probably alcohol.  And Oscar has his first trials with parties and the drug trips that follow.

But the back story shows a young boy, listening to the talking hamster (rather like Cleo, the talking dog on the 50s sitcom “The People’s Choice”), and asking his dad about a gay bashing he sees reported on the news on TV.  And his father tells him to watch growing his hair too long.

Some lonesome sequences near the end have some stunning coastal sequences, of the Labrador coast, as if as a young man he could settle into a final isolation in some mystery ashram, rather perplexing.  But earlier Wilder (Aliocha Schneider) has become an engaging companion in his coming out.

The film seems to have been shot maybe three years ago, as Connor Jessup looks a little “younger” in most scenes than he does in the ABC series “American Crime”.  His body seems to be moving into full adulthood as the film progresses.  He’s pretty handy and he bikes a lot.  Given all the popularity of trans issues in the media recently, it’s well to remember that both Oscar and Wilder are conventionally “male-identified” young adults with conventionally male ideals of individual competitiveness, even physically.

Some of the dream effects remind me of David Cronenberg’s film “Spider” (2002).

Look at the Wikipedia (attribution) link for Newfoundland picture by Auden Mulroney, CCSA 2.0.   I’ve only set foot there once (In Gander at the airport in 1970 on a refueling stop),  It’s an important setting in Anthony Hyde’s 1985 Cold War novel “The Red Fox”

“Loving” dramatizes the Virginia court case that end prohibitions on interracial marriage

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Name: “Loving”
Director, writer:  “Mike Nichols”
Released:  2016/11
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  2016/11/12, Angelika Mosaic, large auditorium, near sellout
Length 123
Rating PG-13
Companies: Focus Features
Link: official

There’s a scene early in “Loving” (directed by Mike Nichols) where a county sheriff busts in to a home and screams to Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton), “What you doing in bed with that woman?” (Mildred, played by Ruth Negga). “We’re man and wife.” “That’s no good here.”

All Richard and Mildred want is to be left alone, in the house he had built for her near Center Point, VA.  He had gone to Washington DC in 1958 to marry her after he got her pregnant. The couple had no interest in (or understanding of) all the abstractions of constitutional law when the ACLU steps in and gets their case (Loving v. Virginia) all the way to the Supreme Court, to be decided in 1967.

“It’s about the kids. The state of Virginia will argue that it’s unfair to bring children of mixed race into the world.  They are bastards”, so the lawyer Bernie Cohen (Nick Kroll) rehearses, talking in subjunctive mood, trying to prepare the simpleton couple.

Virginia also offered this shocking assertion: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

My own father believed in this idea and quoted it once.  Yet, on his side of the family there is at least one intermarriage with a native American.  Why was “miscegenation” between White and Oriental more acceptable than White and Black.  Slavery?  Form a strictly biological viewpoint, race mixing probably is desirable (as it has happened a lot in human history as new races form), as there is less chance of bad genes being duplicated, and more opportunity for the human “organism” to adapt to the environment.  It’s likely that most White people have some Neanderthal genes, which may be beneficial for immune function (story) . It’s always seemed noticeable that Caucasians often show more sex difference in body hair than in non-white groups, which might be related to colder climates and “insulating skin”.

The couple allows Life Magazine to come to central Virginia and photograph them.  The film makes their life look ordinary, muted, with old furniture.  Richard has proletarian common sense and is good at rebuilding car engines working as an auto mechanic, in the days before auto electronics.

I thought, it would be interesting to make a documentary about sodomy laws (Bowers v. Hardwick and then Lawrence v. Texas), with an emphasis on the very draconian law that got proposed in Texas in 1983 during the early days of the AIDS epidemic.

The film ends with the caption, “the Supreme Court ruled that marriage is a fundamental right”, and the large audience clapped.  There was an obvious look ahead to the recent victories for gay marriage equality.  This film is a good thing to premier right after the shocking election of Donald Trump.

The film can be compared to the 2014 HBO documentary “Long Way Home: The Loving Story”.

(Posted: Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016 at 9 PM EST)

“Aquarius”: a woman in Brazil holds of greedy real estate developers, while her recovery from breast cancer provides another metaphor

recife_visto_de_olinda_jpg

Name: Aquarius
Director, writer:  Kleber Mendonca Filho
Released:  2016
Format:  2.35:1 (Cinemascope)
When and how viewed:  2016/10/21 Angelika Mosaic, QA, festival, nearly sold out, large auditorium
Length 142
Rating Not available (would be NC-17, necessarily [because of cancer issues] very explicit in some scenes; this film provides a good argument for why NC-17 should be regarded as legitimate for some content intended for “grown ups”, as did the film yesterday)
Companies: Vitagraph
Link: official

Angelika theaters provided QA with actress Sonia Braga before or after shows of “Aquarius”, by Kleber Mendonca Filho, the new Brazilian drama about an elderly widow fighting off real estate developers who want her to sell her unit in a condo.  She is the last holdout.

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The film is largely “interior” (remarkable when it seems to be shot in true “Cinemascope”) and it’s not clear from the exteriors (in Recife), which building t is – although the script says that it is the two-story building “Aquarius” built in the 1940s as an old-fashioned family resort..  The developer apparently wants to raze the building and replace it with a 60-story luxury high-rise (resembling Miami Beach), an event that would exacerbate the issue of affordable housing in the city.  The film occasionally opens up, to show the coastal city with the divisions of rich and poor, and opens with some black and white historical stills.

But it is metaphor behind the story of the widow Clara (Sonia) that sets up the tricky ending – which may send any homeowner to look at his pest control situation. The film (142 minutes) comprises three parts. “Clara’s Hair”, “Clara’s Love”, and “Clara’s Cancer”, the last of which transfers as a metaphor.

The first part takes place in 1980, at a party, when Clara is a young woman who has undergone one breast removal and chemotherapy for cancer occurring unusually young.  At the time, the use of combination chemotherapy was still relatively new and grueling.  The film, while in still in part one, jumps forward three decades to show Clara fully recovered, able to unwind her hair.

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The middle section sets up some intimate situations, at least two where men come on to Clara and have to deal with discovering one breast gone.  The film obviously makes a statement about sexual attractiveness (of women) after cancer, or after any personal catastrophe (like in the film “Marathon” Oct. 18).  In the meantime, the pressure on her to move increases as the developers encourage loud parties and sex orgies in the unit above.  The film moves into NC-17 territory here. The film also brings in other families, especially several younger men, as well as a character, Diego (Humberto Currao) who has learned how to sell ruthlessness (Donald Trump style) in business school.  (Is this about Making Brazil Great?)

The third part sets up the nauseating (for the developers) conclusion, with the help of Cleide (Calra Ribas).

QA Clips:

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3

 

Posted: Saturday, October 22, 2016 at 11:30 AM EDT