Recent-vintage films that linger.

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Jack Briggs, Sep 27, 2003.

  1. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 1999
    Messages:
    16,738
    Likes Received:
    129
    Trophy Points:
    0
    In an era when Hollywood churns out "product" aimed at a limited demographic based on spending power, the rare serious film that resonates and lingers in one's thoughts and draws viewers back for repeated screenings stands out all the more.

    It's too easy to lift one's hands in resignation and say, "They don't make 'em like they used to."

    They probably don't, but that doesn't mean there aren't gems still being made and released as high-profile productions.

    Two from last year won't let this viewer go:

    • David Lynch's Mulholland Drive is like the particularly vivid dream that haunts all of us. You know the deal: a dream that haunts you for days. This is one reason why Mr. Lynch's dreamscape of film works so well and compels viewers to return over and over. Which is happening to me: For the past six weeks straight, I've screened this masterpiece. And in true Stanley Kubrick-like fashion, David Lynch's film seems to reveal new meaning and subtle shades with each viewing. The film draws one in its gentle grip and casts a stronger hold as time goes by. I might even look at it again this weekend.

    • Roman Polanski's The Pianist casts just as strong a spell, yet its uniquely disturbing subject matter makes constant repeat viewing painful (genocide never having been the most pleasant of topics). Yet those images, those moods. For a dramatic film to present the 20th century's darkest hour with such documentary-like realism while not lapsing into manipulative and easy cliches is a towering accomplishment. Mr. Polanski could easily have resorted to blatant audience manipulation and gotten away with it (as other Holocaust-related films have done). Yet The Pianist imparts a you-are-there, stark realism without moralizing. In doing so, it catapults the viewer into the icy heart of state-sanctioned barbarism without once overlooking the profoundly human heart at the heart of the film.

    These are just two modern masterpieces that still prove its possible to rise above the commercial fray yet still speak to a cross section of people, all while saying something a little different to each viewer.
     
  2. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2001
    Messages:
    6,306
    Likes Received:
    126
    Trophy Points:
    9,110
    Real Name:
    Adam_S
    Spielberg's Empire of the Sun. In a way, this film and "The Pianist" are telling the same story, and it's almost ironic that both films are based on true stories, took place in the same time period, on opposite sides of the world. For Jim, it is not music that sustains him, but the shielding gauze of childhood. Jim never really grows up in this film, we see him change and mature, but the gradual loss of his childhood innocence is a gradual factor mixed up in fantastic ways that children interpret their world. Much of the film is haunting, like a deliberately misremembered event, however Spielberg is careful to give us just enough information to realize their is a darker undercurrent of reality that Jim's perspective rarely sees. For what Jim sees as an exciting pheasant hunt, we realize it is a dangerous experiment to check for mines. Jim lives in a world where pilots smile and wave at him, where he can see the atom bomb from hundreds of miles away, where falling 'refrigerators' explode not into food, but confetti and presents. He lives in a world where his mother awakes him by blowing smoke in his face (while his father burns important documents in the other room) but then both step into a tender Norman Rockwell pose from LIFE magazine and where toy planes stay aloft for impossibly long times. This is truly an incredible film that I discover more in each time I view it.

    Shawshank Redemption. undoubtedly others will also mention this favorite of a new generation of film goers. This is a dark film about hope with incredible performances. But the way the story unfolds, so relentlessly character focused that the plot seems like an afterthought, until everything falls into place to perfectly complete these characters' stories. Everything works in this film, while their may be flaws, I know many people of my generation would describe this as older film buffs describe 'Casablanca': flaws or not, everything comes together, and works together, so absolutely perfectly that you no longer care or notice that every aspect of the film is not perfect as you want it to be.

    A.I. Yes, this is a film that lingers. It is magical and challenging, like Kubrick's last films, this film does not adhere to any traditional sense of filmic narrative structure. Oh you could certainly criticize the film for being easily identifiable three acts, but that is not the film's fault, rather it is a result of the film structuring it's narrative around the original stories from which that structure has been derived, rather than on the modern conventions of that structure. A.I. has much more in common with the tradition of classic epic--in particular the sub genre of civilization founding epic--than modern filmic narrative. A.I. tells the story of David--the first of the mecha race to achieve awareness--the perspective this story is told from is that of the metal mecha we meet in the film's final moments. The narration of the specialist at the beginning and end invokes the tradition of passing on the most important stories from generation to generation. David's story could be real, or it could be the cornerstone of these mecha's mythology--regardless the acto f pasing on stories to new generations is something science fiction rarely attributes to 'robots' which shows just how different mecha are from robots. They are not just unfeeling machines, but a whole new viable race and species that have inherited the earth from humankind. A.I. owes much to Paradise Lost, but also to the Aeneid, and perhaps even Orlando Furioso. At the same time it incorporates elements of modern mythology--Pinocchio and Wizard of Oz to name the most obvious. This is a rich and complex film, full of the depths you would expect from kubrick and the sincerity and empathy you would expect from Spielberg. As to the 'second ending', it is absolutely necessary, many have argued their very good reasons on HTF before, but I offer up a new one as well. This second ending is a tradition straight out of the narrative iconography of the civilization founding Epic. In Paradise Lost, Adam looks forward to the future and sees that despite the fall, his race will be redeemed through Christ, so their is a purpose behind his agony. In the Aeneid, Aeneus descends to the underworld and sees his future descendents to discover that he must found Rome so Julius Caesar can be born--the purpose behind his agony. In Orlando Furioso, Ruggiero sees that he must marry Bradamante so that the Este family can be founded--the purpose to their agonies and separation. Likewise David 'sees' the future that he is the founder of the mecha race that will one day inherit the earth. How can anyone doubt Kubrick's influence when you look at the film, and realize that David is not only the founder, but the redeemer as well, because he makes the evolutionary step in achieving human emotions, and then transcends to an even higher plane to achieve humanity itself--he dies. In a way you could compare this to a man who achieved godhood himself--transcending to a higher plane of existence--Christ.

    Adam
     
  3. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2000
    Messages:
    12,251
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    0
    The 1998 John Sayles film Men With Guns, made on a budget of two million dollars, never fails to engage me. Set in an unnamed Latin American country, it is ostensibly about an aged doctor's search for the medical students he sent out into the untamed frontier - a wild country haunted by rebellious guerillas who wage a tit for tat war with the army. The film is more about complacency and the avoidance of issues: as the doctor finds that more and more of his innocent and idealistic students have fallen victim to the arbitrary whims of the titular "men with guns," he must come to terms with his culpability and guilt. If only he had paid more attention to what was really going on in his country, instead of being more concerned with making money and cultivating a respectable clientele. As he travels deeper into the jungles, the doctor acquires a motley assortment of refugees: an army deserter haunted by the atrocities he was forced to commit, a starving young boy, a self-defrocked priest who could not bring himself to make the ultimate sacrifice, and a mute girl traumatized by rape. Eventually they set as their goal the mythical village of Cerca del Cielo - a place of refuge safe from the men with guns. What they really find is altogether different and disappointing. But the mute girl treks onward, until the final shot which reveals that what she is looking for - that Shangri-La, that El Dorado - is always going to be just over the next ridge, just down the road. Shouldn't we make the best with what we have, then to constantly be looking for...Heaven? This one sticks with you.
     
  4. andrew markworthy

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 1999
    Messages:
    4,762
    Likes Received:
    12
    Trophy Points:
    0
    With respect, Jack, I'm not sure that overall we're going through a particularly bad patch in the cinema. I think the difference from earlier times is that we've been made more aware of the financial cost of producing a flop so we tend to dissect the awfulness of mediocre movies in more depth.

    Of movies from the last couple of years, I'd agree 100% with you about The Pianist. I'm not sure about Mulholland Drive though (I always find David Lynch too self-consciously weird for my personal taste).

    Otherwise, the most lasting images I can recall from a specific recent film are from Amelie. The scene where she takes the blind man on a guided tour of the simple delights all around him in the street is perhaps the one which most sticks in my mind.
     
  5. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

    Joined:
    May 19, 2002
    Messages:
    12,060
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Jack, I’m going to put up a few more from the last year for consideration:

    §Far From Heaven—I can call up images of this Sirk homage at will.
    §The Quiet American—it may be overlooked now, but once the current political climate shifts, I think that this fine film will come into its own.
    §Rabbit-Proof Fence—perhaps not quite so powerful a film here, but I first saw this in Australia and it has graven unforgettable images in my mind.
    §City of God—saw this in Dallas, not Rio, but I’d say the same thing—I cannot get some of these things out of my mind.

    I agree about The Pianist.
     
  6. Edwin-S

    Edwin-S Lead Actor
    Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2000
    Messages:
    6,873
    Likes Received:
    725
    Trophy Points:
    9,110


    I would agree with this one. In the future this film is going to an allegory for present U.S foreign policy initiatives. The film is one of the few about the American experience in Vietnam that seems to have a balanced, relatively sane, depiction of events.
     
  7. Steve_Ch

    Steve_Ch Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2001
    Messages:
    978
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    >>With respect, Jack, I'm not sure that overall we're going through a particularly bad patch in the cinema.
     
  8. David Lawson

    David Lawson Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2000
    Messages:
    1,358
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    Cincinnati, OH
    Real Name:
    David Lawson
    Agreed on The Straight Story and City Of God. I can't believe I was beaten to the punch on both films after six posts!
     
  9. ThomasC

    ThomasC Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2001
    Messages:
    6,526
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Magnolia - Even though I've watched this many, many times already (including one time where I watched it four times in four consecutive days, one showing per day), I still don't know what I'm supposed to get from this. It can't just be the powerful and emotional performances.

    Traffic - I came out of the theater absolutely pissed. Which side should I be on? No easy answers.
     

Share This Page