Herb & Dorothy (2008)

This documentary about Herb Vogel, a postal worker, and his wife Dorothy, a librarian, who began collecting art as a young married couple living in a rent-controlled apartment. Their collection reflects their love of art and artists and the trends of the 1960s and 1970s and through the end of the twentieth century. We see the New York art world through their stories and interviews with many of the artists and gallery owners. Much of the film is shot inside their cramped apartment, bursting with art that is stacked and stashed in every corner, leaving the couple just a small table and a couple chairs. The Vogels could have retired as very wealthy people had they wanted to trade the work for money, but getting rich was never their intention. Instead, they donated the entire collection to The National Gallery in Washington DC to be archived and distributed to art institutions across the country. This film is entirely fascinating


Fishing With John (1991)

A conversation about Jim Jaramush led to John Lurie and Michael mentioned Fishing With John. How did I miss this? Five episodes take us on private fishing trips to various locations with John and his guests.

Producer Jim Jarmusch is John's first guest on the boat as they venture out into the waters off Montauk, Long Island. Longtime collaborators on film projects, I feel a certain kinship to both artists who were working on early experiments during the 1980s downtown NYC art scene that I shared. John's band, The Lounge Lizards, performed at The Mudd Club. Jim's first commercial film, Stranger Than Paradise, featured John and other downtown artists.

The fishing expeditions of this series create a different kind of stage for free flowing conversation and some fish are caught. Later episodes feature Matt Dillon, Tom Waits, Willem Defoe, Dennis Hopper...all very entertaining.


Limits of Control (2009)

This Jim Jarmusch film is a sparse meditation on spaciousness. It's a quiet story of a mysterious loner completing a criminal job in Barcelona, Spain. Isaach De Bankole has been featured in other Jarmusch films, most notably Coffee & Cigarettes (2003). A few eccentric characters pass through....Bill Murray, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton (I adore her!).

"For every way in, there is another way out," states the film tagline. A story of little action, it is like being dropped off in a desolate foreign landscape...lonely and beautiful. Find out more about the filmmaker in the DVD behind-the-scenes extra feature. "It's hard to get lost if you don't know where you are going," says Jarmusch, who is as interesting as his films.

His book, The Golden Rules of Filming, sums up his philosophy...

"Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery — celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: It’s not where you take things from — it’s where you take them to."

See upcoming post about his cable television series, Fishing with John.

Dim Sum Funeral (2008)

Estranged Chinese-American adult siblings gather together at the home of their deceased mother in Seattle to grant her last wish for a traditional Chinese Funeral. All professionals now, they are also attractive and smart. Talia Shire is cast as as a middle age woman who was the housekeeper for the weathy family since they were all children. She loves them. The siblings feel closer to her than their own mother, but wonder why she would bother to stay on so long with their mother who was always treated them harshly. They have clearly moved on in their lives as far away from their roots as possible. We watch as they are re-acquainted and learn more about the mother they never knew, including a big family secret and surprise ending.


Cherry Blossoms (2008)

Doris Dorrie's film portrays a retired Bavarian couple, Rudy and Trudi, as they enter a new chapter of their lives marked by aging. Trudi finally coaxes Rudi to leave the quiet and comfort of their home to travel by train to visit their children and grandchildren in Berlin. They find themselves outsiders in the busy and fast-paced urban world of their young family--an uncomfortable distance seems to separate them all.

The trip sparks memories in Trudi of earlier travels when she was a free-spirited Butoh dancer in Japan. Even though she traded all that for the stability of domestic life, Trudi left her family with the mystery of her passion for all things Japanese. A sudden loss brings the family together in unexpected ways and the film takes the viewer on a fascinating journey to Tokyo and into the world of Butoh, a magical backdrop for personal transformation.


A Home At The End of The World (2004)

I watched this movie again after seeing Robin Wright Penn recently in The Private Lives of Pippa Lee. She is so good at playing the vulnerable woman who is out there in the world trying to find her way. This film is set to a gorgeous Laura Nero soundtrack. Collin Ferrell survives a difficult childhood in the 1970s that leads him to move in with his best friend, Dallas Roberts (later seen on The L Word) whose mom is played by Sissy Spacek. Don't miss the priceless scene of her suburban mom character smoking pot and dancing with the boys who have developed a close relationship. They grow apart for awhile after high school as the Dallas character goes off to college and finds his gay identity, but a few years later they both wind up in the east village of NYC a few living together with Robin Wright Penn, a bohemian hat designer. An expoloration of relationship, loss and grief, self-discovery and sexual identity, this complex tale is not your mainstream coming of age story.


The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (2009)

I went to see this with Ann at the Northpark Theater with just a couple other people in the audience. Based on a novel by Rebecca Miller (Arthur Miller's daughter)...Robin Wright Penn and Alan Arkin are cast as a wealthy married couple facing a new chapter of their lives after selling their home and moving into a staid retirement community. She is about forty-five, mother of two young adult children. He is thirty years older than his lovely wife and beginning to slow down in life after a successful career in the publishing business. We learn about Pippa's difficult past through flashbacks. A wonderful mix of characters are played by Maria Bello, Julianne Moore, Winona Rider. Keanu Reeves is the troubled divorced son of the nice lady next door who shows up in his battered truck, complete with Jesus tattoo across his chest. This film has the flavor of a Woody Allen film with Alan Arkin providing comic relief.


Departures (2008)

I went to see this last fall with Jenny and Steve at the Second Friday Film Series at First Presbyterian Church. An Academy Award winner for Best Foregin Language Film, this story takes place in Japan and tells about an unemployed cellist who applies for a job in the travel industry and ends up as an apprentice to an undertaker of sorts who is desparate to train someone to take over his business. The young man endures a difficult passage training in the art of preparing the dead for the next life, but the experience opens up his life to love and reconnection with the father he lost contact with.


Julia (2009)

Tilda Swinton owns this story of a self-destructive, chain-smoking alcoholic who can't hold a job and attempts to survive by getting involved in a half-baked plot to kidnap a boy for ransom money. Thoroughly engaging to watch, she is truly convincing as a hardcore alcoholic, though I understand the actor neither smokes nor drinks. More interesting, I learned that Tilda Swinton has a curious living arrangement in the Scottish Highlands with her 31 year old painter boyfriend, her teenage twins...and their father.


Under The Sand (2001)

Anything that stars british actor, Charlotte Rampling is bound to be interesting. I wanted to see this after I had seem her in the suspenseful and steamy 2003 film, Swimming Pool. In that one she was a writer alone on vacation at a friend's home when her visit is intruded upon by a surprise visit from the home owner's wild daughter. Under the Sand is a french language film about a similarly introspective woman alone after the sudden disappearance of her husband. Here she is a literature professor who is teaching her students from Virginia Woolf's 1931 book, The Waves, while she struggles with the sad mysterious loss at a beach house on the coast of France. This is the kind of movie that defines the appeal of the movie-watching experience. Charlotte Rampling's breakout role was in 1966 as the bitchy but beautiful roommate of Lynn Redgrave in Georgy Girl. I may have to watch that one again soon.