Bleu (1993)

First film in trilogy by Krzysztof Kieslowski devoted to exploring France's national motto, Liberty Equality, Fraternity. He followed this with Blanc and Rouge during the next year and died soon after.

Blue, the color of grief, looks at Julie (Juliette Binoche), who loses her composer husband and daughter in a car accident that she survives and lives on with her shattered life and attempts a kind of spiritual suicide. Julie proclaims "I want no belonging, no memories, no friends, no love....those are all traps." She lives on a physical level of smoking and swimming, resisting the emotional world as she journies into the possibility of true liberty. Can a person live without connection? She is lovely to watch as she engages with people and arrives at her answer to this question. I hope to see White and Red in the near future.


Easy Rider (1969)

During a recent snowy day I drove a few blocks to the library to find a movie, knowing I could be homebound for awhile. The selection there is not great, but I picked up the 35th anniversary edition of the film, including a 1999 documentary, Making Easy Rider: Shaking The Cage. I was mostly interested in watching this, but ended up watching both.

Peter Fonda wrote the film with Dennis Hopper and Terry Southern...Hopper directed. I understand Dennis Hopper is terminally ill with cancer so this seems to be a good time to re-visit the era through the eyes of this film. The music alone is fantastic, but it's amusing to hear the language that marked the time...groovy, freak, dude, get it together...all commonplace now.

Peter Fonda was inspired by a speech by Jack Valenti on behalf of The Motion Picture Association of America. "We have to stop making movies about motorcycles, sex and drugs...and make more movies like Dr. Doolittle." Fonda, Nicholson, and Hopper had each already starred in motorcycle films. The last thing he wanted to create was another one, but Fonda took the speech as a challenge and began imagining Easy Rider as a modern western. By the way, an "easy rider" lives off a whore, though he is not actually a pimp. I guess he is simply charming.

The 1960s had already happened, but box office movie hits were the squeaky clean Pillow Talk and Beach Blanket Bingo. These films had nothing to do with what had happened in the country during the 1960s so he created two counterculture biker characters, Captain America and Billy, on a roadtrip from LA to New Orleans. The film's tagline is "A man went looking for America and . And couldn't find it anywhere." The story is about what happened after the 60s were over.

The financing was largely Fonda's Diner's Club credit card. They used their own record collections to put together the soundtrack, but still brought in Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to improve upon it. They all recognized how perfect it already was and left it alone. I wonder what Captain America and Billy would say about the America of today?


Enlighten Up (2008)

Westerners often practice yoga for fitness and health. Others seek spiritual oneness. Filmmaker Kate Churchill set out to investigate the world of yoga through the help of journalist and skeptic, Nick Rosen, who immersed himself in the practice of yoga while visiting various yoga teachers from different traditions in the east and west to compare practices and explore whether yoga could transform his life.

Some truisms that were spoken during the film...

The best guide is your heart.
You can be happy only if you make other people happy.
Yoga is different things to different people.
Are you ready?
Being religious is the same as being yourself.

I always enjoy watching the laughter yoga people who chant "hohohahaha." Extra Features include extended interviews with Norman Allen and BKS Iyengar. You will enjoy this if you would like to know more about the complex yoga tradition that has become surprisingly popular in recent years.

Now Voyager (1942)

PBS has been showing this recently so I settled in to watch. The title comes from a Walt Whitman poem...

The Untold Want

The untold want by life and land ne'er granted.
Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find.

Betty Davis plays Charlotte Vale, the youngest daughter of a wealthy dictatorial mother. We watch the mother thwart young Charlotte's expressive vibrant nature to become the homely depressed spinster who is devoted to her mother's care in old age until a nervous breakdown introduces her to a handsome fatherly psychiatrist played by Claude Rains. He rescues her from the unhealthy home atmosphere to the sanitarium where she finds healing. He and Charlotte's aunt then cook up a scheme to send her abroad to allow the new Charlotte to blossom.

The more confident, stylish Charlotte learns more about herself as she meets new people and falls in love. Finally, she returns home with strength to be her own person as the mother attempts to break down her will and return her to the old Charlotte. The viewer can't help rooting for her in this battle. The story touches universal themes that arise between mothers and daughters throughout time.

Lemming (2005)

This is a film of two Charlottes. Without their presence, this psycho-thriller would be of no interest to me. The french-German director Dominik Moll previously made With a Friend Like Harry (2000). I recall this an equally strange but good movie. Charlotte Gainsbourg is wonderful to watch as the young wife whose engineer husband is attempting to socialize with the boss. Charlotte Rampling is the sour suicidal older wife of the philandering boss. A crazy dreamlike scenario unfolds. Yes, there are lemmings. When the young couple discover this native Scandanavian rodent clogging the drain of their Paris apartment, mysteries are set in motion. If you have ever experienced the slightest invasion of rodents into the home, there is one scene that will make you want to stop the movie. Keep in mind that this story begins on an ordinary note, but quickly becomes theater of the absurd.


The Lovely Bones (2009)

"The story of a life and everything that came after" is the tagline for this Peter Jackson film based the Alice Sebold novel. Set in the early 1970s, the narrator, Susie Salmon, tells about events leading up to her murder at age fourteen and then afterwards as she watches (from beyond) her family and murderer after the tragic event. Saoirse Ronan is a young actress who holds our attention throughout. The perpetrator (Stanley Tucci) is a solitary man living across the street of the ordinary suburban neighborhood who manages to avoid conviction as the loving Dad (Mark Wahlberg) is relentless in his search justice. The wife and mother, Rachel Weitz, wants to finally let go and move on for the sake of her two remaining children. Susan Sarandon is the tough alcoholic grandmother who comes to help the family hold together as they grieve and heal. The other-worldly visions (from Heaven) raise questions about consciousness and human connection that exist beyond the last breath. Music by Brian Eno adds a certain mood to this suspenseful and thought-provoking story that is full of intensity and drama.


Broken Flowers (2005)

This was not the first time watching this Jim Jarmusch film with an engaging soundtrack. Bill Murray plays Don Johnston, a solitary man who fixes computers and lives a seemingly bland existence in a generic suburb. He appears to be devout in his singlehood and the film opens with his girlfriend dumping him. He receives an anonymous letter on pink paper telling him that he has a nineteen year old son who is looking for him. We also learn that he has had a string of girlfriends through the years.

This causes him to reflect on his life with the help of his married buddy next door. The friend sees him as a Don Juan and is eager to get involved in looking up the addresses of all the former girlfriends and plans out an itinerary for Don to visit each one to find out more about the possible son. The cast of girlfriends include Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange, Tilda Swinton...all great to watch. The film takes us on this crazy journey along with "Donny" (as the women call him) to see where life has taken the women, who are all a bit quirky themselves. We get a glimpse of the emotions stirred up in the women he left behind, despite Murray's deadpan affect and clear lack of charm. This is one of those movies where a lot happens, but nothing is resolved.


Blind Date (2009)

This re-make of the 1996 Theo Van Gogh film explores a married couple attempting to revive their shattered marriage after they survive a tragic car accident that killed their young daughter. Stanley Tucci directs and co-stars in the drama with Patricia Clarkson as each partner engages the other by posting personal ads in the newspaper and roleplaying various blind date scenarios and processing their shared grief. Watching this is much like experiencing a play with narration by the deceased daughter and Evan Lurie soundtrack. Ad headings such as "Blind Man Seeks Sighted Mate" and "Serious Reporter Seeks Aggressive Woman" add humor to this often difficult film. The original Theo Van Gogh film was first in a trilogy. The second was a 2003 film called Interview, later re-made by Steve Buscemi, starring Sienna Miller. The third film in the trilogy was never made after Theo Van Gogh's untimely murder in 2004.


The Perfect Murder (1998)

This is a remake of the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock classic, Dial M For Murder. This updated version is totally engaging. I had seen if before, but enjoyed it second time around. Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow and Viggo Mortensen play at controlling husband, beautiful wife, sexy artist lover...adultry and murder New York City style.

I first took notice of Viggo as the hippie blouseman character in A Walk On The Moon (I have seen it twice). Once again, he plays the laidback bohemian...this time, as a passionate painter with a dark past. I understand he actually painted much of the art featured in the studio scenes. This suspense moves along quickly and it seems pretty transparent, until the twist at the end. I enjoy watching MD and GP almost as much as Ray Miland and Grace Kelly.


Dial M For Murder (1954)

The trailer for this film calls it "an experiment in excitement." Classic Hitchcock in full color starring Ray Milland as a coniving sophisticate married to wealthy beauty, Grace Kelly, who is cheating on her husband with Robert Cummings. Most scenes take place in their apartment living room, but the suspenseful story holds the viewer's attention as the husband's plot to hire another man to kill her unfolds. Within moments of the film's opening we know that there is a love triangle, simply by seeing the the lover's shadow on the door as they embrace and Grace's spectacular red dress. Ray Milland plays a Cary Grant type who is continually mixing a cocktail from the sidebar in the living room. Grace Kelly is the ultimate Hitchcock blonde who is quick enough to escape death. Nothing much to ponder here. No profound message. It is simply a lot of fun to watch all that style. An updated version of this story called The Perfect Murder was later made in 1998.


Georgy Girl (1966)

Why watch this old movie?

I became interested in the free-spitited bohemian actress, Charlotte Rampling, after watching her in Swimming Pool (2003) and Under The Sand (2001) so when I noticed Georgy Girl was her breakout role, I had to see it again. She has a list of film credits longer than most and I plan to watch more of them in the future.

I was in junior high when this british film first came out and the song that was a radio hit. I recall it as a simple story about an ordinary girl who wants more in life, such as a boyfriend. It turns out to be funny because it is so much from another era, but the story is fairly serious. I'm actually surprised that we have not seen a remake of this. It could work well.

Lynn Redgrave is charming as the slightly frumpy young woman living with her gorgeous but irritable roommate played by Charlotte Rampling. Alan Bates is Rampling's fun-loving fiance and James Mason is the middle age millionaire employer of Georgy's dad who is constantly hitting on her. Rampling's character gets pregnant and decides to have the baby when the boyfriend proposes marriage, but no maternal instincts blossom in her. Even back then she was cast as a self-possessed willful woman who prefers life on her own terms. The expression "baby factory" must have evolved from the kind of maternity ward we see her in after the baby's birth. A dozen women are lined up in their beds surrounded by flowers and happy hubbies with babies in basinetts nearby. We watch her alone and restless...then calmly reading a book unmoved by her crying baby, despite the disapproving glances from the other mothers and nurses. Her husband missed the baby's delivery and finally shows up with token flowers...too little too late.

This is a love triangle of a different kind. Georgy and the Alan Bate's character fall in love while his wife is giving birth to their child. Charlotte is happy to turn over the role of mother to Georgy and walks out of the hospital a free woman and into the car of another man. Women's liberation had not fully emerged yet so this was a radical turn of events.

Bates enjoys the easy relationship with Georgy, but the family life does not last long. Without a marriage certificate, the state threatens to take away the child. Georgy ends up marrying the older guy to become legitimate. Georgy is all aglow in her wedding gown with new husband and baby. She found the love she was after with a baby and a man to pay the bills...a frequent tale of the time. At this point we hear some of the song lyrics that were not on the radio version. "Who need a lover when you're a perfect mother at heart." Although this film has a light-hearted tone, the content is actually quite heavy and the relationships are more complex than the average chick flick past and present.


Men Who Stare At Goats (2009)

After an eggplant parmesian dinner at La Bella Sicilia, Ann and I went to the four dollar Movieland Theater to see this film based on a 2004 non-fiction book by Jon Ronson. The story examines connections between paranormal military programs and psychological techniques adopted for interrogation in recent years in the War on Terror.

The film begins with a reminder that "This story is true." A skeptical reporter played by Ewan McGregor interviews a former military "psychic spy" (Jeff Bridges) and learns about the New Earth Army, a government-funded experiment back in the early 1980s where soldiers developed special powers that could cause a goat to fall over dead by staring into its eyes.

After the reporter's wife leaves him, he takes off in search of a good story to write about. The movie takes him on a journey to the middle east, where he encounters George Clooney, a retired soldier who had been reactivated after 9/11 for a secret mission. He turns out to be connected to the New Earth Army and allows the reporter to follow him through expansive sand dunes on a journey to an unknown destination.

Flashbacks show a younger long-haired Clooney during his unconventional training as a "warrior monk" under Jeff Bridges. Cast perfectly as the pot-smoking, jacuzzi-soaking new-age hippie instructor, the Bridges character is full of hope for leading the military through a transformation to a kinder gentler organization. It was during those years that the army tagline "Be all that you can be" emerged.

McGregor and Clooney end up at a "Psyops" unit prison camp in Iraq lead by Kevin Spacey. All kinds of craziness unfolds and we see prisoners subjected to repetitive play of the annoying Sesame Street Barney The Purple Dinosaur song I Love You (sounds like torture to me)...

I love you--you love me.
We're a happy family.
With a great big hug and a kiss from me to you,
won't you say you love me too?

This is a fun comedy if you can put aside judgment for awhile. I left feeling curious to know more about what may have been implemented as a result of all the experiments.


Things I Never Told You (1996)

The story about a trio of thirty-somethings searching for meaning begins with the following statement.....

"You could wake up beside somebody you couldn't have conceived of knowing a few hours ago...and look at you now. It's like someone gave you a present of a puzzle with parts of a painting, a photograph of some ponies and another of Niagara Falls and it's supposed to make sense, but it doesn't."

When it comes to love, anything can happen. Lili Taylor works in a camera store. Andrew McCarthy sells condos and volunteers on a crisis hotline. Richard Edson is a frequent caller. All three are fun to watch.

My Kid Could Paint That (2007)

Linda sent me a video link
about a young girl's skillful but strange creations that seem to be of a visionary nature. This post is not about her, but it got me thinking about child prodigy art and the 2007 documentary, My Kid Could Paint That.

In 2005 The New York Times published an article about a show of remarkable abstract paintings made by four-year-old Marla Olmstead on view at a coffee shop in Binghamton, New York. This sparked a lot of attention, television appearances, gallery shows, and art sales in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. CBS later featured a 60 Minutes spot about all this and raised some questions about the authenticity of the work. Did she really create these works without help or direction? What makes art "art"?

Amir Bar-Lev set out to investigate the phenomenon with his camera crew. There is no concise answer at the end of the film, but it is quite a story. What we do learn is that Marla is the child of creative parents who nurture her artistic tendencies. As someone who appreciates the fine points of expressive art, I enjoyed this in-depth look very much. A few years older now, Marla continues her painting "career" as reported in this recent report...http://www.lostateminor.com/2009/01/08/marla-olmstead-an-eight-year-old-art-prodigy/


Funny People (2009)

The Judd Apatatow film features Adam Sandler as a well-known older performer facing personal crisis. He enlists the help of younger up-and-coming comedian, Seth Rogen, to assist him through his troubles. Adam Sandler gets to shine as he demonstrates his musical, dramatic, and comedic talents. Much of the humor is pretty much in the gutter, but there is a lot of sweetness too. Leslie Mann plays his love interest.


Paper Hearts (2009)

Comedian, Charlyne Yi is featured in this documentary story that she wrote along with Director Nicholas Jasenovec. Light and entertaining, it has a behind-the-scenes feel to it. Charlyne claims to be a bit puzzled by all the fuss about love and romance, as she has not yet experienced this phenomenon. We watch her travels across the country interviewing people about love while she tries to understand it for herself as a romantic friendship with actor Michael Cera unfolds during filming.

The Ice Storm (1997)

Directed by Ang Lee and based on a Rick Moody novel, the story captures the unrest of 1973 suburbia. Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver are neighbors struggling with with marital troubles as their teenage children deal with their own coming of age issues. It's fun to see Christina Ricci, Toby McGuire and Elijah Wood before they became polished Hollywood actors.