Thursday, January 15, 2009

Film Space schedule

At Film Space: on Saturdays at 7 pm

Film Space in January is presenting a series of films by some directors they like, who also star in these films.

Film Space is to the right and in the back of the CMU Art Museum, in the Media Arts and Design building across from the ballet school. Now that the weather is cool, they are resuming their rooftop showings, weather permitting. You might want to bring something to sit on or lie on. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance. Well worth supporting.

Saturday, January 17: The Bridges of Madison County (1995) by Clint Eastwood – 135 mins – US Drama/ Romance. In English. Generally favorable reviews: 66/71 out of 100.

The film adaptation of Robert James Waller's wildly popular, bestselling novel. The story takes place in 1965, in the farmlands of Iowa, where bored, middle-aged Italian housewife Francesca has just sent her two kids and husband away to the state fair. Shortly thereafter she encounters Robert Kincaid, a mysterious, rugged, "National Geographic" photographer, on assignment taking pictures of Iowa's covered bridges. The two are immediately attracted to each other, and when Francesca invites Robert back to her home, they begin a romantic, sensual, illicit affair that lasts over the next few days. For Francesca, this is the first time in years that she's experienced passion in her life, and she realizes that maybe she's found her true love. Robert feels the same way, and shortly before her family returns home, asks Francesca to run off with him. Francesca now must make an important decision -- one that will affect the rest of her life and could leave her with many regrets...

Roger Ebert: Almost everybody knows the story by now. Robert James Waller's novel has been a huge best-seller. Its prose is not distinguished, but its story is compelling: He provides the fantasy of total eroticism within perfect virtue, elevating to a spiritual level the common fantasy in which a virile stranger materializes in the kitchen of a quiet housewife and takes her into his arms.

Waller's gift is to make the housewife feel virtuous afterward.

It is easy to analyze the mechanism, but more difficult to explain why this film is so deeply moving -- why Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep have made it into a wonderful movie love story, playing Robert and Francesca. We know, of course, that they will meet, fall in love and part forever. It is necessary that they part. If the story had ended "happily" with them running away together, no one would have read Waller's book and no movie would exist. The emotional peak of the movie is the renunciation, when Francesca does not open the door of her husband's truck and run to Robert. This moment, and not the moment when the characters first kiss, or make love, is the film's passionate climax.

When Eastwood announced that he had bought the novel and planned to direct and star in the movie, eyebrows were raised.

Readers had already cast it in their minds, and not with Eastwood -- or with Meryl Streep, for that matter. There is still a tendency to identify Eastwood with his cowboy and cop roles, and to forget that in recent years he has grown into one of the most creative forces in Hollywood, both as an actor and a director. He was taking a chance by casting himself as Robert Kincaid, but it pays off in a performance that is quiet, gentle and yet very masculine.

Saturday, January 24: Hana-bi / Fireworks (1997) by Takeshi Kitano – 103 mins – Japan Crime/ Drama/ Thriller. In Japanese, English subtitles. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 81 out of 100.

A tough ex-cop is troubled by his ill wife and his partner, who was shot on duty. He proceeds to confront his demons in a bloody rampage, doing whatever is necessary to help those he loves. A simultaneously tender and violent masterwork from Takeshi, one of Japan's most popular entertainers.

Roger Ebert: The pattern of the movie is: Ordinary casual life, punctuated by sharp, clinical episodes of violence. Nishi hardly speaks (there is little dialogue in the film), and his face shows almost no expression (reportedly because of injuries to Kitano in a motorcycle crash). He is like a blank slate that absorbs the events in the film without giving any sign that he has registered them. When he attacks, he gives no warning; the wrong trigger word releases his rage.

The film is an odd viewing experience. It lacks all of the narrative cushions and hand-holding that we have come to expect. It doesn't explain, because an explanation, after all, is simply something arbitrary the story has invented.

Saturday, January 31: Annie Hall (1977) by Woody Allen – 93 mins – US Comedy/ Romance. In English. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 88 out of 100.

Filled with poignant performances and devastating humor, Annie Hall represented a quantum leap for Woody Allen and remains an American classic.

Rotten Tomatoes: Often considered the crown jewel in a highly acclaimed and prolific film career, Annie Hall is Woody Allen's only film to have won the Academy Award for Best Picture. This recognition, however, is not what makes the film significant. Annie Hall marks the beginning of the second phase of Allen's career as a filmmaker, abandoning the slapstick of Sleeper and Bananas for more thoughtful comedies (and eventually dramas) that explored human relationships and psychology. Allen's capacity as a creative filmmaker had also grown with the film, as he utilized creative subtitles, split screens, and animation, as well as evincing a sophisticated understanding of the potential of editing and camera movement for comic effect--consider the cutaway to Allen's character Alvy Singer, as seen through the eyes of "Grammy Hall" during the dinner sequence, or shortly afterward the slow pan to Alvy in the passenger seat of a car driven by Annie's unhinged brother Duane. The film is a brutally honest assessment of the prospects of a relationship between two very different people. Allen's Alvy is (like the filmmaker himself) an introverted, neurotic intellectual and a complete mismatch for Diane Keaton's vivacious, flaky Annie Hall. Although the romance is undoubtedly the center of the film, it affords Allen the opportunity to contrast his beloved New York culture with that of the Midwest, where Annie comes from, and Los Angeles, which tempts Annie with the possibility of fame and success as a singer. The city of New York itself plays an important part for the first time in an Allen film, with a great deal of location shooting that serves to highlight the city's character and atmosphere. Finally, the many comedic cameos peppered through the film--from Truman Capote to Paul Simon to media theorist Marshall McLuhan--pay tribute to the deserved reputation that Allen had gained for himself.

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