I have been slacking off in my Women’s Films project. I have three DVD’s sitting around waiting to be watched – Fellini’s “La Strada,” Kelly Reichardt’s “Meek’s Cutoff,” and Calli Khouri’s “Thelma and Louise.” I either “don’t have time,” or I’m reading a book instead. This is a little puzzling, since I’m fully capable of watching 8 episodes of “Friday Night Lights” in one sitting. Just some inertia going on, I think. I’ll probably get rabid once I start watching these.
A couple of weeks ago I watched another Reichardt film, “Wendy and Lucy,” about a hapless young woman and her dog. I really wanted to like it because a) it was recommended to me by my good friend Linda, b) Reichardt’s last name is so similar to mine and she’s a female very well regarded independent filmmaker, and c) she teaches at Bard College, my alma mater. I loved the spare and elegant look of it, the thoughtful balanced camera work, Michelle William’s fine performance (a little jarring seeing her as a millennial slacker shortly after her recent turn as Marilyn Monroe) but the movie didn’t grip me. Maybe because there were no surprises (Yup, that woman’s gonna lose that dog) and not quite enough context for me – couldn’t tell where this young woman was coming from or what was at stake. I was left feeling sorry for all the dogs out there who are so dependent on humans who won’t take responsibility for them, but not much else. I guess I’m too much of a story junkie. Still, good to see a talented filmmaker pursuing her vision.
Wow, just looked at various reviews, and people seemed to like it a lot for its stark, brave portrayal of our desperate economic times. Well okay. Kudos for that. But I still need context – there are many ways to respond to desperation, and I don’t have a handle on Wendy’s. Is she made hapless by circumstances, or is she a hapless person regardless?
More satisfying for me was “In a Better World,” by Danish Filmmaker Susanne Bier. Interestingly, she deals with the world of men and boys. There’s a wife/mom, but she’s irrelevant to her son, and basically out of touch with her husband – loves him but was betrayed by him and can’t let him back in. Anyway, he spends half his time off being a do-gooder doctor in Africa instead of dealing with his family. What I like about the movie – aside from it’s gorgeous visuals – is the way Biers looks at male violence, which comes up in a variety of contexts, many having to do with revenge. You can see this developing in the boys – one of whom is very angry, the other of whom is desperate for friends. Biers focuses on the boys, but also draws in the parallel stories with the fathers. Resolution comes through an emotional opening that follows an act of violence – an opportunity for communication and expression of love. I also like the portrayal of children being in a world of their own, separate from adults, though influenced by adults, more in unintended ways than in intended ones.
Meanwhile, Cinequest is in less than two weeks! Have sent out information to various San Jose area cancer groups, and through friends in Santa Cruz. Giving myself pep talks about networking. Looking forward to it….