Apologies for the long absence! Your correspondent has been gadding about the country with barely enough time to catch her breath, much less write film reviews. Some of you have let me know that you watched a film I’ve written about, so thank you for that! It’s nice to know, in these troubled times, that there is still beauty to be found, if only cinematic. I hope this blog can help shine a little light in the corners where people still care about such things…Onwards!
One of the things I love to do when in a strange city is (surprise) go to the movies! There’s something about sitting in an unfamiliar setting, with exotic snacks and strangers on either side that adds an extra frisson of excitement to one’s viewing experience. This week’s column is dedicated to Watching While Travelling.
First stop: New York City! The Big Apple, one of my favorite places on earth, and one that I was sorely missing of late. I made a flying visit over the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, to immerse myself in friends, family, and art, and of course, found time to take in a picture. On Saturday night I wended my way through the cobbled streets of the West Village, avoiding crowds of merry-making locals, to enter the dark hall of the IFC Center (formerly the Waverly Theater) on 6th Avenue. I was greeted warmly by the gentleman who tore my ticket, and made to feel welcome at once. The theater is meant to be an offshoot of AMC’s IFC Channel, and accordingly shows primarily art house and independent films. That night’s selection was Transit, directed by Christian Petzold, based on Anna Segher’s 1942 novel about Jewish refugees fleeing Nazism during WWII. A well-trodden road, to be sure, but here’s the twist: The novel has been transposed to present day France, giving it a timeless, Kafka-esque feel. The characters are stuck in Marseilles, waiting for papers that may or may not come, living in fear of being taken away by an enemy we never see. It’s a bit like Waiting for Godot, but with better scenery. I enjoyed the film, although the main character’s resemblance to Joaquin Phoenix was so strong as to be somewhat distracting (as was his slight speech impediment), but I can’t say I loved it. Maybe it was the jet-lag, but the film all-too-convincingly conveyed the anxious, clammy quality of being trapped in a maze, doomed to making the same mistakes over and over…kind of like modern-day air travel! (Never Look Away‘s lovely Paula Beer also appears as the enigmatic love interest.) However, I thoroughly enjoyed the theater and its friendly staff, and scored a fetching Agnès Varda shoulder bag to boot (little did I know my beloved Agnès would be leaving us so soon – look for a post dedicated to her work at some point in future.) If you find yourself in the Village with nothing to do, I highly recommend the IFC Center.
Next up – the City of Angels (and some devils…)
Stuck in a hotel room on my first night in town, I was itching to get out but fancied a walk (a rare activity in LA, to be sure), so imagine my delight in finding that there was a super-luxe movie theater just a block away, with a film I actually wanted to see! Full disclosure – the IPIC Westwood is not somewhere I would normally frequent. For one thing, it’s hideously expensive. If I hadn’t been travelling for work, I never would have gone there. But I just couldn’t resist the lure of a theater with reclining leather seats, pillow, blanket, and free popcorn, and all this BEFORE you press the little glowing button on your table and order dinner and a cocktail from a cute eager waitperson. Only in LA, my friends…we’re talking serious decadence here. I ordered shrimp tacos and a ginger beer-based cocktail, and both were surprisingly good. Alas, I didn’t have room for the “Childhood in a Jar” chocolate pudding cake dessert…one has limits, afterall!
I wish I could say I enjoyed the film as much as the food: I really wanted to like Us, since Get Out was one of my favorite films last year – creepy, funny, thought-provoking and disturbing all at once (and I’ll watch anything Catherine Keener does, since seeing her debut in 1991’s Johnny Suede.) But alas, Jordan Peele’s sophomore effort felt just that: a bit sophomoric. Although based on an interesting idea (something about the haves and have-nots of America, and how one influences and controls the other…or something,) the concept was too muddled to capture my imagination, and wrapped up too neatly to satisfy my need for ambiguity. It was all just very bloody and very confusing. Peele’s stated goal was to create a classic horror film, starring a black family in danger, and he did just that, but despite the great cast, who all acted their hearts out, I need more than buckets of blood and gore to sustain my interest. I look forward to his next film.
Thoughts? Opposing views? Did I miss something? I welcome your comments.
Until next time,