08 January 2010

Lorna's Silence / Anvil / Sunshine Cleaning / Gomorrah

It's true, I watched another four movies last night. There's something really satisfying about looking up from your movie to see the sun is rising and the falling snow is being lit by a soft, blue morning.

We started off with Lorna's Silence, oddly enough the first movie I've seen by the Dardenne brothers. Somehow I never got around to seeing Rosetta despite that it sounded up my alley. The story is basically that this Albanian woman is in a sham marriage to a Belgian junkie so she can gain citizenship, get rid of the junkie, and marry a Russian crime boss so he can gain citizenship and use the money she earns to open a snackbar with her boyfriend. She starts to have second thoughts when the junkie husband cleans up his act and she wants to get a divorce instead of killing the guy but the shady guy brokering the deal is not so keen on that idea. Hilarity ensues, as it were. It's a really engaging and beautifully shot film. I like the way it leaves the most dramatic episodes of the story out of the film so it doesn't ever feel like you're being distracted with fireworks or anything. The reviews I read suggested that the film is about the position of real people in international commerce. The effect currency has on people and what they'll do to get it. That actually seems to be a big theme for a lot of the movies I've been watching lately. I've also been reading Uncle Tom's Cabin and I guess I've been seeing everything through that lens, where people are trapped in their ugly situations and what choices they make when they don't really have any real and viable choices to choose. I sort of liked the ending, perhaps, which is kind of ambiguous and not quite literal but it didn't really gel for me. The only thing that didn't seem to make sense in the story was why the crime boss didn't just marry a Belgian woman: a junkie, perhaps. Perhaps I'll have the opportunity to watch it again some time. B+

Then, I fell prey to the hype surrounded by Anvil: The Story of Anvil. My boyfriend liked it. He said I'm too cynical. I'm not sure if he was teasing or not. I thought the movie was kind of sad and silly at the same time. Perhaps I'm too arrogant for these people. Maybe they're too much like the people I grew up around to have the same kind of trailer park tourist appeal that they must have for many of these professional film critics. It's hard to say right now but it probably warrants further consideration. The movie is about some heavy metal band from Canada who purportedly did what they did before Metallica and Megadeth did it. I grew up surrounded by white trash heavy metalloids and I can't say I've ever managed to nostalgize that scene. I admit to feeling some kind of pity for these people, who mostly seemed detached from reality and kind of ridiculous but I also thought they were annoying, unlikable people who belonged on one of those self-help type reality shows. It was interesting though, perhaps in a kind of emotional pornography way, though it was also interesting to watch the behind the scenes reality on their tours. The making of the album was sort of interesting but I could have done with less petty squabbling. It made me think of those people who attach themselves to a certain mythology and then live entirely in the tropes and the cliches of their myths. I kept feeling that each episode in the story started out interesting but overstayed its welcome. C-

Sunshine Cleaning was something I thought looked promising but stayed away from because of tepid reviews from friends as well as from critics. As I sort of expected, I kind of liked it. I mean, it's the kind of movie that 3.5 on a scale of 5 was made for but in this case that's kind of a good thing. I enjoyed it and would watch it again. Basically, Amy Adams and her sister Emily Blunt are a couple of beautiful women with working class troubles. Amy works as a maid and her son is more or less kicked out of school so she needs to find time inbetween cleaning houses and boffing her high school sweetheart Steve Zahn, a married cop, to make a way to get her son into a private school of some sort. Emily, on the other hand, is a deadbeat who gets fired from her job as a waitress in a cheap restaurant. Add an eccentric patriarch and some issues surrounding the departed mother and the pieces are in place. The cop hooks them up with these lucrative jobs cleaning up crime scenes and things and it's engaging and sweet and intermittently funny, if also intermittently annoying. A pleasant surprise, since I hadn't paid attention to the opening credits, was the appearance of Mary Lynn Rajskub as a sapphic phlebotomist. Me likey. I always think the sudden appearance of Mary Lynn Rajskub is a jolt of 'good' in any film. There were really only two things that bothered me about the movie, Alan Arkin and an explosive sort of deus ex machina that propels the story forward. I guess Alan Arkin seemed too Little Miss Sunshine and his zaniness was tiresome to me. The event that mixes everything up seemed dishonest and silly. Nonetheless, I felt like it was a really winning film. I liked some of the emotional/psychological bits and I thought the ladies turned in good performances. B/B-

After Sunshine Cleaning, I felt like something serious and foreign and although I was in the mood for something more lyrical I decided it was high time to get around to watching Gomorrah, which, it turns out, was kind of lyrical, just like what review I read before watching it said it was. It really is a well-made film and it has this sort of epic quality to it where the characters seem to represent the everyday people who live those sorts of lives. There are multiple characters and story lines that mostly revolve around this certain housing project in what I believe is Naples. There's a mafia war going on between two warring factions. There's a high body count. Narcotics trafficking. Loan sharking. Extortion. Illegal disposal of toxic waste. Rigging the textile industry in the world of haute couture. The film definitely wants you to believe that everything it shows you is true and representative. It also has that theme I was talking about with Lorna's Silence where you have these people living in impossible situations with no good choices, the daily reality of millions of people I think. Like so many films a friend of mine might disdainfully refer to as ghetto safari films, I really think it's about what people do when the closest thing you have to a noble goal is making sure you're not the next to fall beneath the wheel. A/A-

1 comment:

  1. You started off with the weakest Dardenne brothers film, so the only way to go from Lorna's Silence is up. Rosetta, L'enfant and Le fils are all absolutely phenomenal. La promesse is good too but not as much as the other three.