Film Essent Archive for August, 2009

One Love

What did my fingers do before they held him?
What did my heart do, with its love?
I have never seen a thing so clear.
His lids are like the lilac-flower
And soft as a moth, his breath.
I shall not let go.
There is no guile or warp in him. May he keep so.

–Sylvia Plath, “Three Women”
In Sylvia Plath’s poem “Three Women,” the poet wrote about labor and birth from three perspectives: a woman who loves and wants her baby; a woman who has a stillbirth, and a woman who has a child she doesn’t want and gives up for adoption. It’s one of my favorite of Plath’s works, because it’s so very perceptive in exploring each woman’s experience with childbirth.
I can’t say whether D.J. Matrundola’s short film One Love was influenced by Plath’s poem, but it does follow a similar structure as it follows four women through life-changing events, very loosely weaving their stories together: an excited couple, soon to be parents, captures their life-changing moments on a camcorder; a man helps a troubled woman who goes into labor in a bar, and gets more than he bargained for; an expectant couple deals with loss; and a couple arriving at the hospital to pick up their adopted infant finds that fate has a spin in store for them.
It would be easy for this material to cross the line into Lifetime Movie of the Week territory, but Matrundola explores each story without exploiting, keeping the melodrama reined in as the stories and emotions intersect. This is a 14-minute short, not a feature, which doesn’t allow Matrundola much time to explore the individual stories, and yet the film is well-structured enough that it almost doesn’t matter. He’s telling a story with poetry instead of prose here, and while I’d like to see an expanded feature-length version of the film to see where he might go with it, it’s very good as it is.
You can see the trailer for One Love here; it premieres September 10 in Montreal, and has been submitted to some fests, so keep an eye out for it at a festival near you.

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The Lovely Bones: Too Lovely?

Over on the Guardian’s Film Blog, they’re asking the question “does the trailer for Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones seem a touch too lovely?” The issue being raised seems to be whether Peter Jackson’s take on the afterlife in which the murdered teen Susie Salmon finds herself looks too pretty for the grim subject matter.
The folks who’ve commented on the post thus far clearly liked Alice Sebold’s book on which the film is based much less than I did. I’ve been looking forward to this movie forever, and I love the look of the trailer. Saiorse Ronan (Atonement) who plays Susie, seems to be spot-on perfect for this part, and from what we see of the afterlife part of the film, I think it looks great.
The Guardian post notes, “Furthermore the spectacular depiction of Susie’s limbo existence takes the movie into a fantasy realm reminiscent of the work of Terry Gilliam, although the suggestion that a terrible death can lead to a place of wonder and joy is itself at the very least potentially facile, at worst, repugnant.”
Uh, what? Why would it be facile, or worse, repugnant, to depict the afterlife of a murdered girl as a place of wonder and joy? Does the author of the piece feel that if a person dies by being horribly murdered, wherever their soul goes to beyond this life must necessarily be some grim, horrific place? That a 14-year-old girl who’s brutally murdered must be condemned to some torturous afterlife to further prolong the ugliness of what happened to her? Wouldn’t depicting Susie’s afterlife in that way be even MORE repugnant? I’m just saying.

Watch the trailer yourself
and see what you think.

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Hiatus

I’m taking a brief hiatus for a couple weeks to take care of some family stuff with my dad. I’ll be back in late August.

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“I suddenly couldn’t say anything about some of the movies. They were just so terrible, and I’d already written about so many terrible movies. I love writing about movies when I can discover something in them – when I can get something out of them that I can share with people. The week I quit, I hadn’t planned on it. But I wrote up a couple of movies, and I read what I’d written, and it was just incredibly depressing. I thought, I’ve got nothing to share from this. One of them was of that movie with Woody Allen and Bette Midler, Scenes From a Mall. I couldn’t write another bad review of Bette Midler. I thought she was so brilliant, and when I saw her in that terrible production of ‘Gypsy’ on television, my heart sank. And I’d already panned her in Beaches. How can you go on panning people in picture after picture when you know they were great just a few years before? You have so much emotional investment in praising people that when you have to pan the same people a few years later, it tears your spirits apart.”
~ Pauline Kael On Quitting

“My father was a Jerome. My daughter’s middle name is Jerome. But my most vexing and vexed relationship with a Jerome was with Jerome Levitch, the subject of my first book under his stage and screen name, Jerry Lewis.

I have a lot of strong and complex feelings about the man, who passed away today in Las Vegas at age 91. Suffice to say he was a brilliant talent, an immense humanitarian, a difficult boss/interview, and a quixotic sort of genius, as often inspired as insipid, as often tender as caustic.

I wrote all about it in my 1996 book, “King of Comedy,” which is available on Kindle. With all due humility, it’s kinda definitive — the good and the bad — even though it’s two decades old. My favorite review, and one I begged St. Martin’s (unsuccessfully) to put on the paperback jacket, came from “Screw” magazine, which called it “A remarkably fair portrait of a great American asshole.”

Jerry and I met twice while I was working on the book and spoke/wrote to each other perhaps a dozen times. Like many of his relationships with the press and his partners/subordinates, it ended badly, with Jerry hollering profanities at me in the cabin of his yacht in San Diego. I wrote about it in the epilogue to my book, and over the years I’ve had the scene quoted back to me by Steve Martin, Harry Shearer, Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette. Tom Hanks once told me that he had a dinner with Paul Reiser and Martin Short at which Short spent the night imitating Jerry throwing me off the boat.

Jerry was a lot of things: father, husband, chum, businessman, philanthropist, artist, innovator, clown, tyrant. He was at various times in his life the highest-ever-paid performer on TV, in movies, and on Broadway. He raised BILLIONS for charity, invented filmmaking techniques, made perhaps a dozen classic comedies, turned in a terrific dramatic performance in Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy,” and left the world altered and even enhanced with his time and his work in it.

That’s an estimable achievement and one worth pausing to commemorate.

#RIP to Le Roi du Crazy

~ Biographer Shawn Levy on Jerry Lewis on Facebook