Monday, August 12, 2013

Three for three (or four)

Some pretty decent movies over the past week or so. At the Windsor Internationl Film Festival (WIFF’s) monthly summer series it was Blood Pressure by Winnipeg director Sean Garrity. This is a taut psychological drama about an early middle aged woman Nicole (Michelle Giroux), left, who is being lured into a romantic relationship by an unseen admirer who leaves the most enticing letters and elaborate leads to track him down. The film plays with the idea of suburban married ennui but throws a curve at the end. What was more interesting was that there was no real script to the movie, as Garrity, who was present, told the audience. That, and the use of colour to signify mood, made the movie that much more impressive.
Meanwhile, on Friday I caught my much-anticipated Museum Hours, and it didn’t fail. Director Jem Cohen’s meditation on art and life through the characters of a museum guard Johann (Bobby Sommer) at Vienna’s Kunst Historiches museum and a Canadian tourist Anne (Mary Margaret O’Hara). It’s Anne’s first visit to the gilded Austrian city and she is there only to visit a cousin in hospital. She’s otherwise lost in the city of Strauss and Freud. Johann, whom she meets a few times on museum visits, offers to be her impromptu tour guide. There is nothing romantic between the characters and the story plays out very realistically. Cohen, whose oeuvre has been the focus of small urban landscapes and art films, here creates a feature juxtaposing real life and art as depicted by the various paintings and sculptures of the museum, with special emphasis on the great medieval Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel and his extraordinarily detailed depictions of everyday life.  The museum has one room devoted solely to his paintings. The wintry scenes of today’s Vienna, from railway yards to slums to opulent neighbourhoods, seem to be today’s equivalent, the filmmaker suggests.
Out of boredom one Saturday night recently I decided to turn on TV Ontario to check if the public network still featured Saturday Night at the Movies, the old show originally hosted by grandfatherly Elwy Yost, sadly now deceased. It does! And there were two films featuring the same director, Nicole Holofcener. The first, Please Give (2010) features a Yuppie Manhattan couple Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt (born in Windsor!) whose work and life develop into a morality play about their relationship to others who might not be so well off……The second movie, Friends with Money (2006), stars Jennifer Aniston of all people, Keener again, Frances McDormand, and Joan Cusack. Three well-to do L.A. couples are concerned about their single friend Olivia (Aniston) who has taken up a job as a house maid. But my discovery was British actor Simon McBurney (Aaron) who was fascinating to watch and has had a great career in film and as founder of an avant garde theatre in Britain…..By the way, current TVO host Thom Ernst does a credible job introducing the films.

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