Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Three films on a fine spring day

A triple bill for a Saturday in mid-April at Landmark’s Main Art theatre..…....First up, Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young. A moderate fan of this Gen X director (I loved 2005’s The Squid and the Whale and 2012’s Frances Ha) While We’re Young is a convoluted treatise on early middle age. I had to laugh that the couple whose supposedly humdrum lives are the focus of attention - Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) - felt they were growing ancient at the hardly skin cracking ages of 43 and 44, though I must admit that Stiller actually does seem to be physically aging quickly. And perhaps it’s my age - almost 20 years ahead of them - that makes me smile at the fact they thought there were getting old. Josh even cries, “I’m an old man!” Moreover, this couple’s vacuous lives looked not all that different from the millennial couple they befriend, Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried). Both couples had that grungy hipster vibe if perhaps the older one lacked the edgy frisson of the younger. And what was with the movie’s repeated references to child-bearing? Hard to believe Baumbach would succumb to such a conventional antidote to ennui.  As for the acting, stilted throughout. And we hardly crack a smile watching normally jokester Ben who here is all serious and angst-ridden.….....Next up was Argentinian director Damián Szifrón’s Wild Tales, six shorts running altogether just over two hours. All were on the theme of revenge. And uncannily two were akin to headlines over the past month. The first, Pasternak, tells the story of an airline pilot who crashes his jet and kills all aboard. Germanwings flight 9525, anybody? Then there was Bombita, a tale of an average guy whose car is towed from a perfectly legitimate parking space. What happened last week in the news? ESPN’s Britt McHenry was captured on a security camera that went viral of her haranguing - insultingly demeaning - a towing company employee over just such an incident, though she might have had less grounds for complaint than our film’s hero. There was Las Ratas, about taking revenge with, yes, rat poison. In El más fuerte (The Strongest) two men engulfed by road rage fight it out on a remote Argentinian highway. La Propuesta (The Proposal), the most emotionally taut of all, tells of hit-and-run anguish and the payoff to cover moral guilt. The best of the six was Until Death Do Us Part (picture above), about a bride betrayed and a wedding party to end all wedding parties. If all this sounds super heavy it’s not. Each film to varying degrees has elements of black humor, some a laugh riot………Finally, the filmed in Detroit horror story It Follows (David Robert Mitchell). I have no interest in horror but went to this because of its Detroit setting, decent reviews and a bit of possibly hipster edginess. And like virtually every other horror film I’ve seen in the past 20 years the best it could do was startle me a couple of times. Mitchell would have been more effective if he’d nixed the scenes of following bodies, leaving the frightened characters’ imaginations - and thus ours - to do the work of conjuring bad spirits. 

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