Category: Film


There are Words (Shakespeare, Marlowe, Faulkner, Hemingway), and there are words (teen texts, teen phone talk). Similarly there are Pictures (Picasso, Rembrandt, Monet, Renoir) and there are pictures (snapshots on Facebook). An educated person should know the difference, that’s what teachers are for.


Those of us who ever wondered what life brought to L’AUBERGE ESPAGNOLE’s characters Xavier (Romain Duris), Wendy (Kelly Reilly), Martine (Audrey Tautou) and Isabelle (Cecile De France) are in for a great treat. There is a third part to this story, which director Cedric Klapisch is eager to tell.


If you’ve been keeping up with the tsunami of books, articles and movies about America’s onward rush to obesity and diabetes, you won’t find anything new in Stephanie Soechtig’s documentary. (Soechtig’s previous feature, TAPPED, deals with America’s love of bottled water.) Nonetheless, FED UP deserves accolades for the stunning graphics (you’ll see labels stating 25g of sugar converted instantly to percentage of sugar in the total package, for example), for its pace, which is faster than that of a Japanese bullet train heading from Tokyo to Kyoto, and for its relative absence of mind-numbing one-on-one talking-heads interviews. The message is clear: Americans are eating wrong and, in fact, look all over the world at countries as diverse as Saudi Arabia and Denmark, and you’ll find that we’re all facing an epidemic of obesity. More people are malnourished because of plenty than because of starvation.


The kids I taught in high school for thirty-two years and the youths featured in Gia Coppola’s PALO ALTO are poles apart in social class. My charges have been mostly inner city, young people who in many cases have not had male role models in their homes. In PALO ALTO the teens have dads but they’re emotionally absent. In one case, a mother neglects her daughter in favor of setting up engagements on her cell phone while the man of the house is zonked out on weed and who knows what other drugs. These Northern California young people have been indulged by their parents, driving their own cars and throwing wild parties in which the elders are absent. What adults are around to file complaints when their daughters are (statutorily) raped by others their own age or, in one case, by a man who looks in his mid-thirties?


In her book “Quiet,” author Susan Cain argues that introverts prefer listening to speaking; that they innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; and that they favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts—Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, and Steve Wozniak—which we owe many of the great contributions to society. This may be true, but ask around and you’ll find people believe that extroverts have more fun. Who wants to be Chopin when you can be Donald Trump? And if you don’t believe that introverts can be miserable, join the special audience for Richard Ayoade’s THE DOUBLE, a movie even more quirky than his SUBMARINE, which was about a fifteen-year-old who has the hots for a pyromaniac and who forges letters from his mom to his dad.


After taking American History, every high school kid should be able to tell you what caused the American War for Independence: middle-class rebellions against taxation like the Stamp Act and the Hat Act, all passed by the British Parliament without representation by voters in the Thirteen Colonies. At the same time, one wonders how many college graduates can discuss changes, yes even a social revolution, that occurred within Britain at about the time the Mother Country was no longer the Mother Country. A great advantage of historical fiction is that its creators can reproduce not simply the dry, scholarly facts about societal changes but can convey the Zeitgeist—the spirit of the times in which the actions take place. “Johnny Tremain,” for example, is on Middle School readings lists, a fictionalized look at the American Revolution. BELLE should be on the movie list of every youngster even in elementary school (it is that rare film for adults rated PG) as this film, perhaps more than any other recent one, conveys the tumultuous times within Britain even as that country begins scaling down the places in Empire in which the sun still never set.


Another of the films I caught up with during a free cable promotion was Woody Allen’s TO ROME WITH LOVE. It wasn’t letterboxed. For some reason none of Woody Allen’s films are shown, even on premium cable, letterboxed. In this day and age this has to be deliberate. His early, funny films are shown in letterbox, but after a certain period they’re not. Is he afraid that someone will own a letterboxed copy of his films without some of the money finding its way into chez Allen? I don’t know, but I thought this picture was from a decade or so ago and was surprised to find it was as recent as 2012. Gone are the days when I used to go to a theater on the Upper East Side on opening day, so anxious was I to get my Woody Allen fix. Now they seem to regularly float past me. The screenings get ever more eccentric and difficult to book. I think SWEET AND LOWDOWN was the last Woody Allen screening I attended.


“I now have a soul. I feel reborn.” How often do you hear that from folks with whom you’ve traveled to foreign lands? Possibly never. But if you’re a traveler, and not a tourist, your life can be changed forever by what you experience when you get deeply into the people of a land that might seem like another planet. So move over, Paul Theroux; Kristen Kenney may not quite equal your version of traveling, which has included such luxuries as riding seventeen hours straight with goats and chickens on a rickety road, but few people have come as close to Kristen to the Theroux-vian spirit.


Don’t look for much of the color blue in this gothic melodrama: the term “blue ruin” means “desolation,” or “utter despondency.” Such is the manner of the movie’s principal character, Dwight (Macon Blair), who is a wreck from the first time we see him until the story’s logical conclusion. In one scene he tells his sister, Sam (Amy Hargreaves), that he’s not used to talking, and we in the audience believe him. He mumbles, he’s phlegmatic; he’s mysterious and self-destructive. At the same time he is bent on revenge and believes that he will be protecting his sister if only he can kill the fellow who liquidated his parents seemingly for having an affair with the murderer’s mother.


You don’t need to see this film to know that old age is, indeed, what it’s cracked up to be. For some, it’s a time to enjoy retirement, to do what you want for ten, twenty, thirty years. Even if you don’t have the money, nobody can take away your memories. Hopefully memories of your earlier self are not full of resentment but is instead about happy times, about the loves that crossed your path.