Tag Archives: marriage

LADY MACBETH

LADY MACBETH

USA
Director: William Oldroyd
Runtime: 90 minutes
Language: English

Mostlyindies’ grading:

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Disregard the tight, binding corsets and the crinolines, the gloomy Victorian setting that echoes the works of the Bronte sisters and Thomas Hardy. William Oldroyd’s minimal story of a woman’s climb to dominance is as old as the ages,and as new as anything coming out of the sexual revolution and Women’s Lib. Inspired on the character created by William Shakespeare and based on the novella Lady Macbeth of Miensk District, Lady Macbeth tells the story of Katherine (Florence Pugh), a young woman who has been bought into marriage to a ill-tempered asshole of a man, Alexander Lester (Paul Hilton). Lester takes her to reside at his father’s estate, where from the word go, they make it known she will have no more presence than a mute wife, keeping house, and nothing more. The first night she spends at the Lester house is as chilling as anything, and ends with a note of uncertainty, and the following scene, where she sits in dead silence, staring at nothing, awaiting Lester’s and Boris’ arrival, is as tense and uncomfortable as anything that comes later.

When Boris and Lester leave the estate to take care of some business, Katherine is left on her own in the house. and stumbles onto a scene in a barn. Several men, workers, are having a little sexual fun with some of the maids. One of the men, Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis) catches her attention, and she makes a point to get close to him. It’s clear there is an attraction between the two, and it doesn’t take long for Sebastian to make his way into her room in a scene that starts as an invasion of privacy teetering on rape and ends with her taking charge in the long run, having him over, seeing him every chance she gets. Anna, the maid she saw in a tryst with Sebastian, disapproves, and takes matters into her own hands to notify the priest of what is happening. Her actions eventually reach Lester and Boris, who returns to the house and confronts Katherine. What happens next is something I won’t say, because it is contingent to the transformation that Katherine receives as she begins to assert her power and cross the line from proto-feminist to monster.

If there ever was a movie that relied only on a mounting sense of dread to announce in hints of the violence that is to come, it would be Lady Macbeth, a movie filled with moments of silence, glances, and a minimal story line that moves, with deliberate fury, to its horrifying conclusion. Florence Pugh is a lightning bolt, igniting an entire film on her presence alone — in her physicality is the symbol for the triumph of ambition and drive taken to its extremes (and reader, I really do mean extremes). The movie almost always has her in blue, which is a color associated with masculine strength, and this exactly personifies the type of woman she is — one who negates her femininity, her passivity, and goes for the jugular. You might say the movie takes a step too far in the last third, but this is a story named after one of Shakespeare’s darkest female characters, after all. You will not find Austen’s females anywhere here

BAND AID

BAND AID
USA
Director: Zoe Lister-Jones
Runtime: 90 minutes
Language: English

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Ever since Cassavetes and Bergman tackled their versions of marriage on the rocks in their now excellent dramas Faces and Scenes from a Marriage I’ve been waiting for a movie that at least attempts to approximate what it is that can make a marriage work even when it seems that, from the word go, it’s doomed to fail at every turn. Come have come close, some have slightly missed the mark, and that’s okay. In her first feature film, Zoe Lister-Jones (currently seen in Life in Pieces) basically becomes a one-woman show as director, writer, producer, lead actress, and lead musical performer, in a deceptively comic film about a couple caught in a rut  she holds nothing back: Anna (herself) and Ben (the totally gorgeous Adam Pally  who looks more and more like Joaquin Phoenix without the excessive brooding looks) are at each other’s throats over who gets to do the dishes. It’s an every day situation that anyone who’s been involved with another person can relate to: that point where even the slightest tick can set off a firestorm of comments that escalate and turn nasty, usually devolving the entire thing into a litany of “fuck yous” that basically erode away at the glue that would keep a couple together.

But before we get into the story, a a little back story gets thrown in about who these two people are. That’s essential, because that is precisely what shapes the fabric of LIster-Jones’ sharp observation about a couple facing the death of their relationship. Ben has had trouble keeping a job due to his personality and is more than happy to stay home and be “wife”. Anna, on the other hand, is a little more complex than that. Once upon a time she had Book Deal (and I’m not being too on the nose when capitalizing this event in Anna’s life). The Book Deal didn’t fall through; she’s been wallowing in barely suppressed self-pity while observing her other friends lead apparently Successful Lives and making ends meet as an Uber driver.

Somewhere down the line both Anna and Ben come across the revelation that perhaps they could use music to fill the void that their angst as a couple is creating. It’s no secret that most successful bands have used their personal turmoil to create some truly memorable songs,  and while it seems that Anna and Ben register hit some sharp notes while coming up with some songs in the alternative/punk style, just when they’re about to hit it big, Anna seems to be doing this with the expectation of securing some sort of greater compensation — a record deal, perhaps? — and finally make her mark in the world. Other heretofore issues that had been deftly placed in the background suddenly come to the surface, old pains materialize and bleed raw with emotion, and it seems that these ghosts that will not die might take a toll after all on this adorable couple.

I really don’t want to say more about Band Aid — it is that good, and mind you, this is a movie shot with next to no ‘style’, no flair other than a documentary-like feel, a sense of cinema verite perhaps, and Lister-Jones and Pally’s wonderful, electric performances that almost jump off the screen and sit right next to you. If you want to see what an unscripted marriage looks like, with all its ups and downs, moments of hilarity, awkwardness, sudden desire, sudden hatred for each other, hatred stemming out of deep, unresolved pathos, this is the movie to watch and it’s one of the breakouts for this year in my opinion. Watch for Fred Armisen, Brooklyn Decker, Colin Hanks, and Susie Essmann in small, but scene-stealing roles.

Band Aid is currently playing at the IFC in NYC and will be released on VOD platforms June 9th. Go see it.

BETWEEN US

 

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Upon watching Rafael Palacio Ilingworth’s micro-drama Between Us I kept getting snippets here and there of John Cassavetes’ Faces played in a hipster key for today’s younger audience not used to close-ups and long, drawn-out sequences of banter. Indeed, there is a similarity borne perhaps from the need to tell urban stories of marital woes (and I’m not even going to reference Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage, which yell at me or not, is also at the root of this cute little movie). A couple of thirty-somethings, Dianne (Olivia Thirlby) and Henry (Ben Feldman) are starting to go through the aches and pains of being together for six years and wonder why they’re still together. [Reader, if you’re in this situation, chances are, you shouldn’t be, but then you wouldn’t have a movie.] A simple visit to one of these overprices minimalist apartments provides ample room for all their fears to surface up like a wound that was once thought healed. Dianne wants it for practical reasons and plus, the market. Henry fears it’s too cold for his more eclectic style. Me, I just kept thinking what do both of you do to afford something that surely must cost a fortune? But I digress. It’s the jumping off platform to subsequent scenes that display how different they are, how much farther apart they are drifting, and how unwilling either one of is to confront the other. After a nasty fight both seek the company of others; Dianne drifts off to a tentative flirtation with a colleague and winds up with a performance artist (Adam Goldberg) and Henry strikes it up with a student (Analeigh Tipton, a dead ringer for Michelle Williams and probably the brightest note in this movie) who appears as a free spirit straight out of the swinging 60s. Ilingowrth’s Between Us is a bit too loose and casual despite strong performances. Even so, it does deliver the difficult premise of two people who can’t seem to be together but also don’t seem to know when it’s time to call it quits.

[On Amazon Instant Video and other VOD platforms.]

MY LOVE, DON’T CROSS THAT RIVER

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

 

mylove016

The ghost of Yazujiro Ozu fills the observing eye that is director Jin Mo-young’s, capturing the tiniest moment of quotidian domestic activities in this often humorous, but ultimately heartbreaking documentary My Love, Don’t Cross that River. Husband and wife Jo Byong-man and Kang Gye-yeul have been together since she was 14 and he was about 20. They have been through the worst of times together, struggled through poverty, raised six out of twelve children, (some who make brief appearances here for Kang’s birthday, an event that ends in tears, implying some prior, off-screen family dysfunction), and now live alone, in near peaceful solitude, going through simple activities like lovers who just met and are still entranced by each others presence. Watching them play through the snow, splash each other with river water, or exchange chrysanthemums as Jo sings to Kang is moving, indeed. One not need to know the language or even pause to read the subtitles; as a matter of fact, I found myself entranced by the sheer expression of love that these two, who have been together for 75 or 76 years (they can’t quite remember), could express to each other. So, imagine what happens as Jo’s health declines and they go through the loss of one dog (Kiddo, a poodle) and see another one, whom they call Freebie, give birth to seven puppies. It’s a slow, but resigned march to the inevitable, one that Kang knows well. While she says she accepts what has to eventually happen, one cannot be prepared for the sheer outpour of emotion that overwhelms the camera and lingers on — again, much in the style of Ozu — as she begins the process of mourning. This is one of the most devastating “little movies” I’ve seen in a long time. If you see it, have a box of Kleenex handy, and do tell your loved ones how much they are worth to you. If anything, this remarkable documentary is evidence of the power of love (as cliche as it may sound), but also, the frailty of life itself.

LOVE & FRIENDSHIP

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

 

love and friendship

When I first saw the promos for Love & Friendship at the Angelika in March I would have never thought that Jane Austen, the authoress of classic novels like Pride and Prejudice, would also have penned something this delightfully wicked and gleefully sociopathic as Lady Susan, the novella on which Whit Stillman’s new movie is based on. If you can think of the most ridiculous characters in any of her books — many of them gratuitous social climbers of the day — and lumped them together into one cohesive screwball comedy, then you have the resulting movie which I was able to see last Friday.

The story goes as follows: Lady Susan Vernon, the recent widow of Lord Vernon (a character referred to on occasion but never seen as he has passed on) seems to sow trouble wherever she goes. As she doesn’t have a house proper, she’s like a vine, setting root wherever the bricks are naked. It seems she’s started some trouble with the Mannering family and has to leave in a hurry to go to Churchill Estate where her relatives live while the rumors of her own reputation as a flirt and a homewrecker simmer down. She isn’t even with her foot in the door when she’s already set her sights on the much younger and soon to be heir to the estate Reginald deCourcy, a matter that needless to say, preoccupies Sir and Lady deCourcy who clearly disapprove. What Lady Susan doesn’t anticipate is that her daughter Frederica also arrives at Churchill and of course, while she’s at it to find herself a husband to secure her position in society she also tries to find Frederica a match. In comes Sir James Martin, a man who really is an absolute idiot, and Lady Susan decides that’s the man for Frederica (while she’s spinning her web around Reginald, who is smitten with her, a thing not tolerated well by his sister Catherine). Sitting in the wings like a spider is Lady Susan’s good friend Lady Alicia Johnson, herself married to a man “too old to govern and too young to die”, who is as immoral as Lady Susan — they might as well be sisters, they are so alike and literally complete each others’ sentences. As Lady Susan plots, Lady Alicia abets and conceals, people suffer left and right, and we wonder how this entire mess will all end, or will it end well for anyone?

https://youtu.be/KhvyupqNhL8

Interestingly enough, Jane Austen must have liked the character enough and had a sense of humor that her novella didn’t go the way of punishing Lady Susan (or Lady Alicia, for that matter), but had them simply appear to stop communication (at least in the movie — I haven’t read the novella). Whit Stillman’s movie is a bubbling mass of comedic energy held up by pitch-perfect performances by Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny, two actresses I would have never once considered more than “apt” who make the movie their own and then some, as Lady Susan and Lady Alicia, respectively. For its brief running time Love & Friendship whizzes along and it at times becomes almost a game of playing who’s on first with the sheer volume of participants and what one does to the other, but then again, Austen’s characters are well-written creatures who don’t just sit in the background but have something to add to the plot –or shall I say, multi-level plot. I believe it’s a first, however, to have a woman closer to Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair (a novel that wouldn’t hit publication until the mid 19th Century), call the shots here. Either Austen was a visionary or she had some malice within her and decided to have fun for a while, truth of the matter is, this is a story that for the time was ahead of its time. Women — heroines, if one should say so — just didn’t behave in a manner closer to the Marquis de Sade without the attention to pain and sexual depravity. This is closer, much closer, to the epistolary novel by Chorderlos deLaclos, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, where the main character openly and unabashedly manipulates everyone within her reach to achieve her needs. It’s just lighter in tone . . . and less tragic.

VALLEY OF LOVE

Hooked on Film rating:

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Huppert / Depardieu. Two giants coming together for the first time in over 30 years to tell a sad, sad story.
Huppert / Depardieu. Two giants coming together for the first time in over 30 years to tell a sad, sad story.
The first time you see Huppert, it’s from behind, walking down a sidewalk towards some destination. She’s wearing a light summer dress and pulling on a carry-on in what reveals itself to be a desert resort. Her entire body language shrieks disapproval, malcontent. Later on, we see her fumble to get a connection on her phone, barely even trying to establish any conversation with the American guests who approach her, and even disapproving of the food [“They call this a soup?” she snarls at a can of dried ramen.] She’s clearly not happy to come here. Soon, we’ll know why.

When we first see Depardieu, your heart breaks in two, and I’ll tell you why. This is the man of great physical stature, boyish face with unusual looks who brought enormous presence to his films with just an entrance. Not that he doesn’t do so here, but when you see just how much he’s aged and gained weight, you’ll see how shocking it is, that he’s almost shuffling his entire upper body, completely disproportionate to his lower body,  to  meet Huppert (not that she’s too happy to see him). Age is an unforgiving curse, and while Huppert only demonstrates a slight aging of her neck, her skin is a map of freckles, and her limbs are now those of a frail woman.

Even so, there is love between these two, who play versions of themselves. Following a simple plot heavy on dialogue that could have been written by Marguerite Duras at her most cathartic, Guillaume Nicloux directs these two French giants to perfection, having them reveal only what we need to know, in bits and pieces, scene after scene, a timed release of what lies beneath. This isn’t an ordinary meeting of a former man and wife. This is something completely different, and once elements of surrealism reminiscent of an Antonioni film film sets in, one is no longer sure what is true, what is false, and where is this going.

Gullaume Nicloux, who also experimented between reality and fiction with his 2013 movie The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq, sits back and grants both actors ample ground to inhabit their roles and brings only a truly eye dropping cinematography to enhance scenes fraught with tension, stillness, and the vastness of the desert into play. It’s a gamble that pays off: both Depardieu and Huppert completely complement each other without risking parodying themselves. She emotes in high and low notes, going into nervous tangents that can barely contain her rage and disappointment and sheer hatred for the place she’s in. 

Depardieu, on the other hand, is quieter. He let’s her have her cake and eat it, and reveals but very gradually, a softer, more caring man underneath his gruff appearance.  Nicloux directs him ever so subtly for comic perfection when an American asks him for his autograph, having recognized him, Gerard Depardieu, from other movies, and Depardieu signs “Bob de Niro” before shuffling off back to Huppert. Later on, one sees his stoic pathos while reading the letter that has reconnected him with Isabelle, and then the beginnings of fear while encountering a strange girl who seems to know more than she reveals. 

What does come clear is that both of them have deep regrets and unresolved wounds involving the writer of the letter and I don’t wish to disclose too much because with these movies it’s best to come in with a naked mind. Both characters will have some unexpected emotional peaks that will leave them shaken. The crux of the action is, can they survive it.

Valley of Love works as a variation of the stations of the cross, with its two leads revisiting the past while they veer closer to a significant revelation that will redeem or destroy them. It’s a devastating story of loss and the acknowledgement that this loss runs deeper than they can tolerate. Some missteps involving Americans most likely serve as a reminder of how intrusive we can be as a whole but other than that, this is a tragedy that unfolds in stages, and extends itself to the edges of the desert.