YO! ARMCHAIR FILM CRITIC SPEAKS
Went to see Sideways last night and once again YT is baffled to find something that the Whole Entire World seems to think of as Fantastic, just this side of lukewarm. Somehow [God only knows how – could it have anything to do with Hollywood Marketing?] I had been led to believe that Sideways was one of those movies that just picks you up and hurls you into movie magic before gently winding you down and depositing in your seat once more. But, alas, YT remained firmly planted in her seat the whole entire time. Absolutely underwhelmed. Thinking this was a nice little movie, but certainly very undeserving of an Academy Awards nomination as Best Picture.
Now, true to our mission to see as many of the Hollywood hype films on right now as possible, tonight EPI and I went to see The Aviator. Yah… well, I liked it a lot more than Sideways, although I thought it could have been a bit tighter. It seemed to want to play out too many threads. BUT: it was enjoyable and the acting was superb, particularly Leo DiCaprio and Cate Blanchett, who is definitely one of my very favourite actresses. I swear, the woman is incapable of delivering a bad performance! And should most definitely have got the Oscar for Elizabeth, instead of insipid old Gwyn Paltrow for Shakespeare in Love. Pah!
MEANWHILE, JUST UNDER A WEEK AGO…
YT had one of her most remarkable movie experiences in a long time. Quite unexpectedly I found myself sitting in a special preview theatre at the UK head office of 20th Century Fox, in London’s Soho Square. The purpose of which was to [pre]view a film called Der Untergang [Downfall], about the last twelve days of the Third Reich, ending with Hitler’s suicide in his underground bunker.
I hardly know how to describe the encounter – which was more akin to a head-on collision – with this film. It was gut-wrenching, absolutely brutal in its dissection of what went on in Hitler’s innermost circle just as the Russian troops closed in on Berlin. It was all guts and blood and insanity, people killing themselves and each other every few minutes, and it was most definitely the most intimate psychological study of Hitler himself ever portrayed onscreen. Which is precisely why it has caused such an uproar in Germany – because Hitler is portrayed as a human being – an insane human being, a very sick human being, but a human being all the same, who had gentle sides to him, who was capable of kindness. The film put everything under the microscope and it did not flinch.
About halfway through, realizing that my hands had not left my face for about half an hour and I had virtually stopped breathing, it hit me how massively meaningful it was that this film was actually a German production. Having spent five years of my life in Germany and participated in German life and society, I know how excruciating it is for them to look at that part of their history with such brutal honesty. Without averting their eyes or reverting to the various forms of denial that, sadly, still operates on a national scale even to this day. It hit me what a dagger this film must be, driven deeply into the very heart of the nation. And then twisted.
I came out of that film feeling like I’d been clobbered across the head. And it was a good feeling. Because it was real.
AND NOW FOR A LITTLE WEATHER
It’s insane out there right now. A major storm with heavy precipitation – sheets of diagonal driving rain and so much wind that you can hardly stand up. The moment they opened the exits at the movie theatre the wind just came roaring in and as soon as we stepped outside we were wind-whipped and lashed with rain. Someone just ran screaming past my window in an effort to get inside as quickly as possible. Dramatic! Temps are currently 4°C [that’s 39.2°F]. The sun came up at 9.52 and went down at 17.36.
“Nowhere in the world does history weigh as heavily, as palpably, upon ordinary people as in Germany.Sixty years after the end of WW11 the disaster of Nazism is still unmistakably and inescapably inscribed upon almost every town and cityscape,in whichever direction you look.”
Not my words unfortunately but those of Theodore Dalrymple in “City Journal”. I just read this on Denis Duttons “Arts and Letters Daily” so it was so fascinating to read of your experience.
Alda, I am SO WITH YOU on Sideways. UGH!!!
Louise: Wow! That quote gave me the chills, it is so absolutely true. I was so aware of this fact the entire time I lived in Germany – it seemed that history, shame, guilt, lived on in every single person, manifesting in myriad ways. For me, as an outsider, it was both fascinating and chilling.
It has been ages since I last went to the movies. We usually wait until the DVD comes out. Sideways, I’ve heard of but couldn’t tell you what on earth it’s about, in fact I don’t think I’ve even seen an ad for it. Aviator on the other hand has been marketed to the max.
Your description of yourself watching the German film sounds just like how I felt watching Fahrenheit 911, except that you thought it was ‘a good thing’ to be whacked over the head in that way. I am much more cowardly and came out of there thinking ‘I wish I didn’t have to know all that’. I know I am an ostrich, but I just can’t function normally if I’m weighed down by too much ‘harsh reality’. My partner is disgusted by my attitude – do other people agree with him, I wonder?
I recently finished reading ‘Stalin’ by Simon Sebag-Montefiore.
That too was a stark reminder of how low ‘Humanity’ can go.
Alda – I too often find myself unmoved by films which are supposed to change my life (or similar!).
That’s one of the reasons I like to see independent and low budget films (usually foreign) – at least I’m going in there with an open mind, because *no-one’s* talking about them!