#339- Taste of Cherry

Quick recap: A man drives around town, looking for someone to make sure he carries out his job of committing suicide.

I can’t understate the amount of driving in this film.

Fun (?) fact: The director shot each character separately in the car. First he would film the passenger and then the driver.

still more driving

My thoughts: Honestly, I’m having the worst time trying what to say about this film. Would I recommend to others?No. Does it at least redeem itself somehow with music, good acting or a beautiful scenery? Also no. But still, this movie resonated with me in a way I wasn’t expecting. I’ve found myself drifting back to various scenes throughout my day and wondering if I’m just reading too much into something. I probably am. Scratch that. I definitely am. But that’s how film works, sometimes. So for that reason, I’ll attempt to give an honest run down of my thoughts and hold off on the sarcasm you have come to know and love. Shit’s about to get real, yo.

Let’s just get this out of the way first: I get that Taste of Cherry is boring. And not just boring, mind numbingly boring. A man drives around and picks up various passengers and then begs them to help bury him once he commits suicide. It goes about the way you would expect it to. One man runs out of the truck in fear, another admonishes the man for entertaining the thought of such a sin and the third man tries to talk him out of it. And at the end, the man lays down into the hole he dug for himself and watches a storm gather over head. It is never resolved whether or not he goes through with it. It wasn’t until I had finished the movie and started reading trivia that it dawned on me why I felt so uncomfortable throughout the whole thing: It’s because this is my life most days. With depression, my number one feeling most of the time is one of isolation. It doesn’t matter how many people I talk to or text with, I still feel alone. As mentioned before, the director chose to film conversations separately and the result is a disjointed dialogue I am all too familiar with. The main character desperately needs help but it’s as if he isn’t being understood, as if he is operating on a different level. I try not to dwell too much on unhappiness but seeing these scenes played out like they were, made me come to terms with feelings I’ve never been able to put into words until now.

The last scene is the most jarring for me. As the man lays down in his hole, the screen fades to black. The next scene is somewhat blurry and out of focus, as if someone was filming on a hand held camera. The main character is standing in a field, smoking a cigarette. He walks over to some men carrying cameras and they joke about something. Everyone is smiling. In the distance, on a beautiful green hill sit a group of soldiers. They are waiting for their part and take the time to talk to each other and laugh. I found out later the director wanted a different ending but the shots were destroyed and so he just threw in a ‘behind the scenes’ shot. But for me, this was the perfect ending. I grapple everyday with perspective and spend most of my time trying to convince myself that what I think probably isn’t true. The whole movie is set in what looks to be a desert but in reality, it was a lush green field. The main character was lonely and on the brink of suicide and left to beg for companionship when the reality was that the actor was very much loved. Like the title, A Taste of Cherry, there is always the hope that there is something out there to live for, something to cling to. And maybe reality isn’t as dark as one makes it out to be.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: The Wrestler

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#338-Heat

Quick recap: A group of robbers feel the HEAT from the police while the police feel the HEAT from the robbers. Bystanders feel the HEAT from the massive shootout. I felt the HEAT from Val Kilmer’s long luxurious locks.

It’s possible to be underdressed but never overdressed. Even to a shootout.

Fun (?)fact: Actor Kevin Gage, who plays Waingro in the film was imprisoned in real life for a couple of years. Naturally, all the inmates referred to him as ‘Waingro’.

Honestly, the best part of the movie.

My thoughts: I was told by a friend that I had to be in the ‘right mood’ to enjoy this film, so I waited until a Saturday night when I was in the mood for lots of murder. Unfortunately, maybe I misread my own signals because I just didn’t fall in love with Heat like I thought I would.

All the ingredients are there: a stellar cast, top notch directing, a fast moving plot. Really, I can’t think of anything else I would want more in a movie. And yet, I just didn’t really care for it. At a basic level, I failed to care about any of the characters, so when one of them evaded police or when the police got closer to catching the bad guys, I remained meh. I thoroughly enjoyed Al Pacino’s performance as Vincent Hanna but just couldn’t bring myself to really care about his character. I felt like Robert De Niro as Neil had much more depth, but if we are being honest here, the goatee really bothered me. Something about it just screamed ,’this is the 90s and don’t you forget it!’ and I didn’t. Even the music was so 90s- a cross between every heist movie from that time period and the kind of music you would find on Showtime at 2 in the morning back then.

To take a bit of the blame here, I spent way more time trying to figure out what the con was, rather than focus on the relationships. At its heart, this is what makes Heat so powerful. No just the symbiotic relationship between Neil and Vincent, but all the relationships between the characters. One scene in particular really drove this home. All of the gang got together at a swanky restaurant and brought their significant others as well as a few children. Neil sat at the head of the table, looking around and feeling sorry for himself that he didn’t have someone special to share the night with. But to go to a deeper point, all of these men were in a dangerous profession and in fact, cops were watching their every move as they dined together. There was this impact point when I realized that every single person at that table was about to have their life ruined in some way. It brought to mind the whole idea of choices and at what point our choices become another person’s destiny. So, to that effect, I totally get this movie and it’s importance. But I still don’t like the goatee.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Taste of Cherry

#337- Jules and Jim

Quick recap: Jules and Jim are best friends living in France and they love to share everything: clothes, experiences and a woman named Catherine.

I can’t choose, but I think I’m mostly Team Jim. But only after he shaves the mustache.

Fun (?) fact: Jeanne Moreau, who played Catherine, went over and above when it came to helping the film succeed. Because of the tiny budget, she used her own car to carry props around and also helped cater some scenes. When her stunt double showed up drunk, she jumped into the river on her own and when money ran out, she financed the rest on her own.

My thoughts: Oh my god, what a whirlwind of a movie. Reading the synopsis on the dvd cover, I expected some sort of buddy romance comedy, like There’s Something About Mary. But a little more high class, because it’s French, you know. What I got instead was the craziest love triangle I can recall seeing and an ending that made me gasp out loud several times. Which I haven’t done since watching The Post (but only I forgot it was around the Watergate Scandal).

Acting was great, scenery top notch, and music was adequate. Now let’s get to the meat of the this movie: The crazy sex triangle. I’ll try to break it down here as simply as I can but really, you need to see this for itself to really understand how absurd it all is.

  1. Jules and Catherine hang out and and eventually become a couple. Jim hangs around and the three do silly things like run around a lot and ride bikes. Jim is nonchalant about Catherine.
  2. Catherine falls into the river because she’s pissed off at Jules (as I have considered many times when being mansplained to). Jim rescues her and falls in love.
  3. World War I begins and the two fight against each other since Jim is a French citizen and Jules is German. Catherine is pregnant with Jules’ baby and they are married.
  4. After the war, Jim visits Jules and finds a sweet family. But Catherine is actually miserable, according to Jules, and she acts out by sleeping with literally everyone. She is currently seeing Albert, who wants to marry her and raise the kid as his own.
  5. Jim’s solution is to throw his hat in the ring and announce his love. Jules is cool with this and will gladly divorce Catherine in order to let her marry Jim. The three live in a weird poly commune and honestly, I’m here for it at this point. Everyone seems happy and I’m surprised something so progressive was shown back in the 60s.
  6. Catherine wants a baby from Jim but no dice. She decides she’s not actually in love with him and the two separate. Jules just exists in a weird cuckhold relationship.
  7. Catherine is pregnant!
  8. Nope. Lost the baby. Jim is over this. Jules enjoys being tortured by Catherine as she continues to sleep with everyone but him.
  9. Catherine keeps getting Jim to try and talk to her but he is so over this. She threatens to shoot him but he grabs the gun and walks away.
  10. Catherine finally gets him to herself. They get in the car to talk and she drives both of them into a river, where they die. I KNOW

So yeah, what an ending. And so much drama I was NOT expecting. Part of me is really pissed off at the treatment of Catherine because she was never asked what she wanted but she was also nuts so maybe this is exactly the way it should’ve gone. Either way, I think Jules got the raw end of the deal because he stayed in love with Catherine throughout all of this. I’m not really sure how there could’ve been a good ending, except for everyone reading ‘The Ethical Slut’ and having a poly board game night. Maybe that would’ve rightfully smoothed things over.

 

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Heat

#336- The Philadelphia Story

Quick recap: Tracy Lord, daughter of one of the richest families in Philadelphia is about to get married for the first time. The only things standing in her way are her ex-husband and a tabloid reporter, who also just so happen to be in love with her. What’s a girl to do?

ok,Katharine, give me the ‘oh, you guys’ look and boys, why don’t you just stand around her and…I don’t know, just point at her scalp. Perfect!

Fun (?) fact: 3 things I learned about James Stewart that endeared him to me even more:

  1. he never expected to win Best Actor for the film and planned on sitting at home instead of attending. A person tipped him off that he should show up anyway in a dress jacket, and he ended up winning.
  2. The Oscar has the word ‘Philadelphia’ misspelled on it
  3. Stewart never felt that he deserved the award, instead saying it was ‘deferred payment for my work on Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’

Of all the James Stewarts in the world, he’s the James Stewartest.

I’m just saying, if there had been a James Stewart/ Cary Grant buddy comedy, maybe the world would’ve been better off

My thoughts: To kick this off, I’d like to first acknowledge the elephant in the room: High Society. I watched it way back in the beginning of this blog and if you care to click the link, you will find that I didn’t enjoy it very much. I still stand by that review, except that now that I know it was just a remake, I kind of wish I could go back and lower my score. Which, I totally could, considering this is my personal project but something something about precedent and high standards and all that.

So, without a doubt, I enjoyed The Philadelphia Story infinitely more than High Society. The main reason being that I didn’t have to sit through all that silly singing. The plot made much more sense this time around although I still classify it as ultimately silly. And I also LOVED the casting her. It makes even less sense to me why Grace Kelly would be chosen for the role Katharine Hepburn was made for. There was so much chemistry here, especially between Hepburn and Grant. Stewart seemed like an odd choice but he totally made it work. Everyone here was just perfect and although I didn’t really laugh much, I enjoyed myself thoroughly.

That being said, this movie is hella problematic. In the very first scene, Dexter is leaving Tracy and as he is about to drive off, she storms out and breaks one of his golf clubs. This sends him into a rage and he comes after her, knocking her to the floor. Thereafter, the incident is referred to almost as a wistful, funny memory most couples have. I spent most of the movie either being disturbed by the lengths Dexter was going to in order to win Tracy back (like giving her a model of their honeymoon boat as a wedding present) or admiring him for his persistence. I still don’t know how I feel about their relationship but at the end when they decide to SPOILER remarry, they seemed genuinely happy and hopefully had both matured since then.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Jules and Jim