#78- The Dead

Quick recap: The story is set in 1904 when a couple of old ladies are throwing a party. The guests all talk about artsy stuff like the opera and who is a good singer and then, after everyone toasts the women on a job well done, everyone leaves. The main couple head to a hotel where the wife reveals she loved a boy before her husband and it’s making her super sad, you guys. In turn, the husband stares out of the window and realizes that he kind of sucks if his wife loves some dead kid more than him. He then says something about everyone dying at some point and then FIN.

how exciting!

how exciting!

Fun (?) fact: One of the first apps I ever downloaded was Solitaire for my iPhone. I’m proud to say that I played my 2000th game during this movie. And by proud, I mean ashamed. And by ashamed, I mean that I really feel no emotion.

on the edge of my seat!

on the edge of my seat!

My thoughts: I don’t think my hopes have ever crashed as hard as when I realized The Dead was not in fact about ghosts, but instead a period drama. Believe me, nothing strikes fear more than ‘period drama’, but I was still hoping that there would at least be some murder or ghostly shenanigans going on. Not in the slightest. In fact, the only drama that occurs in the entire movie happens in the last 7 or so minutes of the film. And that’s only if you consider a woman revealing that she loved someone who later died ‘drama’. Which I don’t, and really, you shouldn’t stoop yourself low enough to consider it either.

I do feel a bit hypocritical harping about how boring this movie is, when I just recently sat through almost 4 hours of a woman cleaning her house. The only action happened at the end of that movie as well, but was much more satisfying. Ever since stopping the practice of reading up on a film before watching it, I could only guess at what was about to change in the couple’s marriage. ( Side note: the Netflix synopsis said that the party was held during Epiphany and that the couple had an epiphany of their own about their marriage. I don’t think I could roll my eyes anymore than I’m doing right now.) There were several times where a woman at the party would wink at Gabriel (the main character) and he spent much of the party secretly pulling out a note and reading it to himself. I thought that he was maybe having an affair with EVERYONE and that would’ve piqued my interest a little, but once again my hopes were dashed when I realized the note he was reading was really a toast he had written for the old woman throwing the party. LAME.

And as for the ending, I do see how sad that would make anyone when realizing their wife of several years prefers a dead kid over them. But is it worth torturing me about for two hours? No. No it is not. I imagine the ‘discovery’ was felt much more deeply from anyone who read the short story by James Joyce, which this movie comes from. I did manage to read up on the short story a bit and it seemed Joyce emphasized Gabriel’s insecurities so that in the final scene, it all comes crashing around him as he wonders whether is it better to die young or old, after you’ve had a chance to mess everything up. That thought seems more profound to me than what the movie portrayed.

jj_the_dead

Final review: 2/5. The Dead wasn’t completely unwatchable. It’s soothing, in the same way listening to rain on my white noise app is. The next time I can’t get it to work, I’ll put on this movie.

Up next: American Beauty

 

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#73- Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

Quick recap: Jeanne Dielman is a single mother who spends her days meticulously cleaning the house,cooking, shopping, and prostituting herself out as a source of income. That’s the entire movie. All 3 hours and 21 minutes.

On the edge of my seat, wondering if she would peel the potatoes in time for dinner!

On the edge of my seat, wondering if she would peel the potatoes in time for dinner!

Fun (?) fact: The director, Chantal Akerman, used a female only crew to make the film. She later said that it didn’t work out as well as she had hoped it would, because she was not in charge of which woman would be hired.

I think the was the point in the film when I started to go insane, watching her mold the meatloaf 10 billion times.

I think the was the point in the film when I started to go insane, watching her mold the meatloaf 10 billion times.

My thoughts: It’s an understatement to say that I dreaded watching this movie. For one, it’s FRENCH. Secondly, it’s labeled under the genre ‘art house’, and finally, it was 3 hours and 21 minutes long. And for 3 hours and 15 minutes, I had to sit through watching a woman clean her house and cook food. FOR 3 HOURS AND 15 MINUTES, YOU GUYS.

The movie opens with Jeanne Dielman letting a client into her home so they can have sex. My hopes were high at this point, that this would be more interesting than I had hoped. Dielman leads the man down the hall, closes the door, and……..that’s it. No sounds, nothing. The two emerge after it has gotten dark. The man pays Dielman and tells her that she will see him next week. Dielman then goes back to her routine of cleaning and cooking until her son comes home. Once again, my hopes were raised as the two of them sat down for dinner, but nobody said a word. Instead, I was treated to 15 minutes of people eating soup and then eating potatoes with stew. It didn’t take long for me to catch on that this was how the whole movie would play out.

Jeanne Dielman also taught me that I eat soup the wrong way

Jeanne Dielman also taught me that I eat soup the wrong way

In all fairness, I actually started to enjoy the film. As grating as it was to watch chores being played out in real time, I could fathom even less having to do that EVERY DAY. And as annoying as it was to sit through 3 hours and 15 minutes of this woman’s routine, it was necessary to understand her oppression. It just wouldn’t have worked to have a montage of Dielman doing her daily chores and looking mournfully at the screen while some sad song played. The only way to understand was to live it. It also made the scene where her routine starts unraveling (she drops a spoon) more noticeable. I appreciate that the director didn’t have to spell it out for the audience, but trusted that after sitting through 3 hours and 21 minutes of this woman’s life, we would figure it out.

The last 10 or so minutes of the film account for the only action to take place. SPOILER ALERT( not that you are going to run out and watch this, but just in case), during a session with a client, Dielman orgasms. After a conversation with her son earlier in the movie, I gather that this might have been the first ever for her. I suppose it empowers her or something because as she is putting her clothes on and the man is lying on the bed, she calmly goes over to him and stabs him to death with a pair of scissors. The last scene in the film is of her sitting in the darkened dining room, with blood on her shirt and hands and I think she is smiling.

Jeanne Dielmann

This film is considered to be one of the best feminist films out there, and I suppose I agree, although I don’t have much knowledge on the subject. Halfway through the movie, I started to become genuinely concerned for Dielman. I wondered what legacy she will have left, years from now. Will she only be seen as a caring mother? Probably. For me, the bleakest scenes came on the last day, as she sat quietly with nothing to do. It was as if her routine was her entire life: her enjoyment, her hobbies, and her passion. So if she didn’t have these routines, she was nothing. I’m not sure what to take from that, but at least I understood the feminist movement in the 70’s a little better.

jeannedielman

Final review: 4/5. This was a hard one to pin down because there is no way in hell that you could pay me to sit through this again, yet I still enjoyed the movie.

Up nextM:r. Deeds Goes to Town

 

 

#63- Woman in the Dunes

Quick recap: A schoolteacher explores the dunes, looking for a rare insect. Realizing he has missed his bus for the night, some villagers offer to help find him a place to sleep. They send him down into a dune with a widow, whose job is to shovel sand for a company. The next morning, the schoolteacher realizes he is trapped. With no way out, he begins to bond with the woman and eventually they fall in love.

obligatory 'tie her up because she lured me in here' dance before falling in love

obligatory ‘tie her up because she lured me in here’ dance before falling in love

Fun(?) Fact: Quicksand isn’t really all that deadly. Most of the time, it runs just a few feet deep and if you make slow movements, you’ll end up floating to the top and be just fine. I don’t know why, but I always assumed quicksand would be an obstacle in my life at some point and now I’m a little disappointed that it wasn’t the enemy I feared. 😦

bonus fun fact! Apparently there is a fetish for people getting stuck in quicksand. Thanks, Google images!

bonus fun fact! Apparently there is a fetish for people getting stuck in quicksand. Thanks, Google images!

My thoughts:  When people gush to me about their love of foreign films, what they usually mean is Amélie. Which is fine, and I totally get it because it is a sweet movie, after all. But then I have the experience of watching an unexpected foreign film and I wonder why it isn’t getting the same recognition as all the others we ‘love’. Woman in the Dunes is a weird movie, but not so weird that it couldn’t be embraced by all the foreign film aficionados. In fact, if I had to come up with a tagline for this movie, it would be, ‘It’s not El Topo‘. Clear and concise, just the way it should be.

One of the thoughts that struck me throughout the movie was that I could never get a handle on what genre I was actually watching. This was the first time I chose to forgo research before sitting down to watch something and I must say that it increased my affection for the movie just a little bit more because everything is unexpected. The beginning of Woman in the Dunes would make for great horror film fodder: A young man, unaware of his situation, is lured into the dunes where there is no escape. The sand almost becomes a monster, a living thing. It is its own life force. And there is no escaping it. In fact, the widow must shovel daily, not just because it is her job, but also because if she didn’t the sand would bury her house within a couple of days, with her along with it. But it was also horror as the man realized he was just as trapped as his insects were, after catching them. This is his life now.

At some point, the mood changed and the plot centered more on the romance than the Sisyphus lifestyle. Earlier the sand had frightened me, but now it was being used for sexual tension. One of the aspects of living in a dune is that water is not readily available and when it is, it must be rationed. Therefore, when bath day rolls around, it is a big deal. The scenes with the schoolteacher and widow bathing each other were pretty hot and made me wonder if I had a future in writing sand dune related erotic novels. But then I also thought of a certain scene in the desert from El Topo, and the thought was gone. I guess it makes sense that love would blossom, seeing as literally the only other activity is shoveling sand.

woman-in-the-dunes

And then finally, after an escape attempt where the schoolteacher falls into quicksand, he is resigned to his fate. One day, he stumbles across an idea to pump water from underground so that it will be available at all times. When his lover is taken away due to an ectopic pregnancy, he even has a chance to escape. Instead of doing so, the schoolteacher climbs out of the dune to look at the ocean, and then puts himself right back where he was so that he can continue his project. It was a very depressing ending, although I suppose there are several ways to take it. My opinion is that there are aspects of life that seem like you may be trapped, and you very well might be, but there is always something interesting that you can throw yourself into and focus on.

Final review: 3/5. Very interesting concept, but there were some slow moving parts and it seemed like there was one disaster after another, which lost my interest a few times.

Up next: I actually haven’t a clue. I’m open to suggestions!

#5- Intolerance

Quick recap: It’s about intolerance. The end.

Oh, you want more? It’s actually a movie with 4 different stories spanning thousands of years. It’s still about intolerance though. First story is about the fall of Babylon, second is Jesus because why not, third is the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre and the fourth is a modern story about jealous old women. Or something. Did I mention the theme was intolerance? And just in case you thought this would be fun and light hearted, there is a woman rocking the cradle of Humanity in between scenes.

Have to say this creeped me out a little bit

fun (?) fact– This film was DW Griffith’s response to Birth of a Nation because he totally didn’t think it was racist. Interesting to note that this movie does not feature African-Americans either. Lesson learned?

My thoughts– Ok, so this film was a tad bit preachy. I started watching it at 11 at night thinking that I would maybe watch an hour and then go to bed. Somehow I ended up watching the entire 3 1/2 hours. What can I say? This film is impressive on all accounts. Griffith was so detailed for all 4 story lines, even changing the music to reflect the time period. It was also an easy film to get through because the stories are interwoven. When I started getting a little tired of one, the creepy Humanity lady would come on and I would breathe a sigh of relief. I’ll rank the stories by how they kept my interest:

4. Jesus because it’s been over done. It’s also the shortest story so maybe even Griffith felt he was a little preachy.

3. St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre- I knew absolutely nothing about this and read up on it after the movie

2. the modern story- The Dear One (she didn’t have a name) really knows how to act. She is featured in many of Griffith’s films. It was predictable but also a good lesson, even now

1. fall of Babylon- I can’t believe the amount of detail involved! Each uniform looked painstakingly made and the wall of Babylon was most impressive. Plus, the Mountain Girl was amazing. I could have watched her for the entire 3 hours.

Final Review- 5/5 Watch it. I was hesitant going into this movie because I did not like Birth of a Nation but ended up loving it.

where I watched it: Netflix instant