Last week I saw Away We Go which, despite being lambasted as a Garden State rip-off, is very much its own film. Unlike Garden State, which seemed to rely too heavily on its varied soundtrack to sustain the emotions, Away We Go had a fleshier script, with more drawn out characters, mature realities, and supportive density that allowed it an openness worth the ambiguity. Yes, it did have a soundtrack that at times pillaged the scenes and left little open to a viewer’s imagination, but the moments which strummed the deepest emotions were made possible by the actor’s reactions, as opposed to their actions in lieu of music. I thought that this film also spoke to more generations than I thought it would, making it not only a commentary on the early-thirties crisis of boring jobs and the fear of a first child, but also the reality of expanding a loving relationship in order to include more than just a significant other. There was a nice and light backdrop of a commentary, be it silent, on how much “place” factors into a couple’s ability to carry some form of happiness and vigor on to the “next step.” This was a delicate but very honest admittance and struggle in the film.
This week I saw Woody Allen’s Whatever Works, starring Larry David. David did quite a nice job, even if it seems that he was only being himself, the neurotic naysayer. Allen utilized a lot of his natural talents in the film: philosophically bleak quips, punning of the sub-mental world, and everything-said-as-opposed-to-silenced conversation. This is something we can, however, always expect from Allen and if we expect it then it will not be a form of disappointment. Aside from Match Point, arguably the best Allen film of the last twenty years, the films are a breather because they do say everything, they are astute in their attention to the often maniacal but understandably insouciant threads of an intellect. Whatever Works continues this thread, making use of a diverse range of characters and thus allowing them to become symbolic of the constant disruptions and timid acclimations of American domesticity and rural-to-urban transport. The film had its downs, mostly in the chubby and uneventful middle, but redeemed itself by accomplishing what I believe it wanted to–a lengthening and clarification of the inherent jest and contradictory morals of every generation, the morals that pin people down–amidst religion and tradition–and make them so distant from difference that they become stereotypes and mounds of cliche.
On a rental note, I saw two amazing films this past week. The first was Terence Malick’s
Badlands, which was his second film, before Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line. I have always been enthralled with Malick’s work because the cinematography is so vast and has a depth that reels its viewers in more than any plot could, so it was no surprise that the open land of South Dakota and Montana, fueled by rowdy and dust-lovely performances by Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen, would hold the film captive to its own spatial explorations. The plot is relatively simple–Sheen is a mid-twenties has-been who courts the young teenage Spacek and steals her out of town, choosing then to live in trees and knock off every witness along the way. The film works well with the naivete of dreamers and lovers, of the wall that was never built between right and wrong, the blurring in between. The music is a very striking force, so much that Malick uses it years later in Thin Red Line, which remains one of my favorite films.
And for the best of the lot, I saw Wim Wender’s Paris, Texas last night, written by Sam Shepard. I have been wanting to see this film since I was in a performance of Shepard’s True West some eight years ago. Wender’s Wings of Desire has always been a go-to film in times of selfish refilling of the pessimistic soul. Harry Dean Stanton stars in the film and rips the role perfectly, making each move essentaial, as the movie goes on over two hours and with very little dialogue. Here, the cinematography is even more awarding than in Malick’s films. The German obsession of the American West is heavily at play, making each shot seem new to even those who live in the territory. Stanton has slipped into a long and depressive interior rage, having disappeared from his four-year old boy for four years, only to show up in a South Texas hospital with a suit on, speechless and delirious. I was completely taken aback with the vibrancy of the landscape and the meticulous details of every little wind-rustle and eye twitch.