A Christmas Tale

“A Christmas Tale” is a strange piece of movie-making, but quite effective for all of that. It turns many conventions on their heads, and does so both with a naturalistic flare and innovative camera work. It is the story of an unruly, dysfunctional family, their squabbles and their secrets, with few, if any, resolutions. It’s not your typical holiday movie. It’s not even a typical holiday movie sending up other holiday movies. It seems without genre, though the director, Arnaud Desplechin, samples from other movies like “Funny Face”, “The Ten Commandments”, and Max Reinhardt’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. He sometimes points his actors at the audience to give soliloquies as well, borrowing yet again from Shakespeare.…

The Flight of the Red Balloon

The Flight of the Red Balloon

Just watched Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s wonderful film, The Flight of the Red Balloon. Set in a glowing, shadowy, geometric and abstract Paris, it stars Juliette Binoche as Suzanne, and Simon Iteanu as her son Simon. Simon’s nanny, a young film student from China, is played by Song Fang. I’m not sure who plays the red flotation device.

The film is a homage to Albert Lamorisse’s 1956 classic, The Red Balloon, but doubles and echoes and adds new layers. The nanny shoots film footage in Paris, incorporating her new charge, Simon, and his hovering red friend and we see both the internal and the external.…

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Woody Allen’s new film takes a sharp turn. It’s a departure from most of his other films in that neuroses is foreign, literally foreign, and perhaps more understandable in that context. The most overtly neurotic character, Maria Elena, played by Penelope Cruz, is the violently passionate ex-wife of the artist Juan Antonio, played by Javier Bardem. The two main characters, Vicky and Cristina, played by Rebecca Hall and Scarlett Johansson, are mildly conflicted in comparison. The two American tourists, spending their summer in Spain, seem quite “normal” in comparison to the hot-blooded Spanish duo who can’t live with or without each other.…

Blueberries and Brandi

My Blueberry Nights, by Wong Kar-wai. 2007.

Several things blended together for me today like ice cream and warm pie. And Brandi. And Day for Night. And a call from North Carolina about a trip to Italy.

In the bright sunshine, thinking again about the night scenes in My Blueberry Nights. At night, thinking about the bright sunshine in the Thelma and Louise section of Wong Kar-wai’s film, while I listened to Brandi Carlile’s The Story and wondered if he knew anything about her. Because her music fit much of that, and her own persona fit Natalie Portman’s character, somewhat.…

Rimbaud: Vagabond Blues Redux

Henri Fantin-Latour’s By the Table. 1872. Paris, Musée d’Orsay.

 A couple of recent movies got me to think again about Rimbaud and his effects. Movies have a funny way of doing that to me. They often make me think about writers, artists, and musicians, even if the movie isn’t really about them. Oblique references stimulate a new ordering, a new attempt to find links, connections, similarities. Hopefully new connections. New patterns. New orderings of anxiety and influence. Sometimes, they don’t even mention this or that artist, but they send me there anyway.

The two movies:

Todd Haynes’  I’m Not There, which has already been mentioned on these pages, and Poison Friends, Emmanuel Bourdieu’s 2006 film about student passions and betrayals.

Boris Vian: I’m Not There.

Not sure exactly why, but while watching Todd Haynes’ wonderful movie about Bob Dylan, “I’m Not There,” I thought about Boris Vian.

“I’m Not There”

It’s a truly original, bold, surreal, funny and alarming movie about the many lives of Bob Dylan, fictional lives, characters that might have been Dylan or that Dylan might have been. All the acting is wonderful, but I especially like Cate Blanchett’s performance. It’s probably from her disjointed, disconnected, oddly profound and nonsensical repartee that I thought of Vian.

Boris Vian was an amazing artist. A novelist, poet, actor, engineer and musician, chiefly remembered for his novels.…

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