I’m changing. We probably all are. I was once a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” type of guy when it comes to watching movies. I was content to choose a movie I knew and loved, or one which seemed similar to others I’ve grown to love, over chancing an unknown film. Wow, how I couldn’t be more different now. I love nothing more than to watch something totally new and unknown to me. My favorite movie going friend hates to watch movies with me if I’ve already seen it and she hasn’t. She won’t read reviews and doesn’t want to know anything about a movie before watching it. I used to think this quite strange, quaint, perhaps, but not some approach I could ever imagine adopting for myself. But recently she has won me over. Disappointed in the selections available at a nearby blockbuster theater one evening (half were re-releases now available in 3D – sorry, but who cares?), we headed to a small local theater which shows independent and foreign films and generally leads to pleasant movie-going memories. This particular evening was no exception. We (and by we I mean she – I don’t want the guilt of picking just in case we don’t like the film) selected at random the Chinese film “Let the Bullets Fly”, which apparently was immensely successful in China. It’s no surprise that this film is the highest grossing domestic Chinese release ever – it’s awesome! Grand spectacle with intriguing plot and gorgeous imagery combine with enchanting music to create a stunningly successful movie. [I'll bypass BigBozo and his wife, who decided to plop their oversized heads in front of us - right at subtitle height no less - and who couldn't sit still long enough to even read a sentence, causing us to have to shift constantly in opposing sequence with their restless heads. Thankfully they left halfway through - I'm sure my (not so) subtle, (very audibly) whispered threats of violence had nothing to do with their departure. Okay, maybe I'll mention them afterall...]
Fast forward a week, and the what-to-see situation repeats. The available choices at a blockbuster theater range from “promise to disappoint” to “I dare you to spend money on this crap”. Now, maybe you’re thinking I’m still holding onto some of my aforementioned hesitance to try new movies, but you’d be wrong. The available movies out this week just look awful. The best looking movie to me is actually that ridiculous looking Disney thing with the aliens on Mars. And I’ll probably see that one eventually, just out of curiosity. The choices stammer down-slope like a rookie skier from there. I’d like to mention at this point:
Movies should not suck!
But I can’t. I haven’t actually seen any of these wastes of time yet, and perhaps they’re masterpieces waiting for my discovery. Dubious, but possible. So, anyways, we head over to a different small local theater specializing in good movies of the less popular persuasion. And my friend picks one. Out of the blue and random-like. I don’t know if she had any personal reasons or if she acted purely as a conduit for the fates, but she just picked one. “A Separation” it was called. “What’s that about?” I ask. She doesn’t know. Perfect. My new found joy of discovery. A film neither of us has even the first clue about. We go in blind and ignorant as babes.
I’m not going to give a detailed synopsis of the movie – that’s not my style and there are plenty of places to read about it if you want to. Here are a few, each written by someone with greater talent than yours truly:
Here’s an excerpt from Roger Ebert’s review that brings up some meta-background details concerning the film’s genesis, which I think is important for “real life” purposes, if not necessarily for entertainment purposes:
“A Separation” provides a useful portrait of Iran today. Some inflamed American political rhetoric has portrayed it as a rogue nation eager to start nuclear war. All too many Americans, I fear, picture Iranians as camel-riding harem-keepers. Certainly some of Iran’s punishments for adultery that we read about seem medieval. But this film portrays a more nuanced nation, and its decent characters are trying to do the right thing. To untangle right and wrong in this fascinating story is a moral challenge. I’d love to see the film with wise judges from American divorce courts and hear their decisions. Sometimes the law is not adequate to deal with human feelings.
So, my feelings about this film? Stunning. Literally. The acting is superb and leads to instant immersion and emotional attachment to the characters and events portrayed. The style of filming I found effective as well. The shots are generally tight and intimate, as would be expected from a hand held camera, but there is nothing shaky or amateurish about the filming, the general effect being one of inclusion of the audience within the drama. I feel this is the overall success of this film – it draws the viewer into its world physically and emotionally, and keeps you right there until the very end.
Boy am I glad we didn’t settle for some 3D re-release!
Why is it that lately I find the most interesting films to be of foreign extraction? Maybe they try harder because they have to? Or maybe I’m just underexposed… I do want to see “The Tree of Life”. It’s actually haunting me at this point that I haven’t seen it yet. Oh well, something to look anxiously forward to.