November 29, 2013
Though it would have found a fine home on this blog, I was able to write a review for the new Alexander Payne film, Nebraska for Hollywood.com, a gig I haven’t really announced on this blog, as I have mostly written reviews for pop culture films. They include the following films (all titles link direct to those reviews, where I am required to give scale ratings in the form of stars [halves count, so it's a 1 - 10 scale], so I’ve added the ratings to the titles):
- Frozen ****
- The Fifth Estate * 1/2
- Rush *** 1-2
- Insidious: Chapter 2 ***
- Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 ** 1/2
- The Butler ****
- Disney’s Planes ***
But Nebraska was the first true indie-oriented film I’ve had a chance to write about for the pop culture site. It follows Woody Grant (a brilliantly subtle Bruce Dern playing cantankerous and vulnerable) on a Captain Ahab-like journey to claim a million-dollar prize he may or may not know he has even won.
You can read the review by jumping through the website’s logo below (and see what rating I gave it):
But this is about Nebraska, a nice, low-key film I think has not generated the attention it really deserves, as it opens only in one multiplex in South Florida and not a single art house. It’s not a perfect film, but it features some amazing performances by Dern, Will Forte and June Squibb. Stacy Keach also appears, who Payne taps for his signature menacing quality. He also becomes an easy sort of bad guy as Woody’s family grows more endearing despite the continued appearances of their shortcomings, like one surprising matryoshka doll after another.
Nebraska is rated R (there’s only some common cussing) and runs 115 minutes. It opened in South Florida Thursday, Nov. 28, at the Regal South Beach Stadium 18. Meanwhile, in other parts of the U.S., it may already be playing at a theater near you; visit the film’s website and enter your zip code to find out here.
November 27, 2013
Paolo Sorrentino’s new film, the Great Beauty, Italy’s entry for the foreign language Oscar competition, follows Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo) a celebrity writer learning to come to terms with his own irrelevance, as he reaches his 65th birthday. It has been decades since he wrote his only book, the pretentiously titled “Human Apparatus.” People still ask when he will follow it up. Meanwhile, he stays busy with celebrity interviews and parties.
Early in the film, a motley crew of party goers gathers to line dance, drink and laugh to pulsing electro beats and perky pop dance songs in celebration of Jep’s birthday. Lorena (Serena Grandi of Tinto Brass fame) bursts from a cake in the shape of the Coliseum with a number six on her right breast and five on her left. When one party goer cannot recognize the aged, rotund and boisterous woman, another party goer explains, she’s “an ex TV showgirl now in full physical and mental decline.” Both young and old mix together with a unified aspiration to both live it up and cover up their inadequacies. A group tosses a well-dressed older, female dwarf in the air.
Anyone familiar with the filmography of Federico Fellini will find it hard to resist comparisons. Many a surreal scene peppers the film, and the transitions between scenes feel associative, as if following dream logic. Jep could easily be seen as an older version of Marcello of La Dolce Vita, who travels circles of debauchery in Rome to come to his own sublime revelation at the end of that 1960 classic, which gave popular culture the accursed term “paparazzi.”
But as the Great Beauty moves along, a sense of humanity and even dignity overshadows the decadence. We soon learn the dwarf is the wizened editor of Jep, Dadina (Giovanna Vignola). Her short stature has only allowed her a better perspective for noticing the charms of life with humor and humility. Indeed, the Great Beauty in the title of the film is not so much a reference to the opulent imagery as what lies in the gaps. It’s a tremendous film rich not only in visual splendor but also existential angst.
Sorrentino has no interest in picking up where Fellini left off. He injects his characters with a raw yearning for fulfillment and purpose. His choice to focus on older characters is far from incidental. These people don’t only want to live. There is something much bigger at stake: they want to matter.
Ironically, the set pieces are vibrant with color and life. The ever-drifting camera of cinematographer Luca Bigazzi practically swings through the air, zooming in and pulling out, dancing to an unheard rhythm, as if it were the film’s virtual heartbeat. It does not hurt that the ancient city of Rome, where the ruins of the Coliseum make prominent appearances, is such an inherently beautiful site to see. On an intimate level, over his bed, the recurring image of Jep’s ceiling as a vast, undulating ocean stands as symbol of rebirth, as Jep’s thoughts often drift off to find memories to reconsider his life.
Jep drinks, parties and philosophizes with fellow sixty-something celebrities and sycophants. Along the way, he refines his appreciation for those he loves and those he loathes. All around him, time seems to creep along. Nostalgia for the past bubbles up and the pressure of following up his only novel haunts him. Cornered by both the past and the future, he must ultimately come to terms with loosening control of destiny so he might find the grace he pines for.
Servillo does a splendid job harnessing Jep’s conflicting traits of jaded, free-wheeling and vulnerable, as the film trudges along across a dynamic two-and-a-half-hour runtime that ultimately earns one of the most significant end title sequences ever committed to film. As a celebration of the visual form of cinema, this unassuming final note achieves a moment of transcendence that should be savored to the last second of its eight minutes by anyone who has learned something from the film’s brilliant finale: It is in the moments when we live, everything else is “blah, blah, blah.”
The Great Beauty runs 142 minutes, is in Italian with English subtitles and is unrated (there’s drugging, drinking, fucking, loving and living). It opens in our area at the Miami Beach Cinematheque, Bill Cosford Cinema in Coral Gables, MDCulture Art Cinema at Koubek Theater in Miami and Cinema Paradiso-Hollywood this Friday, Nov. 29.
Note: The Miami Beach Cinematheque hosted a preview screening for the purposes of this review. The MBC’s screening marks the beginning of its Italian film series “Cinema Made In Italy” that continues into April. An opening night rooftop party kicks it off at Highbar (click here for more information, including how to get into the party for free).
For screening dates of the Great Beauty in other parts of the U.S., visit the film’s official website and enter your zip code.
November 23, 2013
As the much-anticipated Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire opens wide this weekend, allow us to direct you to a much different story about a girl suffering through a time of revolution under the iron rule of a totalitarian regime. The Book Thief struck a particularly personal chord with this writer, as it is based on a book by an author who has a very similar perspective on the German side of World War II.
Novelist Markus Zusak grew up in Australia where his German parents did not hold back telling him stories of their experiences as children growing up in small German villages as Adolf Hitler rose to power. The film adaptation by British director Brian Percival opened this Friday in South Florida in only two theaters (the Regal South Beach Stadium 18 and the AMC Aventura 24), after a steady role-out in limited release across the nation. The film features 13-year-old French Canadian actress Sophie Nélisse, who I first became aware of when I reviewed Philippe Falardeau’s terrific little drama Monsieur Lazhar. (Film Review: ‘Monsieur Lazhar’ tells powerful story by staying grounded).
I met all three of these artists last Friday during a face-to-face interview in a windowless conference room of the Ritz-Carlton Miami Beach. Nélisse chucked a paper airplane across the room when I walked in. “We’re making paper airplanes,” she said exuberantly, as she proceeded to fold another airplane, standing at the edge of a table. British director Percival, most famously known for Emmy-winning work directing many episodes of Downton Abbey, sat slouched on one side of the table. He offered a bright smile and a soft laugh. They were just coming to the end of a month-long tour of U.S. cities promoting their new film, which looks at World War II through the eyes of Liesel (Nélisse), who lives in a small village not far from Munich, as Germany heads into war.
I placed a stack of handwritten journals held together by twine on the table. “He brought books,” said Nélisse. I introduce myself as Hans and shake hands with Percival. “His name is Hans, like in the movie,” she added, referring to Geoffrey Rush‘s character in the film, Liesel’s adoptive father. I explain that these old books contain stories by my father, a former German soldier conscripted to join the Wehrmacht when he was 16 years old. He wrote them with the help of his first wife, as he lay in a sanatorium recovering from tuberculosis after surviving the front lines to take Stalingrad (One day, I hope to write the book based on these [Note to any serious German translators out there!]).
Zusak, author of The Book Thief, walks in a minute or so later, as I share the books, so they might flip through the pages, as we talk about the film. I mention the horrors my dad saw fighting the notoriously ruthless Russians. Percival and Zusak both know about the atrocities well, though they are too graphic to address in a book and film written from a child’s perspective for younger audiences.
Percival said he has heard all kinds of stories. “One couple in a bomb shelter actually remembered being in a bomb shelter during the war. It wasn’t just on the soundtrack. And they, and a number of people, said they fled from the Eastern Front in the final months of the war because they wanted to be captured or liberated, or however you want to look at it, by the Western forces rather than the Russians because the Russians were notorious for what they did, particularly to women and children. There were alarming accounts. A lot of German women dressed as men because they were just being dragged through the streets and raped. There was actually a black market lending out babies because apparently Russian soldiers wouldn’t attack a woman if she had a small child with her, so they used that as a deterrent.”
Zusak, who is 38 years old, said he finished the book when he was 29. It has since gone on to leave a profound mark on the “New York Times” bestseller chart and won scores of awards. He says his mother would have been 8 years old when the war ended, and the Americans drove through her village. Even though these were the much more sympathetic Western forces, the fear of the Other remain profound. “She said a truck came past her once, and a soldier leaned down and her mom saw, and she was yelling out, ‘Be careful, be careful!’ And a soldier leaned down and gave her a massive block of chocolate, and she said she ran down the street yelling out, ‘They have chocolate! They have chocolate!’ I mean, you think about what happened to so many people, and so many Jewish people in particular … She was so lucky, being that young, for a start.
“Even my dad who had the Russians come into his town after the war, he saw a soldier come up, he stopped his truck and walked up to him, put his hand on his face and said, ‘kind’ [German for child]. He had tears in his eyes and got back in his truck and drove away. That’s what happens, you start seeing things from different points of view, and that’s how I grew up, hearing those things.”
The Book Thief offers a powerfully humanistic portrayal of ordinary people surviving through a dark time in German history. It’s something that speaks profoundly to this writer, who grew up with other kids teasing that my father was a Nazi, when he hated the Nazis. He was harassed by the Hitler Youth, when he turned down membership at 12 years of age and torn away from his family as a 16-year-old, forced to fight in some of the most costly battles of the war (Africa and Russia) or face a firing squad by his own people. As a child, I lent a reluctant ear to stories of close calls and horror as my father worked out the traumas he had survived until he was blessed from returning to battle with TB, something many also did not survive back then.
As time ran out from our brief, 15-minute interview, and we said our good-byes, Zusak read from one of the last pages of one of my father’s journals: “‘Many German soldiers, including many who fought mostly in the first line knew nothing about concentration camps and the Holocaust. We, and I, fought on the Russian front mainly to fight for our lives and the lives of our loved ones because that enemy was guided by evil forces, Bolshevism, and we were guided and had to endanger our lives for the Nazis, so we were not better than they, but at the same time I must note that not one unit in which I fought committed atrocities. They were mostly men who had to face war because there was no other choice.’ Pretty amazing.”
“That was my dad,” I said, feeling a tad choked up. “That was him.”
“You should be proud,” offered Nélisse.
* * *
Thursday afternoon, The “Miami New Times” art and culture blog “Cultist” published my article about the film, where the filmmakers shared their feelings about the war that inspired the book. Percival also gave me some material on Downton Abbey. Read it by jumping through the blog’s logo below:
The following day, some of the flow of our conversation was captured in this article I wrote based on the interviews for fellow film critic Dan Hudak’s website, “Hudak On Hollywood.” Jump through the website’s logo below to read that:
Finally, go see the film! Here’s the trailer:
The Book Thief is rated PG-13 and runs 127 minutes. It opened in South Florida Friday, Nov. 22, at the Regal South Beach Stadium 18 and the AMC Aventura 24. Meanwhile, in other parts of the U.S., it may already be playing at a theater near you; visit the film’s website and enter your zip code to find out here.
November 15, 2013
Life emanates from the smallest component. This is the premise of the new documentary Symphony of Soil, where even the most minuscule organisms are shown to have a big impact on our health, environment and the planet. The documentary is a well-researched thoughtful piece directed by Deborah Koons Garcia that presents a slew of passionate scientists unraveling the complex processes that make planet earth thrive. The focus is on soil and how this seemingly small and overlooked component is the basis for environmental success.
The documentary is a master class in the science and practice of sustainable farming. While we learn a lot, the information is not presented in a preachy, you-should-feel-guilty-for-how-you-are-currently-living kind of way. Indeed, unlike many of the environmentally aware/advocacy documentaries, A Symphony of Soil is informative without being heavy-handed. It is a well-organized piece that will also be quite enjoyable for those with a curious mind.
Cast as the protagonist, soil appears as something more than just dirt. Soil is the foundation from which life emanates. When one scientist takes an auger to one lush piece of ground it almost feels as though he is cutting into the fleshy skin of a giant animal. Koons Garcia’s accomplishment stems from the fact that she can create such a bond with an inanimate organism. The slew of experts and practitioners also are cast in the same passionate light about soil. Though the subject could easily induce boredom in some viewers, Koons Garcia’s treatment is uplifting and inspiring.
Through this documentary, Koons Garcia makes a point to show that the future is wide open; we can either continue to squander resources or try the various alternatives presented in the film. As it turns out, Koons Garcia does not tell us what to do but shows us what others are accomplishing. The alternatives are exciting, from a farmer in North Dakota who grew up in a farm and realized what traditional farming does to the earth, to an Indian farmer (Jaspal Singh Chattha) who waxes eloquent about the need for natural, sustainable compost and rails against the Green Revolution.
This is Koons Garcia’s second piece on the importance of environmental conservation. Her previous work The Future of Food was released in 2004, where she depicted the move towards genetically modified foods by agribusiness and the resistance from organic farmers.
Symphony of Soil runs 104 mins. Shotwell Media provided a DVD screener for the purposes of this review. You can catch it on DVD or catch one of the special screenings available near you. It is set to screen in Palm Beach, on Sunday, Nov. 17, at 3 p.m. at ArtsMuvico Parisian 20 & IMAX. Tickets can be purchased here. For a complete calendar of screenings around the country go here.
Music is an essential component of filmmaking. It adds a layer of expression beyond words. A soundtrack (music or sounds), can envelop an audience in a particular mood. Indeed, creating an atmosphere is truly a work of art and certainly not a given in every film. Crafting a soundtrack is challenging, as it must not distract while also melding into the storytelling. Sometimes songs and sounds are too overt, calling more attention to itself than the action on the screen. Other times, the sounds are predictable and generic, making the audience all too aware of what is to come— enter the high-pitched soprano and some piano chords in D-minor to elicit tears, or the dissonant noises warning the heroine not to go there right before her throat gets slashed. Yes, all cinephiles know these commonplace sounds all too well. I can think of even more examples of sounds gone wrong or feeling too generic, which is why a good soundtrack is worth celebrating. This list represents a small taste of what an important character sounds can play in every film, and how they elevate our experience.
1. Lost in Translation
Sofia Coppola has a gifted ear when it comes to soundtracks. In Lost in Translation, we learn about the inner workings of confused souls in troubled relationships and about Japan! Rare new, ethereal solo music by dream pop pioneer Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine evokes a brilliant sense of lonely ennui of Scarlett Johansson‘s character. The sounds evoke the longing you feel being in a different country, and the contradictory emotions you find when being at a crossroads— from stillness to rapid-fire boom bips of the pachinko parlor. This is also a rare occasion to find the amazing Bill Murray singing Roxy Music at a Karaoke bar. How could it get any better?
Here’s another one of my favorite tracks on the soundtrack by Air, a band that worked closely with Coppola to score her debut feature, the Virgin Suicides:
Richard Ayoade’s 2010 film is a fantastic coming-of-age story, funny and complicated, complete with original music by Alex Turner of Arctic Monkey’s fame. The soft and melodious sound of Turner’s songs compliment the plot wherein Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) faces a mission to save his parents’ marriage and lose his virginity— an almost epic journey for a 15-year-old. Turner’s lyrics complement this saga in a soft way. For instance, in “Hiding Tonight,” Turner’s husky voice whispers: “Tomorrow I’ll be faster/I’ll catch what I’ve been chasing after/And have time to play/But I’m quite alright hiding today.” Though the lyrics suggest that hopeful bright future we both fear and cannot wait for as we are young, the music evokes a nostalgic feeling. The atmospheric quality this soundtrack brings to Submarine translates so well into living life.
Listen here to “Hiding Tonight” from that soundtrack:
3. Old Joy
Kelly Reichardt’s 2006 small indie film Old Joy has the ability to transport the viewer into that wild terrain of unspoiled nature and masculine feelings. Old Joy captures the friendship between Mark (Daniel London) and Kurt (Will Oldham, a noted indie musician himself) who take a trip in the forest of the Pacific Northwest. The film is heavy with sorrow, regret and unsaid things that have mounted between these two men. Much of the genius of this film comes from an atmospheric quality. There are turbulent waters under the bridge between these two friends. The soundtrack by Yo La Tengo has a nostalgic quality, an instrumental rendering that elevates the film into that feeling of “Old Joy.” The album, They Shoot, We Score compiles the music from Old Joy, as well as Junebug, Game 6 and Shortbus, so it’s a one-stop-shop for Yo La Tengo fans or independent film buffs.
Here’s my favorite track from that album, which if you’re feeling any stress, you can just listen to and let it melt away:
Melding with the storytelling, this soundtrack provides somewhat of an insight into the mind of Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman). For instance, the sprightly notes of “the Hardest Geometry Problem in the World” by Mark Mothersbaugh are reminiscent of Max’s scheming designs to open a million-dollar project to build an aquarium at Rushmore Academy to win a teacher’s heart. Mothersbaugh, of Devo fame, is in charge of most of the score with original instrumental music that truly adds to the action on screen. The rest of the songs give us a way into Max Fisher’s personality, the prep school reject who is also into writing theatrical plays, is also seriously partial to British pop, including the Who, the Kinks and even the Creation. The compilation plays like a fun mixtape that has some imaginative breaks at the hands of Mothersbaugh.
Here’s my favorite track from that album:
5. The Squid and the Whale
Noah Baumbach’s 2005 family saga is full of drama, black humor and great music. Less rock and roll than the previous albums on this list, the Squid and the Whale soundtrack has a more folky vibe with songs from Bert Jansch, Kate and Anna McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III. The original music comes courtesy of Britta Phillips and Dean Wareham, best known for headlining the indie band Luna or as the duo Dean and Britta. Perhaps it is no coincidence that this couple of musicians can write music so well for the complicated relationship between the two recently divorced writers depicted on screen.
Here’s my favorite track from that album (R.I.P. Lou Reed):
What are some of your favorite soundtracks? What is it about music and film that moves us beyond our lived experience? Leave a comment below!
November 11, 2013
There is a lot of noise surrounding this year’s Palme d’Or-crowned Blue is the Warmest Color. As it finally hits theaters in the U.S., it arrives on the heels of actress Léa Seydoux publicly feuding with director Abdellatif Kechiche. Seydoux has bemoaned the director’s treatment of her and lead actress Adèle Exarchopoulos during the lengthy production of the film. In turn, Kechiche has become incredibly defensive. Maybe it has something to do with the Steven Spielberg-led jury— in a move away from protocol— deciding to bestow the Palme on not only the film but also on Seydoux and Exarchopoulos.
None of that matters.
Titled La vie d’Adèle, Chapitre 1 & 2 in French, the film follows a young girl’s bold exploration of love and stands on its own merits beyond politically correct awards and bitter behind-the-scenes clashes. Adèle (Exarchopoulos) is still in high school when she first lays eyes on Emma (Seydoux), who’s close to finishing her fine arts degree in college. Though involved in a sexual relationship with a boy from class, Adèle grows obsessed with the vision of Emma, who she had only glanced on the street, in passing. With her shock of haphazardly dyed blue hair and her arm around the shoulders of a girl, Adèle cannot seem to shake Emma from her head. One night, after another chance encounter, she follows Emma to a lesbian bar.
Sitting alone at the bar, fending off advances from other women, Adèle locks eyes with Emma, and Emma wanders over. She warns Adèle about having entered the bar alone with a crooked, interested smile, as they brew up a casual but cute, getting-to-know-you dialogue. They have an intimate chemistry, and when a gang of Emma’s girlfriends interrupt to coax Emma to a club, it’s as if a protective bubble around them has burst.
What follows is not so much Adèle’s “sexual awakening” as it is her finding herself caught up in her own feelings for this fantastical pixie-like creature. The unfolding tragedy of this film is that Emma, who has a profound intellectual outlook as an artist, does not return the same level of love. The relationship feels doomed from the beginning, but the viewer will hardly notice, as the film so neatly packs you into the primal experience of Adèle.
Before the behind-the-scenes quarrel stole the film’s thunder, a lot of the buzz that seemed to threaten to overshadow the cinematic drama of Blue is the Warmest Color focused on the lengthy, explicit sex scenes between the women. I once heard the film’s first sex scene was 15 minutes long, then it was 10, then eight, but it’s less. Kechiche, who worked with a total of five editors, knows how to hold a scene for maximum impact. It’s a three-hour film that seems to defy time by offering moments where time seems to hold still. He also cannot be accused of allowing scenes to move too slow. He understands the impact of patient, dramatic build-up. Some scenes are almost musical crescendos. They can be as tender as Adèle’s and Emma’s first conversation, and as rough as the argument that inevitably ends their relationship.
Though the sex seems to get all the attention, what with the film’s NC-17 rating, Kechiche is only applying the same detailed, uncompromising attention he uses in every scene of the film. He lingers on silent glances loaded with revelation. To Kechiche, reaction shots seem to hold more depth than dialogue. There is a moment when the camera lingers on Adèle’s face, in the afterglow of her first sexual experience with Emma, where she does nothing but stare at Emma’s crotch, her face loaded with amusement and disbelief. Cinematographer Sofian El Fani knows how to focus on Exarchopoulos’ face throughout the film, and the actress rises to the task. Her lips in a perpetual open-mouthed pout, her doe-like eyes and her thick hair an amorphous, ever shifting puff makes Adèle look like a subject in an Egon Schiele painting. It’s no wonder Adèle becomes Emma’s muse.
As the film carries on, Adèle works to hide the relationship from suspicious, bullying classmates and her straight-laced family. Meanwhile, Emma and her bohemian friends keep it casual and open. Despite the seemingly progressive quality of the relationship in Emma’s world, it also hints at its triviality to the elder, more experienced half of the couple. After Adèle cooks dinner for Emma and her friends, Emma makes a speech, stating, “I’d especially like to thank my muse … who makes me happy today, Adèle.” The temporal quality of that statement is not lost on Adèle, and the first dagger subtly plunges into her heart.
As the hip dinner guests wolf down the meal of spaghetti alla bolognese Adèle has cooked for the occasion, Emma brings up the question whether pleasure is a shared experience. Joachim (Stéphane Mercoyrol), who admits to his bisexuality, speaks of his limited masculine pleasure compared to what appears to him is the rather mystical experience of female orgasm. “We attain differing realities over and above orgasm,” he says. “Insofar as I’m a man, everything I’ve glimpsed is frustrated by the limits of male sexuality.”
With this speech also arrives Kechiche’s redemption as a director accused of offering a queer film with a heterosexual, alleged pornographic, gaze. A lot gels together with this game-changing speech at the center of the film. This is more than a man allowing his camera to linger long on sex between two young women, edited to offer a variety of positions, some of which never appear in mainstream films.
On a more contextual level to the central drama, Adèle overhears Joachim’s statements as another dinner guest, an actor named Samir (Salim Kechiouche), compliments her on her “yummy” pasta. As Joachim says he can never experience the ecstasy depicted in the woman’s gaze captured in Emma’s paintings, Samir prods Adèle about her relationship with Emma. “Is this the first time she’s been with a woman? Is it different? Does she want to have children?” It’s almost the base version of Joachim’s statements, and Adèle seems to brush it all off, though actually she takes it very much to heart.
This scene and its layers of narrative, both external and internal, speaks to the complexity of Blue is the Warmest Color. The English title hints at this, by attributing warmth to a color commonly associated with coldness. It’s not about irony or contrast. It’s about loving someone so hard that it hurts. The French psychoanalyst turned theorist Jacques Lacan took Freud’s pleasure principle to another level when he employed the French version of orgasm, le jouissance, to describe taking something enjoyable, and using up all the pleasure to the point that it turns into pain. It’s a drive for pleasure that becomes pain, a mix of revelation and ecstasy. That’s the jouissance Adèle endures by overhearing the one conversation while partaking in another that asks her to consider children. It also takes care of the male gaze so often questioned when it comes to this brilliant movie.
In the documentary Zizek! noted Lacanian Slavoj Zizek shrugged off sex as mutual masturbation. It’s not incidental that Kechiche chose to illustrate his story of pained love with two women. During one sexual liaison, both thrust their crotches into one another in a moment of passion and ecstasy. Seeking more connection, they clasp hands. The notion cannot be more literal than this. To Zizek, sex is two people wrestling to achieve the most pleasure from the other. The romantic notion of shared pleasure is just that: a romantic notion.
Beyond sex scenes as described above, Blue is the Warmest Color calls for a subtle awareness and a maturity in experience that merits the NC-17 rating. To some, the film will end on a rather abrupt note. But it actually marks another heartbreaking moment of jouissance where Adèle comes to realize love is never equal or shared at the same level. When Emma tells her, “I will have infinite tenderness for you” it’s different from what Adèle feels. This is not a film so much about gay love as it as about love in itself. Adèle is not sexually confused. She loves Emma in a manner that defies gender. That the actresses can convey this while under the meticulous direction of a man speaks to the power of Blue is the Warmest Color.
The full-frontal nudity, the sex and the masturbation, juxtaposed with Adèle teaching pre-school children or her wolfing down dinner while talking with her mouth full with her father shows intimacy and life. This is far from some abstract art film. It conveys life much more honestly than many romantic films out of Hollywood, which only seem to instill some false sense of expectation. This is the real deal. Far deeper than girl-on-girl porn turned drama, Blue is the Warmest Color stands on its own merits as a progressive essay on the elusive sensation of love that defies the hetero-normative constructs of what a relationship is supposed to be.
Blue Is the Warmest Color is Rated NC-17 (you know the hype: the sex in this film is explicit. Regardless, its story has a subtlety that will only be picked up by the mature audience member), is in French with English Subtitles and runs 179 minutes. It is distributed by IFC Films who provided a preview screener for the purposes of this review. It is now slowly seeping into theaters. It opened this past Friday, Nov. 8 in my area of South Florida at the following theaters:
South Beach 18 – Miami Beach
Gateway 4 – Fort Lauderdale
On Nov. 15, it opens further north in:
Parisian 20 – West Palm Beach
Pompano 18 – Pompano
Shadowood – Boca Raton
Update: The Bill Cosford Cinema in Coral Gables has added the film to its calendar beginning Thursday, Nov. 21. See the cinema’s calendar here.
Update 2: The Miami Beach Cinematheque has added the film to its calendar beginning Friday, Nov. 22. See the cinema’s calendar here.
Update 3: The Cinema Paradiso in Fort Lauderdale has added the film to its calendar beginning Friday, Nov. 22. See the cinema’s calendar here.
Update 4: O Cinema’s Wynwood location has added the film to its calendar beginning Friday, Nov. 29. See the cinema’s calendar here.
It has already opened in some parts of the U.S., and it may already be playing at a theater near you or on its way there. Visit the film’s official website here and insert your zip code to find out.
November 8, 2013
Jon Anderson is one of those early pioneers of the British progressive rock scene still working who has earned the title of living legend. He was part of many important albums of the prog scene as a co-founding member and frontman of Yes. What a breath of fresh air that he appeared game to entertain some questions that I’m sure he has heard often with warmth and some amusement.
For instance, what happened that made the band carry on without him? “I was going to get back together with the band [in 2008],” he admitted while chatting over the phone, during some grocery shopping, “and then I got really sick, and then that’s when the band decided to move on and carry on touring with another singer and I just thought, well, I gotta get better first. It took me a while. It took me about eight months, nine months. And then I said, OK, well, they’re out there doing their thing maybe I should go out and do my thing, and that’s when I started really touring as a solo artist more and more, and it has become part of my life.”
It’s probably an explanation his given many times before. The fact that he put up with such questions twice in a row after my recorder failed following a 20-minute chat stands as proof that he is far from allowing an ego to overtake his humanity. I regret that I lost a nice exchange about the band’s 1973 ambitions double-album Tales From Topographic Oceans, where he not only offered insight into its themes inspired by the Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda but also what exploring that philosophy meant to him personally. He said, back then, record labels and some bands, were all about maximizing profit and excess. He was more interested in keeping his ego in check and maintaining a perspective unsullied by money and fame. Exploring this Eastern philosophy has helped keep him grounded as well as inspired much of Yes’ fantastic music and lyrics. We also spoke about meditation, which he still practices, and how Yes’ albums capture the sensation of meditation and bliss in its music.
Even though he is no longer with Yes, Anderson continues to compose and record new material as a solo artist not all that different from Yes. In 2011, he self-released a 20-minute-plus digital-only single entitled “Open” (Support the Independent Ethos, purchase direct through Amazon via this link). Not long after, he teased a follow-up called “Ever” that has yet to see release. “Yeah, I started it last year,” he noted, “and it has taken longer than I expected it. We’re down to the last framework of the songs—two-and-half songs. Altogether, it’s about eight songs that are all inter-working together. It’s still not quite finished. I’m working with them now with a friend … It’s a slow process. Music never happens when you think it is going to happen. You work on something and a week later you say, ‘Nah, that really didn’t work. I gotta try again.’ And you do. You gotta keep going until it feels right.”
Let’s face it, any fan of Yes’ music is waiting to hear about his return to fronting the band that has comfortably gone on without him. Well, he did answer that question as well as reveal plans with former Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman in our interview, the bulk of which can be read in the “Miami New Times” music blog “Crossfade.” Jump through the blog’s logo below to read that article:
As the quote in the headline notes, Anderson may indeed once again front Yes. In an earlier interview I did with Yes drummer Alan White, for the “Broward-Palm Beach New Times” music blog “County Grind,” his former bandmate hinted at the same possibility. You can read that interview by jumping through the blog’s logo below:
Jon Anderson takes the stage Sunday, November 10, at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach. Two shows: 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Tickets cost $81.95. All ages. Call 800-653-8000 or visit ticketmaster.com. For more Jon Anderson tour dates, visit his official website.