Can't Stop the Movies - No One Can Stop The Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

For the week of 4/25/2017 on Can’t Stop the Movies

The dramatic rollout of 2016 continues onward this week.  I'll be reviewing the Natalie Portman biopic Jackie, the behind-the-scenes work of the black women for the United States space program in Hidden Figures, Hailee Steinfeld's coming-of-age dramedy The Edge of Seventeen, and Fences - which won Viola Davis her long-deserved Oscar.

Remember, no one can stop the movies.


Paterson (2016)

Paterson lives in New Jersey driving buses in a town bearing his name.  When he has a moment to himself, he writes poetry, which his wife encourages him to copy.  He promises her that in one week he will finally copy his work.  Jim Jarmusch wrote the screenplay for and directed Paterson, and stars Adam Driver and Golshifteh Farahani.

"They were just words written on water."

Live long enough, and you might have the joy of knowing someone like Paterson (Adam Driver).  He's a person whose routine is happy, modest, and conceals a world of poetry he pulls from everyday life.  "Lonely as a cloud," comes to mind as Paterson watches the massive heartbreaks and tiny successes that punctuate our temporary existence.  If we're here to go, why not fill life with what beauty we can?

Paterson may be writer/director Jim Jarmusch's best movie.  This isn't something I say easily, but the light touch of Paterson's life carries so much weight and beautiful promise I can't imagine a time when Paterson won't stay in my heart.  Part of Paterson's success lay in Jarmusch's longstanding cinematic focus on the American Dream, the myth that attracts lonely people to our shores and sometimes expels them just as quickly.  The people of Paterson are not the gigantic success stories.  There are no Bukowskis, Ginsbergs, or Dickinsons here.  That doesn't make Paterson's words, or those of the people in his life, any less important.


The Handmaiden (2016)

Lady Hideko is set to be married to her Uncle Kouzuki so he might gain access to her fortune.  Across the long stretch of Japan-occupied Korea, a con man named Count Fujiwara concocts a scheme to install Sook-hee as Lady Hideko's handmaiden so he can manipulate Lady Hideko's heart to claim her fortune as his own.  But the heart wants what the heart wants, and each participant in this game of deception harbors desires that might destroy everyone's plans.  Park Chan-wook directs The Handmaiden, with the screenplay written by Chung Seo-kyung and Park Chan-wook, and stars Kim Tae-ri, Kim Min-hee, Ha Jung-woo, and Cho Jin-woong.

I will be forever grateful for the moment I sat down on Kyle's sofa, he popped in Park Chan-wook's Oldboy, and I lost my damn mind.  Never had I seen such an eclectic array of visual styles led by Chan-wook's steady hands.  By the time Oh Dae-su stood bloodied and breathless at the end of a hallway littered with bodies of opponents he just destroyed, I knew I was witnessing something so singular that it might never be topped.

But those were the thoughts of an Andrew with a decade of experience ahead of him.  Since then, what felt so fresh about Oldboy started to run a bit long in the tooth, and Chan-wook's other two vengeance films, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Lady Vengeance, got their hooks deep in me with more subtlety in their execution.  With The Handmaiden, it's clear Chan-wook's talents did not reach their pinnacle with Oldboy, and The Handmaiden's kooky success is enrapturing.


Lion (2016)

Saroo has a hard if loving life, taking coal to sell with his brother, or helping his mother around their home.  When Saroo is accidentally separated from his family he finds himself over one thousand kilometers away from home in a land where no one understands him.  As an adult, Saroo deals with the pain of his marooned early life, while he finds hope that he might one day rediscover his family.  Garth Davis directs Lion, with the screenplay written by Luke Davies, and stars Sunny Pawar, Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, and Nicole Kidman.

It's amazing how much one subtitle can inform the perspective of a movie.  Early in Lion, young Saroo (Sunny Pawar) gets stuck in a train for several days.  As the train nears its destination, Kolkata, a subtitle politely informs us in the audience that Saroo has traveled nearly 1600km away from his home in Khandwa.  Too often in Westernized movies do the artists behind the camera take the countries they present for granted, reducing the complexity of countries, states, provinces, and villages which form foreign lands into a single mass.  Director Garth Davis doesn't condescend India like this, and inserts that one subtitle in as a way of respectfully educating those in the audience who need it.

That sense of respect for the varying cultures and languages of India is present for the first half of Lion, only for the respect to become a tad ephemeral in the second.  The first half works so well because Davis treats Saroo's story with respect and tailors it exactly to Saroo's surroundings.  Davis doesn't present young Saroo's time in Khandwa and Kolkata with the sort of bombast that made Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire so entertaining.  Saroo looks like the child he is, lost in the fairy tale of his life.


Silence (2016)

Sebastião Rodrigues and Francisco Garupe, Jesuit priests, learn their mentor has abandoned his faith after the Tokugawa shogunate tortured him.  Seeking an opportunity to save their mentor and bring light to the tormented Christian faithful of Japan, Rodrigues and Garupe embark on a dangerous journey.  Martin Scorsese directs Silence, with the screenplay written by Jay Cocks and Martin Scorsese, and stars Andrew Garfield, Issey Ogata, and Adam Driver.

"We're still on the road and it's never going to end.  I thought it would for a little while, but once I was there, I realized no.  Even in the editing room, it's unfinished.  It will always be unfinished."
-Martin Scorsese on NCR-

At 74, Martin Scorsese still possesses the moral fire needed to criticize vapid arguments against faith, strength, and what it means to be a good person.  Silence is one of Scorsese's most fiery protests, arguing both for the necessity of faith in a world seemingly consumed with God's silence.  My mistake going into Silence was that Scorsese was making his version of Ingmar Bergman's trilogy about the silence of God.  I was wrong.  Scorsese, even at the twilight of his life, does not hear silence in human suffering, but the patient hand of a creator waiting for the opportunity to lift us when we need it the most.

I'm not going to join the argument as to whether this is a healthy way to express religious faith or whether we should be discussing faith at all in the 21st century.  My optimistic agnosticism embraces the wonder of existence to the point where I have to accept that when people communicate so clearly an embrace of the divine I have to pay attention.  The reverse of this is also true, and I must sit and listen to those stories of people who had their faith tested only to come out wanting.  With Silence, Scorsese provides both of these perspectives, and refuses to give us easy answers about what is the best way to guide one another in faith.