AN INTERNATIONAL FILM-FEST AT HOME
I'm feeling kind of intoxicated by the DVDs and videos we've seen in the
past week. Not having the time or money to travel as much as I'd like, I
continue to experience "The One Life" as it manifests around the globe
through the fine films that are coming out of so many countries.
Our film diet this past week included one terrific American film and one
each from France, Iran, Argentina, and Cuba! You can find information on
any of these films by doing a search at: www.imdb.com.
"Catch Me If You Can"
We missed this one when it came out a year or two ago. I'd only
heard my mom say she enjoyed it. If you don't know, it's about a man
who, as a teen-ager, went on a fantastic odyssey, due to the break-up of
his family and his keen intelligence. In five years before he was 21, he
successfully impersonated an airline pilot, a doctor, a lawyer, a
college professor, and passed millions of dollars of self-created
I don't want to give the story away. The film's moving, inspiring and
constructive, as well as enormously entertaining. The characters are
wonderful. It's all based on the autobiography of Frank Abagnole, Jr.,
the person who did all this and has turned his talents to legal uses.
Directed by Spielberg, with Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher
Walken, Martin Sheen being the recognizable names for me.
French films are all "art films", aren't they? Maybe not, but many,
including this one, are not "star vehicles" so they're
able to get down to life and truth. "Human Resources", in fact, uses
actual factory workers to play essentially the parts they play in their
This movie dramatizes the poignant situation of a young man whose father
has worked hard in a dehumanizing factory job for many years, so that he
could put his son through college. At college, the young man studied
industrial management, and he winds up as a trainee manager for the
factory where his dad works. The scene is set for all sorts of
situations that show how delicate is the fabric of family love. The film
is very much about "class"not as an ideological idea, though, as a
human social phenomenon.
I personally felt puzzled by an ending that seemed abrupt, but the movie
enabled me to vicariously experience a side of life I don't know very
well. And it brought into bold relief the years of my own coming-of-age,
and the memory of conflicts with my dad that I now realize had as many
layers as a pastry made of philo dough.
"Son of the Bride"
Out of Argentina comes one of those "BABA movies"at
least for uslike "Enchanted April", though you might not know it at
first. It's about the midlife crisis of a "type A" restaurant owner in
Buenos Aires. Near the film's beginning, a relative describes this
fellow's life as "like a juggler with three plates at once going around
Contrasted with him is his dad, a bright-eyed old man whose one dream is
to finally give Norma, his partner of 44 years and the protagonist's
mom, a church wedding. Norma, whom the dad still sees as the mesmerizing
"love of his life", is now an Alzheimer's patient in a nursing home. Her
mate, though, can only see her through is eyes of Love. His "impossible
dream" would touch Baba's Heart. The Love eventually transforms every
character in the movie, including "Mr. Type A." Some of the reviewers
may have called "Son of the Bide" sentimental, but for Barbara and I the
film simply dramatizes the triumph of the heart.
"A Time for Drunken Horses"
This movie, necessarily unsentimental, is also the triumph of a heart in its own way.
The director, Bahman Ghobadi, has succeeded in dramatizing the almost unbelievably
harsh life of the Kurds who live in the mountains of northern Iraq and Iranthe
life he grew up living.
Love exists everywhere, not the least in the family of 5 children we get
to know here. The mother has died birthing the youngest daughter, and
early in the film, the father is the victim of a land mine as he tries
to eke out a living smuggling tires over the mountains to Iraq. (The
entire film takes place in winter, by the way, with deep snow, beautiful
as it is, making everything more difficult.) Ayoub, the twelve year old
boy, becomes an instant grown-up as he tried to get enough money to take
care of his siblings and to pay for an operation for Madi, his
dwarf-like teenaged brother who has been ill his whole life.
The "drunken horses" of the title comes from the practice of pouring
liquor in the water of the mules used to go over the mountains, so
they'll be able to keep going in the extreme cold.
Not a pretty picture, but as Roger Ebert wrote, the film puts a human
face on people whom we've all met on the news pages.
It's amazing that this satire of Cuban Communist beauracracy was ever
screened on the island. The movie is a colorful, zany, "road movie" that
really gives the viewer a picture of life in Cuba, following a hearse that
leaves the town of Guantanamera bound for Havana, about five hundred
Adolfo, who has been demoted from a position in the capital, is an
undertaker. In Cuba that, too, is a government job. He's trying to make
a name for himself. He's hatched a scheme: when someone who dies in one
city needs to be transported elsewhere for burial, the coffin will be
transferred to a different hearse as it crosses each regional boundary.
Adolfo says his method will save gasoline, but like the fuzzy plots of
many beauracrats, the "progress" is all smoke and statistics.
The procession winds its way across the impoverished but lovely island,
carrying the body of Yoyita, a famous singer who has died while visiting
her old home town. Yoyita's teenage boyfriend Candido, still in love
with her, and her niece Gina, wife of Adolfo, make the long journey,
along with Adolfo and his driver. Mariano, a former student of Gina's,
is a commercial truck driver who literally "bumps into" Gina at a café
rest stop. Slapstick situations and romance follow the characters across
the island, to a Havana denouement that I found satisfying.
Each of these films left me feeling indulged, but in a positive
wayindulged, luxuriating, in Universal Life. Conversely, when I turned
on "MAD TV" last night, I got a "mayavic headache" within a few minutes.
Good films or, for that matter, good TV"serious" or "funny"leave me