Saturday, March 10, 2007

old joy

it's been a fortnight of meditative cinema - the monks of 'into great silence', jack nicholson's ambivalent journalist at the heart of 'the passenger', and now the unexpected glories of 'old joy' - a film apparently based on a book of still photographs. two guys who used to be roommates go on a short road trip, lie down in a hot spring, talk a little, feel regret, and go home.

the sense of a once-meaningful friendship disappearing into the past is palpably evoked by the pitch-perfect central performances by daniel london and will oldham, the gentle photography that really takes its time, and the fact that pretty much all of us will be able to identify with the story from the inside.

it's also one of the most subtly devastating critiques of the bush administration, and, more importantly, the lack of a substantive alternative offered from the left (and my generation specifically).

perhaps the only criticism i would make is that there is not enough of this film, but that, i guess is another way of saying that what is there is really rather wonderful.

Monday, March 05, 2007

the passenger

watching michelangelo antonioni's 'the passenger' is a stilling experience, not least of all because jack nicholson's laconic way is better suited to this film than pretty much any other i've seen. the story of a man who disappears into the life of another for reasons best known to himself doesn't rely on movie style or tricks, but conveys something of the inner life of a certain kind of person - he or she who does things for an inexplicable purpose. 'i used to be somebody else but i traded him in' says jack's character, travelling from north africa to london to munich and barcelona by way of the map of the human soul. a character tells another that the questions we ask reveal more about us than the answers given. nothing much happens in this picture, except the transfixed gaze of the audience. and it made me feel like i was alive.

p.s. watch it with jack's commentary on the dvd for a treasurable couple of hours in the presence of one of pop culture's true originals.