Well, well, well….
With the academy awards ceremony just around the corner, it’s the right time to hit the theaters and enjoy the inventive movies on offer. Rather that rushing to see “The Wolf of Wall Street” (Scorcese with DiCaprio, based on a true story, what could possibly go wrong? I’ll watch that later), I’ve chosen “Walter Mitty and his secret life”, because the storyline sounded appealing, and there was no dissatisfaction .
The film is based on a 1939 short story by James Thurber. While some changes have been made in regard of the original story, namely since the action in the book is wrapped tightly around Walter Mitty and a single event as trivial and unremarkable as accompanying his wife to the drugstore. He stays for a smoke outside the shop while she proceeds with the groceries’ list. The essence of Walter Mitty’s rich inner life and feats is pretty much interestingly translated onto the screen. Ben Stiller does a remarkable composition, a pleasant mixture for a contemplative character made of grace and reserve, the plot is maybe not fantastically inventive, but it flows nicely and the ties are well tied together, interwoven with clues we grabbed along the road to his own journey into the real world. Haven’t we all day-dreamt of delivering punching line to people who are as annoying as a dickhead, or to rude people or haven’t we fought that with a bit of increased audacity we would have done or said something bound to lead to a better situation, and kept for ourselves for various reasons? Sometimes, though, the only alternative is to harness that audacity and just…. well, dive into the unknown, because it feels right.
It is also a refreshing film for three reasons ; firstly in the sense that the filming locations are not somewhere in the States, pretending to be that particular area in the world where the action is supposed to be taking place. The crew did film in several part of Iceland (but they did not film the Himalayan part in real Himalaya though but in Iceland too, namely in Longufjorur on the Snaefellsnes peninsula, still, the magic works).
It’s refreshing too because the crush he has for his colleague finds a quiet and gentle materialization when he firmly holds her hand, and we are spare the too-often -seen lip-crashing kiss plastered all over the screen since Top Gun (1986), in big scale, which since then made every kissing moment look like its always raw desire on steroids that both the protagonists seem to be able to either perform or want. So a little change is very welcome, and here the apparent shyness makes it for a gentle breeze without losing its powerful implication. Out of Africa (1985) was the embodiment of that elliptically shown strong desire, and it never felt less powerful that a close-up on naked bodies rummaging together on a bed, against a wall, on the floor, warlike, and seldom necessary in such length or numerous occurrence.
Thirdly, ( no offence, please) it felt refreshing to have locals playing the characters of locals, and not some American again playing the foreigners, much to the weariness of the (European, shall I write?) audience. Ólafur Darri Ólafsson as a Greenlandic pilot is just perfect and he feels right too, just as the Chilean ship crew and the Icelandic/Greenlandic ship crew or the ticket agent (Rosamund Gundmundsdottir).
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is a very pleasant film, which provides an enduring feeling of lightness and happiness and a sense of joy, The photography is fantastic and that alone should have the movie being qualified for the Academy Awards, along with a perfect script. Ben Stiller proves again that he is a real creative bloke, he acts in and directs here a great film, whose qualities will better with age. (Unlike the absurd “Arthur Newman” , 2012, in which Colin Firth and Emily Blunt unconvincingly play 2 American con artists, lost in their own identity and tediously trying to escape their miserably boring lives, 2 appealing British actors along with the somewhat inconsistent Anne Heche. Result : greatly annoying film full of wearisome cliches ).
“Her” is a surprise, emphasing on the loneliness experienced by humans dwelling in this modern techie urban habitat. We follow the life of Theodore Twombly whose job is to write love letters for people who lack either the ability, or the time to do so. Theodore is a loner, still grieving over his lost relationship to his childhood sweetheart. He enrolls on a program providing humans with a personal OS, a virtual companion, able to learn and grow human like feelings. What ensues id crystal clear : he falls in love with the witty software, which improves so rapidly in the field of emotions and psychological understanding that their relationship becomes (strangely) intimate and emotionally accurate. Of course, what underlines the script is that no such relationship can exist, since we are humans, and no machine, as much sophistication it can get/operate/create/develop/have , can rival another human being because there is a moment when feelings and closeness need to find their physical expression and materialization through those trivial things but unbeaten yet : the skin, fingers, lips and eye locking into another step of intimacy, different and yet complementary to the closeness of soul, mind and spirit.
Here, Spike Jonze signs a question-raising film regarding our human condition, the loneliness we can experiment even when surrounded by fantastic tools of communications and technology enhancing or facilitating our everyday life. In the end, the moral of the story looks like : to experiment human contact and togetherness, joy in being reunited and this sense of “belonging”, the simplest thing to do is to ring a friend, drag them out of their flat, and together, closely seated in the warmth of human bond (love, friendship), contemplate the sunrise, rekindling with our human capacity to marvel at the simple joys Nature has to offer, and that can never be replaced, even by sophisticated machine. Steel can never have goose pimple, whereas the human body can express inner emotions through various changes, in temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, change in color of the skin, breath and fluids exuding its pores or tear canals.
A modern tale, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, with a mustached Joaquin Phoenix.
Everybody’s gathering to Sundance FF!
I heard the other day over the radio Matt Damon and Glenn Close… I think this once alternative and indie-prone Film Fest seems to be gradually getting transplants and defectors from Hollywood and getting to be contaminated by Hollywood stars and spirit…..Or is it? Anyway, I recommend RAINDANCE film Fest, and other Indie Film Fest, less known and yest more innovative and out of the big machine circuits…
So fellow film lovers, oddjobbers, check those FF and let us keep cinema ALSO indie.
New York, New York – USA
May 14 to 18, 2014