The Combination of Paris & Texas

February 20th, 2008 § 4 comments

Wim Wenders and Sam Shepard are a rather unlikely pair. Wenders is such a romantic, his films often reflect the inner humanity of people and places, he captures beauty that might otherwise be missed, he finds the glory in despair, problems with divinity. The visceral world, with all of its disturbing tendencies is that which he loves, and he treats it tenderly, almost delicately, with his documentaries and films. One gets the sense that he tries very hard not to squelch the thing, a strain of humanness perhaps, that he seeks to capture, a fault of many film makers who smash first and look after, filmmakers who simply set about creating what they missed through old ticks of the trade. There are very few films I see that feel or even look honest, that represent rather than manipulate, and while I don’t get the impression that Wenders always succeeds, at least I always know he is trying. He reminds me a bit of Kieslowski.

And then of course, there is Sam Shepard, who will always be fixed in my mind as the only Chuck Yeager (or at least as more real than the real Yeager) there ever was, the perfect creation for Tom Woolf’s character. The last play of Shepard’s I read, and discussed with Jon shortly before he died, was A Lie of the Mind, and the last film I saw him in was in France, Don’t Come Knocking. His plays seem to me to glorify what is absolutely most foul about our human nature. His stories are twisted narratives beginning with a kind of mysterious dysfunction, who drift along a path that appears to be the reconciliation of that dysfunction, but which is really sending one farther towards it, and deeper into the heart of tragedy. The brilliance of them, and my hesitation at the word ‘glorify’, is somehow you care about these people, you care about their hearts and their blunders, they are almost relieved of their crimes by your lack of judgment. Perhaps because one is waiting and hoping so long for their redemption—you want the mother to find her son, you will the father to put down the bottle, you hope the brother will cease to beat his wife, you never expected the father to shoot the son-in-laws brother—that in the end their mere survival seems a feat to be applauded. His characters are slow to reveal who and what they are, why and how they came to be the way they are, and because of this they are not dramatically horrible, but subtly, and identifiably, flawed. Their ugliness makes them more human somehow than the pretty faces we admire so much on the big screen. So, Wenders and Shepard make an odd but interesting combination.

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Blows & Butterflies

February 4th, 2008 § 0 comments

I have seen two movies this week, both in French, that were both quite good, and coincidentally, one referenced the other. I don’t know very much about Truffaut and his films, but Les Quatre Cents Coups or The 400 Blows was a surprisingly sincere look into the mind of an adolescent boy, Instead of being about sexual awakening, most American films seem to think the only interesting, difficult, or important thing about being a teenager are the dangers of sex (and perhaps drugs), this film was about the hierarchical systems of society. We see this through classroom scenes and days spent revolting against the rules. The stupidity with which we understand children and the meaningless tasks we give them makes one wonder how dumb a child would have to be not to protest and disobey. We follow our protagonist as he struggles to find ways around the “rules” of his life, rules that his parents don’t seem to have to follow in the same way. It is amazing how quickly this attitude leads toward “crime” and what happens to children who do not follow along with society. I was reminded of The Stranger, and Camus’ point of showing that it was alright for his protagonist to commit murder, he was sentenced instead because he did not cry at his mothers funeral. This oversight of what society deemed normal, caused him to be seen as cold, inhuman, and therefore criminal. Once this young boy was seen as a lost cause little he did was going to change the manner in which adults, the rule makers and keepers, would treat him. It is amusing to note that he was arrested and disowned by his parents for putting back the typewriter he stole from his fathers desk at work. He could have left it anywhere but the fact that he chose to take it back was his own undoing, almost as thought his act of teenage thoughtfulness, was proof of his bad nature. There is something too about boys and violence that society detests in teenagers, they are almost feared as though they have the power to hurt and yet not the “manly” discretion to know who to hurt and when. I was reminded of my brother as a teenager, strolling up the street one day looking cool and gang-like in his wife beater. Our neighbors were convinced for a good long time, while I was still allowed to babysit their children, that he was a delinquent and dangerous. As he became a charming and handsome (at least in appearances) young man they forgot this past image–an image was all it ever was. My favorite scene in the film was the 14-year-old speaking to the psychiatrist at the military school, a scene where apparently the actor created his own lines and stories, and he shows us what his life has been, a scene that not only justifies and explains his behavior but casts a shadow upon those truly responsible for causing it. Once we judge and blame, however, it seems quite hard to change convictions, and this film seems to point out the meanness of relying on societies convictions to show us right from wrong, good from bad.

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