Every Day’s the “Weekend”

I’ve seen this excellent film about 10 times now, so of course the experience of viewing it has changed since that first fateful and, frankly, life-changing time.

It’s such an exciting film to revisit because every moment of it is jam-packed with depth and little references that wouldn’t make sense unless you are re-watching it. Our knowledge of these characters and their histories aren’t fully developed until the end of the movie (duh) so going through the journey again with this greater perspective makes each viewing that much more weighted and powerful.

Without providing too many spoilers, here are some fun things to keep an eye out (roughly in order as they appear) for when you revisit this modern masterpiece:

  • Listen to the story Jamie is telling about an experience he and Russell had when they were young. Does it sound like the way Russ is now?
  • When does Russell wear his hat? Can you spot a pattern?
  • What are some of the questions Glen asks Russell as they go from the pool to Russell’s apartment?
  • What number is Glen to Russell? What does that tell you about Russell’s love life?

These are just some of the fun tidbits that come to mind. What are “clues” you’ve noticed in Weekend?

Stoker (2013)

Stoker is a creepy, though initially uninteresting, story of a family in the aftermath of a tragic death. It’s actually quite a feat that director Park Chan-wook is able to achieve, with three individuals so shrouded in mystery but make us not really wonder what went down so long ago.

The movie is undeniably made well though. The score by Carter Burwell (of Black Swan) contributes to the atmosphere, as does the excellent sound design, heightening the cracks of an egg, the snip of scissors, and other disconcerning noises.

The flow also keeps the movie watchable, if not wholly engaging; it was easy to sit back and watch events unfold, but I wasn’t really concerned one way or the other of how things went down – UNTIL a jolting revelation came about an hour into the movie. Suddenly the pace didn’t seem quite so plodding when this element added an unsettling intensity to the story.
-consistently creepy atmosphere.

From there, though, the movie kind of fell apart; without providing spoilers, the end plot point just didn’t fit with the logic of the rest of the story. There is no reason why things turned out the way they did. And maybe that was the point, that ____ happens without a clear-cut explanation; but for a hyper-stylized and well-thought out film, this ending just sputtered.

I don’t mind films with disturbing content (re: my stellar review of Salofrom a few months ago) if there’s a point and message underlying it. With Stoker, I couldn’t really pick up on it beyond for the narrative’s sake… movies this dark should at least have a reason to be this way, and I don’t think this did.

The Flowers of St. Francis (1950)

Actually the first film I’ve ever seen by Roberto Rossellini, The Flowers of St. Francis is the sweet biopic of sorts about St. Francis of Assisi and his followers (or flowers, if you will).

It is told in a serious of interesting, sometimes humorous, vignettes, such as St. Francis meeting a leper in the countryside, and the antics of the Saint’s followers. It is actually very interesting to see what their lives were like during this time period, showing their charity work and collaborations with St. Mary of the Angels and her respective followers.

It is almost more the story of these disciples, particularly Brother Ginepro, than of Francis himself. We don’t see him go through the typical hero’s journey of growth and redemption. We do, however, see his followers learn how to effectively embody and teach the word of Christ, making this more “their” movie in my opinion.

While engaging, The Flowers of St. Francis does not carry emotional poignancy until the very end; when St. Francis bids his followers goodbye and instructs them to go forth and preach, it is a very moving and inspiring moment to see his disciples, excited yet scared, work on behalf of not just their Lord, but also the Saint and man they admire so much.

It might be my Catholic upbringing talking, but The Flowers of St. Francis is an informative, surprisingly unpretentious, and truly heartwarming portrait of the People’s Saint.

2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (1967)

This film may be Jean-Luc Godard at his least accessible. 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her is the lucid journey through the experiences of French women in the 1960s. There is virtually no plot, just a series of scenes with her children and at work as a prostitute; blended in with all of this are scenes of other women in this line of work.

This “story” is told in a very interesting manner though, flowing between all these scenes and strung together by the whispers of an omnipresent male narrator as well as the women occasionally breaking the fourth wall and speaking to us directly. In addition, prostitution serves as an interesting metaphor; these are all women who appear to be middle-class, yet they are apparently forced into this lifestyle of exploitation by men.

This creates the gender divide recurring throughout the film. The women do what they need to in order to make ends meet, including resorting to prostitution. Meanwhile, the men often have their heads in the clouds, focusing on international politics or theory, lacking the practical “skill” the women employ.

I could follow the film through this much, but on top of this there was clearly a critical commentary on consumer culture and capitalism; it was hard for me to understand its place in all the action though, and the reversion to this theme made the end product seem a bit bloated to me, as if Godard tried to bite off more than he could chew.

This movie certainly reflects Godard’s effort to surge into more serious territory, particularly gender politics. 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her isn’t for everybody, but it is good viewing for Godard aficionados. Most Americans (myself included) aren’t very conscious of representations of feminism in other countries, so this film is particularly illuminating.

The Third Man (1949)

The Third Man is the exciting and suspenseful European response to film noir, a genre often associated with America. Its visuals and narrative follow what we have come to expect from your typical noir, but its thematic content and musical score are distinctly European.

We follow our hero, an American, through a (supposed) murder mystery of his former friend in the heart of Vienna. This is a bleak vision of Vienna, physically and emotionally destroyed from World War II and still recovering. Four powers hold jurisdiction over this territory, and everyone is always stepping on someone else’s toes.

The European theme is further strengthened through, interestingly enough, its American protagonist; he is a picture of American exceptionalism gone too far, interfering with others’ affairs despite their constant warnings for him to stay away.

This is a surprisingly efficient film, packing in a lot of plot for just a 100-minute run time. The fast pacing keeps us engaged and fully immersed in the action taking place. Surprises and big reveals work effectively, as we know only as much as our hero (again, back to typical noir). The Third Man strikes a wonderful balance between European intellectual film and the excitement of an American noir.

Band of Outsiders (1964)

One of the most undeniably cool movies I’ve seen, Band of Outsiders by Jean-Luc Godard is the story of three young adults who scheme to rob a neighbor. Everything that takes is by chance, including their friendship by ending up in a class together and the woman (played to vulnerable excellence by Anna Karina) who accidentally slipped to her boyfriend that a fellow tenant in her apartment building is loaded.

Like you’d expect from Godard, though, this is a classic case of style over substance. As meaty as the story is, the Band gets its bite from its filmmaking techniques; the black-and-white imagery of a bleak home accompanied by melancholy music foils the outrageous fun of the famous Madison dance scene in which the three heroes dance to a (possibly imaginary) R&B song.

This high contrast makes the pacing uneven at times, swirling between quiet moments of plotting with high-intensity crime, but that’s probably the point. These are individuals who are clearly uncomfortable and not equipped to pull something like this off, so it’s uncomfortable for us the audience to watch them.

The icing on the cake is in the final scene; as characters drive off, their discussion recaps what essentially the theme of the film is. There is a dialogue on the nature of humanity, whether we are even meant to band together, or if we are always individuals at heart, ready to break apart.

This concept is reflective both of the French New Wave as well as this film’s overall influence by American culture; the sense of individual over the community is a pretty groundbreaking idea in 1960s French cinema, reminding us how groundbreaking this film and the ideas it presents really are.

As almost a middle ground between the more thrilling Breathless and the more lighthearted and comedic A Woman is a WomanBand of Outsidersmay be the ultimate Godard film, seamlessly blending his humor with cold-hearted intensity.