I went to see a new film yesterday called (appropriately) “Weekend“. As you might imagine, the entire story takes place over a single weekend, and deals in a no frills, intimate way with the beginning of a relationship. It explores what happens when two people meet and get to know each other, coming to terms with their differing outlooks and perspectives. The film for me was definitely more than the sum of its parts, even though it was the parts I focused on. The almost always close in camera shots. The use of sound and more importantly overlaid sounds that obscured the dialog to great effect. The honesty about gay sex and how it is portrayed inside (to the gay community) and outside (to the straight world), even though the sex acts themselves were highly abbreviated. The simple moments of kindness. The honest, messy back and forth of getting to know someone. The simple ways drugs and alcohol can affect how people interact with each other. In short, the film was highly naturalistic, with a vulnerable tenderness that well conveys what connecting with someone is really like.
I was developing a bit of a cold and didn’t feel like going out, so I rented and watched the movie “Synecdoche, New York” last night. It is both one of the most incredible and saddest films I have ever seen. The film follows the life of the main character of theater director Caden (played to perfection by Philip Seymour Hoffman), who after winning a MacArthur grant, begins work on his magnum opus. It also details his loves and inevitable losses and essential loneliness in the face of other people. The film skips through time and one is never sure if the events are happening in the past or present or in some dystopian dreamworld. His masterpiece is essentially a recreation of the minutiae and scenes of his own life, and throughout the film he spends many many years on it as it becomes more and more unwieldy and self referential. In addition, he keeps seeing parts of his body break down with multiple trips to various doctors. This film is a meditation on the inevitability of death and the futility of holding on to things and people too tightly. There are many scenes pregnant with dark humour and metaphor, and the film could (and probably should) be watched multiple times, trying to integrate all of the chaos. There was something heart-achingly true and precise about the film, and I would be lying if I said it was uplifting in any way. But through this deep sadness is a sort of cautionary tale about our own ego and illusion of control. We are far better off to let go a little and enjoy the ride without always needing to steer.
My friend Jai and I went to go see Slumdog Millionarire yesterday in Greenwich Village. It was very good, and in particular the images of slum life in Mumbai and Indian city chaos in general were far more faithful and true than in any other movie I have seen. It is especially interesting to put this movie up against something as trite as Darjeeling Limited for comparison. Slumdog has a much more authentic take on Indian life. Darjeeling was nothing but someone’s fantasy version of India, the one Wes Anderson (the director) wishes existed in place of the real.
There were also several scenes in the movie that depicted things that I always imagined happened in India while I was there (like refilling old mineral water bottles with tap and resealing them for resale, for example). I was left wondering how much western audiences would be able to connect with this film (if the film’s success is any gauge they apparently very much are) as it seemed to me greatly enhanced by my previous experience of Mumbai.