Sunday, November 05, 2006

T-Bone's Movie Minute

Welcome to the first 'T-Bone's Movie Minute' brought to you by I'd like to use this space to reflect on a movie that I have viewed recently, either at the theater or at home on DVD. In this first movie minute, I'd like to talk about one of each.

First up is a film that was a recent rental. The film was TSOTSI. It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film earlier this year. Tsotsi is the name of the title character in the film. When translated into English, Tsotsi also means 'thug' or 'gangster' in the language spoken in the townships of South Africa, where the film takes place. In the film, Tsotsi is a brutal, cold-hearted person who runs with his a group of fellow thugs. Together, they spend each night looking for the next 'job,' hoping to score some money. Through a series of heart-breaking events, Tsotsi is forced to face his past and what made him the way he is and decide his course of action. This is one of those films that is required viewing for me from time to time. A film that sucker-punches me in the gut and leaves me on the floor in pain. In this film, you see the living conditions in the South African townships, the disparate lifestyle between the people living there and the people who are better off. You see what Apartheid left behind and how AIDS is a REAL problem in South Africa that cannot be ignored. It also had a pitch perfect ending. This film further cemented feelings in me after hearing stories from friends who spent time in South Africa earlier this what they saw and experienced impacted their lives greatly. This film is not easy to watch, but should be watched. This film helped me realize (once again) how much I have to be thankful for in life. It also helped me think about how much I squander on unimportant things.

The other film is one Julie and I were able to catch at the theater a few weeks ago. That film is MARIE ANTOINETTE. It was written and directed by Sofia Coppola, who also wrote and directed LOST IN TRANSLATION, my favorite film of a few years ago. At this point, you are either with me completely or I have lost you. I recommended LOST IN TRANSLATION to many friends after it came out and the reaction was 'loved it!' or 'that was the most boring 2 hrs. of my life and what was it exactly that Bill Murray said to Scarlett Johansson at the end of the film?' In my opinion, Sofia Coppola has a talent for evoking emotions and feelings that help me get lost in the moment through her use of the film's soundtrack, both music and the 'sound' of the environment, and the lack of dialogue in certain scenes. One example of this in LOST IN TRANSLATION is when Scarlett's character, Charlotte, travels to Kyoto (the film takes place in Japan) to explore. In this scene, music by the French band Air (now I have completely lost some of you....thanks for reading this far) is playing and Charlotte spies a traditional Japanese wedding procession. A lot of detail placed on Charlotte's point of view and what exactly she is looking at. I won't describe the whole scene, but to me it says so much about Charlotte's character without one word of dialogue. Its brilliant! Go watch it.

In MARIE ANTOINETTE, Sofia continues in this tradition. From the opening credits this film had me with its 'Sex Pistols-type' of font being used for the credits and Gang of Four's 'Natural's Not In It' being blared over the speakers. During the opening credits, there is a brief shot of Kirsten Dunst's Marie Antoinette reclining in a chair, getting a pedicure, like in the picture to the right. During this shot, after sampling some French pastry, she looks right into the camera with a grin on her face that I can't quite explain, but it let me know that was not going to be your ordinary French historical period costume drama. Along with the classical music one would expect to hear in a film like this, there is much 80's post-punk/new wave music (from the likes of Bow Wow Wow, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Adam and the Ants, and New Order to name a few) used throughout and it works so well. There are so many great shots and little moments in this movie to get lost in. Kirsten Dunst carried this film and she was extraordinary. Jason Schwartzman (who played the infamous Max Fischer from one of my other favorite films RUSHMORE) also turned in a good performance as King Louis XVI. My wife and I enjoyed it very much and you will too if you are willing to try something different and let go of what you come to expect from typical movie fare.

Now I know that these are two films that most of you won't care to see, but I would like to challenge you and try something new, hoping you will come away surprised.


Doah said...

“Yep, silver and gold... this song was written in a hotel room in New York City 'round about the time a friend of ours, Little Steven, was putting together a record of Artists Against Apartheid. It’s a song written about a man in a shanty town outside of Johannesburg, a man who's sick of looking down the barrel of White South Africa, a man who is at the point where he is ready to take up a gun against his oppressor, a man who has lost faith in the peacemakers of the West while they argue and while they fail to support a man like Bishop Tutu and his request for economic sanctions against South Africa. Am I buggin’ you? I don't mean to bug ya. Okay, Edge, play the blues . . . ” --Bono (1988)

Doah said...

Hey dude, actually wanted to leave you a real comment, but reading your post reminded me of RATTLE AND HUM. Chrisy and I watched TSOTSI tonight and I really liked it a lot. It was very powerful. It reminded me a lot of a film I think you and I saw together actually in 2002 or 2003, CIDADE DE DEUS (CITY OF GOD) which was also a foreign film. In fact, Fernando Meirelles was up for Best Director that year. I think I even liked CITY OF GOD more than TSOTSI, although TSOTSI has a more "soft side" it did remind me of CITY OF GOD as you wrote about being sucker punched in the gut and I remember thinking I almost couldn't take watching CITY OF GOD due to emotional trauma on my part. They are similiar in the sense that Rio de Janeiro has a disparate lifestyle too. Where South Africa has the townships, Rio had the City of God in the center: Both were meant to contain the poor and "lesser-thans" of their countries. Both films also had this "crime as survival" theme that makes you feel sad for the "bad guys." Really sad stuff. At any rate, thanks for the recommendation. I had tried to get Chrisy to see TSOTSI in the theaters BEFORE she went to South Africa, and she was like, "No desire dude, another Doah artsy-fartsy, subtitled film." But, it took your post and e-mail to get her to rent it. It is one of those "required viewing" films that makes you better for it. As for MARIE ANTOINETTE, you know what I thought about that and what I think about Sofia because you read my own post. Cheers my far-away-friend. Happy shoveling soon, Doah

Doah said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I loved the movie. It was heart wrenching and the worst thing is I thought from my experience it was even worse than they showed it to be. Hey, did you see Little Miss Sunshine, what a great movie. Totally dsyfunctional family--it rocked. It was so funny, I could see myself laughing with you and Julie about it. Well, miss you and love you all