Secrets and Lies (1996)

Secrets & Lies
Written and directed by Mike Leigh
(number 294)

I sort of knew going in that this was going to be one of those awkwardly sad dramas. I’ve heard people refer to it before, I’ve heard people groan in reference to it. Well, I wasn’t..disappointed? This movie is a long, unflinching look at people who’s lives are sad, small and disconnected – even from the people they love. It’s so awkward, it’s so depressing.

The plot is around a woman tracking down her birth mother, getting to know her family and how very dysfunctional it is.

Cynthia is the cornerstone of the movie and absolutely the saddest character, she reminds me of one of the messed up mums in a Jacqueline Wilson book. She’s so afraid of everything – afraid of her own feelings, afraid of being left alone by the people around her, afraid of the world around her.

The party sequence is so horrible. It’s like watching one of the most awkward family gatherings in the world, and knowing most of what’s about to happen and dreading it. Dreading it so much.

Does it make me love the people? I love Hortense, because she’s so lovely and sweet. I love Maurice because he’s trying so hard and is so painfully repressed, he tries his best, he really does. The slow build of the connection between Hortense and Cynthia is very sweet.

It reminds me of the movies I would go see in the film festival without thinking too much about them. The movies would be slice of lifes. Little true stories about people’s ordinary lives and how messed up emotionally those ordinary lives can be. The pain and the pressure and the little hurts family members can dish out to each other. It’s not a fun thing to watch, it’s not a popcorn movie, but maybe it teaches us a little about who we are and how we deal with the people around us.

Bechdel test: Yes, lots of times. Roxanne and Cynthia talk a lot, then Hortense and Cynthia talk lots of times. We’re all good in this department. It just keeps on passing right through the movie: the bonus when all but one of your main ensemble cast are women.

Best line:

Maurice: Secrets and lies! We’re all in pain! Why can’t we share our pain? The three people I love the most in all the world hate each other’s guts and I’m stuck in the middle of it!

State of Mind: Honestly happy that this movie had a happy ending, I was so sure it was going to be only depressing and awkward, but the very end was just like the sun coming out after a horrid emotional storm of truth and pain. Thank goodness for that. I can’t see myself watching this movie again in a hurry though, so awkward. So cringey.

Watched movie count

Rashomon (1950)
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Written by Akira Kurosawa based on stories by Ry√Ľnosuke Akutagawa
(number 297)

Rashomon is a classic, and it’s one that’s had influences over many tv series and movies since, you’ve probably seen a version of it without realising the roots. I think the first one I saw was on the X-Files where when Scully described the local sheriff he was handsome and charming, but when Mulder described him he the actor was played with ugly make up and seemed stupid. Supernatural did a really good one where Sam and Dean get more and more insulting of each other as they go. It’s the story where the events are recounted later by different people and there’s subtle and not so subtle differences each time. It’s highly entertaining.

The movie is beautifully acted and it’s filmed in very beautiful Japanese countryside and ruins/buildings. The costumes were great, the make up…I don’t know what much else to say about it honestly. It’s a great film.

Does it make me love the people? I mean… kind of? I don’t know that you get enough time getting to know any of them to really love or care for them, and they’re all pretty much assholes so. Maybe not really but I can see that this movie is a pretty damning summary of human condition all round. I could definitely do without the rape scene and the general fall out of the rape.

The big sword fight was highly entertaining. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sword fight between people who were so afraid of being in a sword fight before. Worst samurai ever, just saying.

Bechdel test: No, only the one woman in this story.

Best line:

In the end, you cannot understand the things men do.

State of Mind: I pretty much enjoyed this, and I think I’d like to watch it again. The third storytelling was very unexpected! Very impressed. Probably need to rewatch it a couple times to get the nuances and the details which I didn’t quite catch. I might not watch it again soon, mind. Great film, great director, good watch. Do it.

Watched movie count

Ran (1985)

Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Written by Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni and Masato Ide based on King Lear by William Shakespeare
(number 291)

First of all let me say the costumes in this are off the hook awesome.

I watched it with Ellen on a partially foggy, partially sunny Saturday afternoon after we’d failed to find a copy of La Maman et Le Putain with English subtitles. Realising this is one the based on Lear we agreed to watch this instead. I had for some reason, imagined this was a much older film than the 80s so I was surprised by the lush colours of it. It’s gorgeous, the long shots of people on horseback at the top of a hill, or the interiors lit up by the bright kimono of one of the wives.

Lord Ichimoji wakes up and looks out the window to see his third castle is under siege, many warriors and horses and things burning.
Ellen: uh oh!
Jenni: yeah, that’s no good, I wouldn’t want to look out the window and see that.
E: If I woke up and saw that out my window I’d be more surprised than anything.

It’s a fantastic battle sequence though, beautiful music and fantastic staging. The burning castle was a real castle they build on the slopes of Mt Fuji and the fleeing had to be done in one take since they’d really burned their set. Full on. I can see how this movie was Kurosawa’s most expensive.

Does it make me love the people? Sure. Right at the start when the elderly Lord Ichimonji falls asleep, Saburo cuts the branches of a tree to set up a little shade for him, it’s very sweet. Much like with Lear, you feel sympathy for the old man while knowing he basically brought it all upon himself. The fool is awesome too, love a fool.

Ellen wondered where this was filmed and I found out some astounding stuff on the wikipedia page. An $11 million budget in 1984, all the uniforms and armour handmade over two years, Kurosawa’s wife died during the filming and they paused for one day to mourn her and then he just kept on filming. I’m pretty inspired to read up more on Kurosawa after this movie.

Bechdel test: There are named women, but they’re just wives of the sons and never in the same scene. Sue does talk to an older lady over who should go get the flute but the older lady isn’t named I think, and they’re talking about getting a flute to make a man happy so… I don’t think it counts.

Best line:

“all we did, was speak the truth”

Fool: must be nice, having no idea what’s going on.

“Lady Sue must have been a fox in disguise!” – this whole sequence was golden, remind me if anyone ever charges me with bringing them a head that I have to use the fox head trick and then be as surprised by it as the recipient.

State of Mind: Very impressed, not just in the elegant translation of Lear to medieval Japan but with the production and the way it managed to keep my attention even though it’s not the shortest movie. Stunning stuff, Ellen was also impressed. Highly recommend and may well watch again at some point.

Watched movie count

La maman et la putain (1973)

The Mother and the Whore
Written and directed by Jean Eustache
(number 300)

(the last of the bottom 200 from the list!)

So. Three + hour black and white seventies film from France about a guy with a wife and a girlfriend. And it’s talky. And Alexandre is freaking awful and annoying, pushing and pushing at Gilberte for the first half hour. He reminded me of so many impressed with their own intelligence guys I met at university. Like just because you can spout philosophy doesn’t mean every woman should sleep with you. This approach also feels very much like he’s the poster boy for the nasty culture of coercion that gets idolised as romance in the world but particularly in France. The problem is I don’t think this is meant to be off putting, I feel very much like this is Eustache’s mouthpiece for how awesome he is.

He literally explains the women’s lib movement to Veronika, who thinks it’s sad because if she loves a man she would want to bring him breakfast? Urgh, the seventies.

In some ways the movie is sort of brilliant, because you as the audience are forced to listen to Alexandre and his interminable monologues about his feelings or his beliefs. About how sad he is for no apparent reason. You become one of the people who has to sit there and nod along, just like the girls in the movie.

Is it a relief when a couple of hours into the movie other people start monologuing about random stuff? Not really. At least its not all the one guy but by this point the film had lost my interest. It’s a very long film and there really isn’t much of a storyline.

Does it make me love the people? I’m more inclined to love Veronika and Marie onmly because I feel for them having to listen to Alexandre all the time. I cannot stand him. He actually has the gall to say, while out with Veronika that he feels bored. All he has been doing is talking. Talk, talk talk talk talk while she meekly listens, and then he says he’s bored. FFS. Finallly he asks her some questions, and she has a lovely voice and I like it a lot. When they finally get to the point where Veronika, Marie and Alexandre are all in bed together he’s sulky and annoyed. Like… if you can’t handle this level of emotion you need to fucking sort your shit out.

Bechdel test: Yes, Veronika and Marie talk, first just to say hi to each other, mostly about Alexandre but also about Marie’s looks. Also it’s a French film so of course we see women naked from the waist up.

Best line:

Veronika: I’m often in love. I get involved with people quickly, and forget quickly. People don’t matter.

State of Mind: Shipping Maria and Veronika ditching Alexandre and going to have a lovely life together. Glad it’s over, annoyed with men. Poor Marie. Yeah, I pretty much hated this movie and certainly will not be watching it again. I skipped ahead a few times, bored, and how is it 3 and a half hours I just. Ehhhhhhh. Why have Veronika denounce her own behaviour like that?? There is no love unless it’s for reproduction? Uuuurgh. Was Eustache a menanist? and What the fuck is that final scene??? bleeeeehhhh.

Watched movie count

Solaris (1972)

Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
Written by Fridrikh Gorenshteyn and Andrei Tarkovsky based on the novel by Stanislaw Lem
(number 296)

Went into this film knowing only two things: it’s a science fiction movie and that it was remade a few years back.

It’s amazing how quickly this movie grabbed me, a great script based on some fascinating ideas, acted well. It’s a movie with almost no soundtrack which made it a little disappointing that my next door neighbours chose to play a lot of loud jazz while I watched it, so… I guess the soundtrack of this movie was eclectic jazz.

The movie is filmed in the manner of a slow burning arthouse film and the space station is designed very much in the vein of the designs in 2001, just gorgeous. zDFfffffffffffffffffffffffffffffe… that was Mochi walking across the keyboard. The retro-future stuff is just so funky and good. He’s in space and he’s wearing monogrammed brown cotton pajamas? Love it.

It’s great to watch this as over the last few months Anna and I have been watching a lot of ‘cerebral’ science fiction movies. The quiet dramas set in space which address big questions, like Arrival or Interstellar. This is one of the seminal precursors to that film, and I can see why. The moral conundrums. The strangeness which cannot be explained by humans. The implications of a planet with a massive, unknowable sentience that has poor ideas of how to communicate with a human.

Does it make me love the people? Yeah for sure. Kris gets you on side with his family connections and his desire to help people out. It’s rough when he tries to fridge Hari but given the circumstances… I can’t blame him? and then when she returns he’s immediately accepting, protective and loving of her. The others on the station are a little harder to feel sympathy for but for a movie which constantly questions and interrogates what is human? what is love? what is the meaning of life? It definitely invest you with the love for humanity as you ponder.

Bechdel test: No. Although Hari is a fascinating character, she only speaks to men.
Hari: It doesn’t matter why man loves. It’s different for everyone.

Best line:

Dr. Snaut: Science? Nonsense! In this situation mediocrity and genius are equally useless! I must tell you that we really have no desire to conquer any cosmos. We want to extend the Earth up to its borders. We don’t know what to do with other worlds. We don’t need other worlds. We need a mirror. We struggle to make contact, but we’ll never achieve it. We are in a ridiculous predicament of man pursuing a goal that he fears and that he really does not need. Man needs man!

State of Mind: Very impressed. I love this kind of science fiction movie, and it even sparked a couple of story ideas which is pretty awesome but I’m also a little overwhelmed with fiction ideas at the moment. I think I’ll watch the remake with Anna, since it’s hopefully going to be a little shorter and a little easier to follow being not in Russian and all. The soundtrack seemed to imply the ending was terrible/scary but I felt it was a pretty uplifting ending given the circumstances.

Watched movie count

On the Town (1949)

On the Town
Directed by Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
Written by Adolph Green and Betty Comden based on their stage musical
(number 285)

One of those movies which I feel like I probably should have seen already, given how much I love High Society and Singin’ in the Rain. It’s the same kind of shiny, big white teeth, randomly breaking into tap dance thing and it’s a good, interesting comedy as well. There’s no dull moments, a somewhat twisty story which keeps you engaged and of course – brilliant performances. I do love me some Gene Kelly.

Just another unrealistic standard for women to live up to..

I quite enjoyed the sexual freedom of the modern man/prehistoric man song and dance up until it got racist. Thankfully that bit was over pretty fast. But how cool is it that this is a movie from 1949 which not only shows a woman keeping her war job post war (“I never give up anything I like”) and has a woman who knows she’s into men and then sings a whole song full of double entendre about how she loves ‘bear skin’ and ‘tom toms’.

The ‘You’re awful’ song is quite a lot like negging, It’s like ‘you’re awful…’ bad reaction from the girl “…ly pretty.” But I dunno, it’s pretty cute at the same time? Damn crooners making everything sound good. Plus her little stripey dress and yellow jacket combo is A++ gorgeous. Also helps that she had verses where she insult/complimented him back.

Does it make me love the people? Hells yes. Poor old Gabey with his love at first sight obsession, not too sure why Chip rebuffs Hilde at first since she’s so awesome and Ozzie… well, Ozzie doesn’t so much have a personality but Claire is awesome and she likes him so. They’re all musical characters, they don’t do too much wrong. There’s a little making fun of Lucy but Gabey’s telling her at the end of their date that he isn’t that into her was very sweetly handled and I appreciated that.

Gabey: You know, somewhere in the world there’s a right girl for every boy. I guess I found the one for me before I even met you. I tried, but I ca

Bechdel test: hrm, yes Brunhilde talks to her roommate Lucy about her illness and how she should be at work. Also Claire and Brunhilde sort of trade lines when the police are searching for Ozzie, sort of. also this..

Claire (having just kissed Ozzie): I was just doing a bit of research.
Brunhilde: Dr. Kinsey, I presume.

Best line:

Claire: You oughta feel proud that three sailors from the United States Navy got off the ship for one day, and what did they do? Were they thirsty for hard liquor? No. They were thirsty for culture. Were they running after girls? No. They came running to the museum to see your dinosaur. For months out at sea they were dreaming about your dinosaur.

State of Mind: Why didn’t I watch this with Anna? I mean really. Now I’m going to have to watch it again! It’s good fun, some unexpected innuendo, some excellent songs and dances and some poor choices which are about right for the time it was made (blackface? :(). It’s a great piece of tourist advertising for New York, I really want to go there now. I hear it’s a wonderful town…

Watched movie count