Dirty Pretty Things

In a year filled with dark films, here’s another with a difference. This one has to be a contender. It takes place in London. An illegal immigrant from Nigeria tends the front desk at night for a small hotel. The manager is involved in harvesting organs from the willing and the unwilling for profit. The Nigerian man lives illegally with a political refugee from Turkey. She has her own struggles. Just when human dignity seems to be completely lost, an unrequited love story  blooms, fulfilled by great sacrifice. Ends hopefully. Directed by Stephen Frears (Liam). This movie was worth it.

Thirteen

A cautionary tale, written by a fifteen year-old kid. Amazing though dark and desperate. No one “likes” a film like this, but parents, if you are in a listening mode, listen. A “nice” girl goes bad when she hits middle school and mom doesn’t have a clue about the kinds of questions she might ask and her kids don’t come first. She (Holly Hunter) is not a bad person, just so clueless and without personal resources. She kind of floats through life and when she finally does get involved, we wonder what difference it will make because she just doesn’t know what to do.

Mystic River

Dark and despairing story about three friends in a Boston working class neighborhood. Their lives are changed forever when one of the boys is kidnapped while they are playing in the street. Thirty years later, the 19-year-old daughter of the Sean Penn character is murdered. The kidnapped boy, now married and barely able to work (Tim Robbins), and the other friend (Kevin Bacon, a state trooper detective), are thrown back together with devastating results. Not a lot of hope, though the filmmaking is fine – Clint Eastwood’s work is excellent. Why such a dark, sad, dead-end story appealed to him (almost a story of despair), I don’t know except that I had the same feeling from this as I had from Unforgiven. Bleak. The women are very good – Marcia Gay Hardin and Laura Linney – she’s downright Lady MacBeth. For those of us who know Boston, though, it will ring true. Filmed on location in Boston, you feel like you are there.

Under the Tuscan Sun

I loved it. I mean them.

I went out and bought the book right after seeing the movie and though the film and book are not the same, almost all the plot points in the film are in the book. The author, Frances Mayes, calls the film just another “interpretation” of her book. If you’ve ever dreamed of living in Italy, getting in touch with the land, experiencing life as raw, new and old, read the book and see the movie. Hopeful, beautiful – you feel like you are there. I loved the way the Blessed Mother’s presence and influence is woven through both book and movie. What a lovely journey.

 

Kill Bill: Vol. 1

Quenten Tarantino returns with a two hour sequence of female revenge. When The Bride slays or seriously damages 88 assassins, the audience laughed. Tarantino has made spouting blood and cuts (amputations) a cliche’. It’s all about the movie because there is no story. More linear than Pulp Fiction, I don’t get the fascination with choreographed slashing as a proposed art form. It is smart (self-referent to the martial arts and such films; includes animation) but I was bored. Some women I met on the way out liked it – they could identify with The Bride who had to do what she did to survive. Huge super-hero comic book wanna be. Unless you are a Tarantino fan, go see Under the Tuscan Sun.