Two New Films for the Fourth of July

Away from Her (2007, Sarah Polley) screened Wednesday July 4 2007 at the Quad Cinemas, New York NY IMDb

Perhaps the best way to appreciate what's great about Away From Her is to imagine what it would be like as a Hollywood production, where generic, amber-toned scenes of domestic comfort give way to histrionic displays of private anguish (yeah I know, histronic and private seem contradictory, except where an audience is involved) and melodramatic recriminations shouted in public as droopy-faced nurses and doctors look on.  You'll find none of this in Sarah Polley's stunning writing-directing debut.  Even the outdoor scenes of marital happiness are shot in harsh, overexposed daylight.   No conversations feature raised voices, just careful, defensive language where the guilt seems to twist around like a wrought-iron gate.  Julie Christie is all but guaranteed an Oscar nomination for playing a woman whose agency becomes every more mysterious as her Alzheimer's progresses - her Mona Lisa smile alone carries layers of emotional frailty both alluring and heartbreaking.  But I think Gordon Pinsent carries the film as her steadfast but suffering husband, whose ritualistic visitations are but a helpless forestalling of his own confrontation with his past marital infidelities and neglect, recalling the frail masculinity on display in the best Clint Eastwood films.  The behavior on display is bracingly adult, going way beyond simple morality to both deflate and reinvent notions of true love.    The ending is a bit too ambiguous for its multiple meanings to resonate with clarity, but perhaps a repeat viewing will reveal much more.


Ratatouille (2007, Brad Bird)

screened Wednesday July 4 2007 at the Ziegfeld Theater, New York NY IMDb

When a film has you dancing in your seat, what more is there to say?