Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Before Midnight

Five minutes in, when Julie Delpy started railing against some unnamed mob who won't let her put up a wind farm somewhere, I thought, 'Groan'. All the same, I continued watching. That is how it has always been for me with this series of films by Richard Linklater. I find myself viewing them through my fingers, cringing and yet unable to turn away. Worse still, I cringe and at the same time I identify. Delpy's character is extremely irritating and yet she says things I recognise. Ethan Hawke's character is very attractive, but her criticisms of him are spot on - and his of her. I have no idea why but this film, like its predecessors, despite being very little more than a portrait of a couple who talk endlessly, are fairly selfish and self-centred and are surrounded by people whose speeches sound exactly as if they have been scripted - which of course they have been, but scripts should never draw your attention to themselves - is riveting. Nothing happens - they eat a meal with friends, they go for a walk, they have a fight, they make up. I wouldn't recommend the film, even though I enjoyed it. It's a pleasure of which I am ashamed.

La Cage Dorée

Portuguese couple live in Paris, work diligently in menial jobs and are exploited dreadfully by snooty Parisians. Discover they have a huge inheritance back in Portugal, feel guilty about leaving the people who rely on them, get cross when they realise they are being exploited. Meanwhile daughter of Portuguese gets pregnant with father's French boss's son. Eating, crying, singing, more eating, hilarity (?) ensue, resulting in some kind of happy ending in which daughter and son take up inheritance in Portugal, parents continue as before, (I think - not totally clear about this or what exactly the point of the whole thing is: are we supposed to admire the couple's diligence, be appalled at the hopelessness of their French employers; is Portuguese culture depicted as more authentic than French culture and, if so, [my impression is it was], why did the French love the film so much?) It was all great fun and the time passed quickly. Nevertheless, I'm not quite sure it made much sense.

Frances Ha

Black and white film about sweet, warm, pretty girl living in New York, where the people are not so sweet or warm (or even, mostly, so pretty). She is a better friend to her best friend than her friend is to her, (although her best friend may have a clearer understanding of the world); men seem to be indifferent to her - or unkind; she feels lonely, experiences setbacks, lacks money, is charming and, after loneliness, failure and impulsive nitwittedness, achieves some kind of mild success and new beginning.

The whole thing is touching, but afterwards you feel that there really can't be anyone who is quite so naively giving or so without fault, beyond being a bit like a labrador puppy in social relations. What does it all amount to? Not a lot - which is not to say it wasn't perfectly pleasant to watch. If it weren't for Lena Dunham, perhaps I'd be satisfied, but since she's come along it's impossible to ignore the fact that similar territory can be covered with greater wit and a sharper, more self-critical, more acidic eye.