Movies reviewed this week: The L-Shaped Room, M. Butterfly, The Hidden, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, and A Kind of Loving.
10/25/2022: The L-Shaped Room (1962): ****
What a lovely little movie. I adored the clear-eyed honesty Bryan Forbes and Lynne Reid Banks brought to this; nobody’s just a symbol of their station here. The complexities and imperfections of the boarding house residents make this story real.
I could watch this cast in anything, too.
10/28/2022: M. Butterfly (1993): ***1/2
It’s a Cronenberg movie, so you can either accept the inevitability of transformation — psychological in this case — or be destroyed by it. Jeremy Irons chooses the latter.
10/29/2022: The Hidden (1987): ****
That opening seven minutes is a thesis statement about aggressive filmmaking, and it doesn’t let up from there. The antagonist has no reason to move any direction but straight ahead, and everything else about the movie serves to reinforce that theme.
Can’t stop won’t stop.
10/29/2022: Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019): *****
Criterion Challenge 2022
Prompt: watch a movie from the 2010s
“Can you swim?”
“I don’t know.”
It’s great in the moment, and then as a completed piece of art it’s remarkable. I don’t often expect a coda to add so much to a movie. In this case those last two scenes complete it.
The cinematography is so rich. I kept almost missing the little signs that Heloise and her mother are living beyond their means — the unrepaired panels and such. I suppose the biggest signal is the lack of servants. But it’s such a gorgeous movie you could almost forget that, although it’s important. Heloise’s sister was going to enter into marriage so that the family didn’t go broke, which in turn would have enabled Heloise to remain in the convent. It’s no wonder Heloise wasn’t willing to turn away from her fate; she knew what that decision did to her, and she knew that she couldn’t betray her mother the same way.
Great acting. Great script. Sciamma has an awfully witty side, and I’m glad she let it into this emotionally intense movie.
10/30/2022: A Kind of Loving (1962): ***
Competent but not really moving. There’s nothing really challenging here beyond the working-class premise; Schlesinger treats marriage as a goal in and of itself, and in the end the failures are pawned off on the mother-in-law. It’s okay, she’s a bigot.
Except we’ve spent the whole movie watching Alan Bates prove that he’s an insensitive twerp, so I know who I’m blaming.