45 Years (Michael Haigh – 2015) B+

They have been married 45 years. Their anniversary is Saturday. the film opens the week before that. The couple, Kate and Geoff, is played perfectly by Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay. Geoff receives a letter that the body of his long ago girlfriend was found. He lost her on a hiking trip through the Swiss Alps when they were in their 20’s. Kate knows the story but it is a long forgotten one. Now memories, emotions, things that might’ve or could’ve been come to the surface as the movie progresses towards the Saturday anniversary. It’s a tender lovely film. It’s not about huge revelations or high drama. I liked Kate and Geoff from frame one and I think you have to like them to stick with them just like they have to like each other to get through 45 years and an emotional week.

Carlos (Olivier Assayas – 2010) A

The IMDB description for this is “The story of Venezuelan revolutionary Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, who founded a worldwide terrorist organization and raided the 1975 OPEC meeting”….well it is one way to summarize a 6 hour or so epic. This is a long spanning tour de force by the lead (Edgar Ramirez) who does an exceptional job portraying this real-life figure of Carlos. He plays him fit, fat, drunk, menacing, charming. It’s like a mix of James Bond, Che Guevara and a Hollywood star. At no moment is Carlos likable though. That is fine. Assayas again delivers confident direction as we span decades in history and locales. His colors are bright, dark and washed at times. He uses real-life documentary footage interlaced with the film’s runtime. With that direction and a series of excellent performances in multiple languages we get the antitheses of my dreaded “biopic”. We get a slice of history told from a certain point of view about a certain hugely flawed individual. It’s my favorite type of “biopic”. It does not distill anyone’s life to 90 minutes. It gives context and gets us to know characters through a defining period of their life.

WASP Network (Olivier Assayas – 2020) B-

Good story about Cuban spies living and operating in Cuba to infiltrate the Cuban Castro resistance here. I had never heard of it. The actors do a great job and Assayas has not made a film I did not appreciate even if this one is not in the same tier as his others that I’ve seen recently.

Molly’s Game (Aaron Sorkin – 2017) B

She was an Olympic hopeful skier, had a freak accident and ended up running very high stakes poker games and eventually the target of the FBI. It is very good and solidly written and performed. There is one specific scene where Kevin Costner delivers a touching and and perfect monologue while sitting on a bench with Jessica Chastain who plays his daughter that I absolutely loved.

The Spirit of The Beehive (Victor Erice – 1973) A

This is a classic that I expected to be bigger and sprawling I think. I expected a rough and tough story about the war and the impact it has on rural Spain with Franco coming to power. What this turned out to be is a much more focused and delightful film told almost entirely from the perspective of a 10 year old girl, Ana, and her sister Isabel (I think she is maybe 13). It’s about war too, certainly, but war as in a far away concept from this remote village. One day the black and white classic film “Frankenstein” comes to their town and seeing that has a huge impact on them, especially Ana. That’s what this movie is about, the impact of movies. Ana sees the monster and it is real to her. She might even have one living in the old farmhouse that she passes on the way to school. We meet her parents but they barely speak much. Are the parents really that distant and silent? or is this the perspective of a 10 year old and how she sees adult? I am not sure. Movies like this rise and fall based on how believable a child’s performance can be. The two young actresses are very good and Erice uses them so well framing Ana’s face in shots that focus on her big eyes. They seem to see way more than the Castillian town where she lives, and instead the fantastical and surreal.

Blue Jay (Alex Lehmann – 2016 ) A-

Sometimes I see a movie and totally forget about it a day later. Other times, as it should with the good ones, it sticks. I saw this little black and white gem a while back and thought I already posted about it. I think about it off and on but somehow never did post here. It’s almost a play. 90 percent of it is us hanging out with the two leading characters played by Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson. They were lovers when they were younger and they meet again in the small town where they both used to live when she is visiting. They hang out, talk, and of course the past with its good and bad comes back as if it was just yesterday. Duplass and Paulson are delightful and have excellent chemistry. One can rarely undo past decisions but for a day or so one can pretend.

 

Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley – 2018) A

Damn! This is out there. It’s not for everyone and that is totally fine. It’s a funny, tragic, horrific film set in the near-ish future. What happens when you take greed, desperation, race struggles and mix them all up with no real guardrails beyond money? A really terrible society it seems. This is like a bookend to the excellent Get Out and it goes places that I will not spoil.

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