• The Finical Filmgoer •
Goodbye Again (1961)
Available via Netfliques instant streaming, Goodbye Again (1961) is directed by Anatole Litvak and adapted from the best-selling novel by Françoise Sagan, entitled Aimez-vous Brahms?
The film surprised me with its sophistication; but then, any European film having to do with human relationships always seems to be at least 40 years in advance of American cinematic sensibilities, do they not? Ingrid Bergman portrays a successful, middle-aged interior designer with a shop in Paris, who is involved in a long and stagnant affair with transportation businessman Yves Montand. Completely and singularly in love, she overlooks his philandering "business trips" where he seduces and beds young, adventurous and fashionable girls. Theirs is a relationship that is mutually satisfying only to the extent that both parties are willing to lie, and to accept lies.
Bergman lands a job decorating the home of a wealthy American woman, and meets her spoiled son (Anthony Perkins), a lawyer in his 20s, who falls instantly in love with her. Resistant at first, disappointments with Montand eventually lead her to give in to Perkins' exuberant courtship, while his blunt, jejune questions open a light onto some of the more obvious self-delusions she has required to maintain her relationship with recalcitrant Montand.
Unlike today's cougars, who appear to fall effortlessly into relationships with younger men, Bergman does not take easily to Perkins' youthful attitudes and behaviors. There is a wonderful scene in which we watch Bergman's face as she lies in bed in semi-darkness, listening to her naked young lover fumbling about the kitchen, babbling enthusiastically and incoherently about food, music, love and his mother. Bergman's face captures the patience, boredom, indulgence and exasperation of a mature person forced to take an immature person more seriously than they deserve.
The story is set in fashionable bars, restaurants, apartments and homes, giving us an inside look at the playgrounds of the sophisticated in 1960s Paris. A spectacularly soignee Diahann Carroll appears in a small scene as a sequin-sheathed chanteuse. Litvak employs a significant circular style, beginning and ending at the same place. Goodbye Again is an unexpectedly subtle examination of doomed, impossible relationships.
In Lars von Trier's controversial Antichrist (2009), a therapist (Willem Dafoe) and his academic wife (Charlotte Gainsbourg) flee to a cabin in the woods, where they hope to mend emotional wounds after the (horrifically depicted) death of their infant son.
The story examines distinctly "adult" horror themes: the slow descent of a loved one into madness, the impotence of therapy against some forms of mental illness, a trusted person's explosion into violence, and the manner in which the natural world can exhibit a ghoulish, hyper-inflated menace when one is depressed and vulnerable.
Antichrist becomes increasingly surreal as the protagonists dive headlong into insanity, fear, violence and despair. Not the fun ride we've come to expect from horror films aimed at teens, but quite effective if you've the stomach for the deep, psychic shake-up invoked by a glimpse into the void. Available for instant streaming via Netfliques.
The Big Lebowski (1998)
Eliciting cries of astonishment from intimates, I'd never seen The Big Lebowski (1998) — and so finally scrunched into my threadbare yellow brocade wingback for a screening. The story involves an LA stoner called The Dude (Jeff Bridges), a man "in whom casualness runs deep", and his bowling compatriots — a paranoid, proto-Jewish vet (John Goodman framed by the most execrable pair of yellow aviators), and a former surfer (surprisingly youthful Steve Buscemi).
The Dude becomes embroiled in a mistaken-identity situation when a couple of thugs, assuming him to be a wealthy Pasadena bigwig also called Lebowski, trash his apartment and urinate on his rug. Seeking restitution for the rug ("it really pulled the room together"), The Dude locates The "Big" Lebowski, who hires him to track down his "cocksucking" trophy wife (Tara Reid), who's been kidnapped by said thugs.
Along the way, The Dude suffers numerous indignities at the hands of a hilarious collection of characters, including Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lebowski's sycophantic assistant, Julianne Moore as his estranged, feminist/vaginal artist daughter, John Turturro as a sexually predatory bowling competitor and Ben Gazarra as a sinister porn impressario.
Add a cabal of wimpy, loserish assassins called The Nihilists, David Thewlis as a cackling culture-vulture and Sam Elliot as a hokey narrator and you've got the kind of Coen Brothers milieu which renders plot insignificant. The film also boasts a great soundtrack with several hallucinatory dream sequences.
If you're a fan of any of these actors, you'll want to catch them in this all-stops-out sendup of LA's most risible stereotypes. Be sure to have a White Russian and a cigarette spéciale at the ready. Available for instant streaming via Netfliques.
Smash His Camera (2010)
If you lived through the 70s/80s/Jackie O/Studio 54 era, believe me, you're in for a treat.
An HBO documentary currently streamable via Netfliques, Smash His Camera (2010) is about infamous, American paparazzo Ron Galella and his controversial, stalkerish, privacy-smashing photographs of the eras most celebrated people. The doc is exceptionally well-constructed and tonally intriguing, with commentators weighing in on all sides of the debate regarding Galella's emergent position in photographic history — exacerbated by his recent inclusion in the collection at MoMA.
Galella, his wife and his contemporaries in photography, photojournalism, art, media, law and entertainment are wittily interviewed about his work, style, controversy and legal wrangling with the likes of Jackie O and Marlon Brando, to fascinating effect. An engrossing study of a dubitable character, embellished with numerous riveting, immortalizing images and anecdotes.
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