Monday, March 12, 2007

Not A Review..

One of the things I have lamented about (if not publicly), has been how harder it was for me to go watch indie and offbeat cinema in Delaware. We have a fairly decent multiplex about 20 mins drive away. But it shows a lot of movies I would not watch. Of course I have been thoroughly spoilt having lived in New Haven, Connecticut.

The city had at one time two movie houses that’s showed independent and not quite mainstream cinema. The York Square cinema, as rundown as it was, showed great movies. Sadly it has shut down now. But closer to downtown the Criterion cinemas has opened, just about the time we left town. It has newer facilities, but what I loved was you could buy a glass of wine in the lobby and then take it with you to the movie.

Back to Wilmington, we do have an art house cinema here, the theatre N. I have not been there yet. So that remains to be explored. With time and other constraints, we have sort of missed out on several good movies like volver, which we really wanted to watch.

What is the big deal right? I mean the movies do come out on DVD and we can watch them later no? True. However, I have always found something very alluring about the whole communal experience of going to watch a movie in a cinema house. I feel particularly strongly about being able to go and watch good alternative cinema, and maybe I am also looking for assurance that there are other people out there who enjoy these movies.

So this weekend, I was bitten by the movie bug. I wanted to see “Venus”. The only place running this movie was the Bryn Mawr Film Institute, over in the town of Bryn Mawr in Pennsylvania. I also was not sure what movie house it was running at. All I had was an address (I was in a rush and forgot to note the name of the place showing it). So I drive by this little building that called itself “Bryn Mawr Film Institute”. I have never been to this town, so was pleasantly surprised to find that it is home to both Villanova and the Bryn Mawr College.

The town reminded me of New Haven, Connecticut where we lived for almost a decade and I have a soft corner for college towns. There is an interesting story to this place as well. From their website..
“Bryn Mawr Film Institute (BMFI) is a non-profit community theater founded in 2002 by the region’s academic, business, and civic leaders. The Mission of BMFI is to strengthen our community by providing the opportunity for diverse segments to meet, learn, share ideas, and develop talents and understanding through the catalyst of film.”

The theater re-opened to the public on March 12, 2005 with Sir Ben Kingsley cutting the “ribbon” of 35mm film.
Sir Ben spoke eloquently of cinema as a “tribal mechanism by which we communicate profound aspects of humanity,”
I loved this cinema house and I feel like I discovered a small gem in our backyard, I plan to be back to catch movies here , what with the weather warming up and all, it should be fun.

On to the movie..Venus

I had read probably a review or two about this movie and based on that, knew that it should be something worth watching. I was not disappointed. There are plenty of reviews here, and this is not a review just my opinion about the film and how it connected with me. Plot summary below..
Screen legend Peter O'Toole stars in this moving story of an elderly actor and his somewhat questionable relationship with a teenage girl. Maurice (O'Toole) and his friend Ian (Leslie Phillips) are two classy curmudgeons whiling away their hours in coffee shops and at the theater, but their routine is thrown for a loop when Ian's niece's daughter Jessie (Jodie Whittaker) is sent from the country to act as his nurse. Jessie shows up on the scene sullen and pouty, immediately drinking all the liquor in the house and slouching her way from room to room. But Maurice befriends her, taking her to museums and getting her a gig as an art model, and along the way he openly expresses the lust she has awakened in him.

I loved this movie. It is a very touching and candid look at growing old and the toll that it takes on you in more ways than one. It is a frank examination of the reawakening of desire in a man who is almost in the doorway of death and how he feels alive once again.

Venus, has an excellent, excellent cast, and even Vanessa Redgrave in her small role as Maurice’s wife is just amazing. Maurice’s friend Ian (Leslie Phillips) is an admirable foil to Peter O’Toole’s Maurice. Jessie (Jodie Whittaker) also held her own against a giant such as O’Toole.
But this is O’Toole’s movie all the way. It is a very poignant performance by a truly great actor, if ever there was a high note to go out on this is it. One look at his eyes and you know that without saying a word he can convey so much more to the audience. I was reminded of this several times during the movie.

A number of scenes struck with me, especially the one where Maurice gets up along in his apartment next to the railroad tracks. As he looks out of the window while sitting on the bed, the sun falling on his face, his eyes say it all (the first time he even slaps himself in the face to get himself moving), the desolation and the loneliness.
There is a scene where Maurice waits by the river from the afternoon thru the evening for Jessie to show up for lunch. I thought that scene said a lot too although there are no close-ups of O’Toole.

There are some great lines in the movie too (typical wry English humor), I can’t recall them all now (sure sign I am getting there eh?). There are also a couple of moving scenes between Maurice and Ian and one with Maurice and his wife.

The evolution of the relationship between Jessie and Maurice is also beautifully handled by the director Roger Michell with the help of a screenplay by Hanif Kureish (some of you may be familiar with his earlier work esp “My beautiful laundrette”). The initial disdain and ignorance of that Jessie had for Maurice, gives way to a grudging respect and on to something akin to caring or dare I call it love in some form.

This is where the movie really works, because the inherent nature of a relationship such as this makes it nuanced, layered and complicated to explore and perhaps troubling in some way. To bring it alive on screen is perhaps even more hard, but it works here. The first time Maurice and Jessie go out, she passes out drunk in cab, her face on his chest. Maurice touches her face and that is an awkward moment, and as things change Jessie lets him kiss her bare shoulders and the moment while complex or even uncomfortable in some ways was also tender.

It also offered me a look at something I will have to face in a couple of decades and was a sobering reminder about the process of aging and increasing frailness. The reminder of what is coming stares at you in so many ways big and small. I have an opinion about how I would face life if I ever made it that far and found that I could no longer go on, on my own, but this is not the forum for it. The movie also brought home to me how my parents must be coping being on their own. I can only begin to imagine that.

This movie is worth your while, it only runs an hour and 35 minutes but it packs an emotional, gut wrenching punch. An authentic look at the sunset years of life and the nature of desire and it’s ability to take us to places high and low, that manifest themselves both in physical and mental ways, that can often surprise us.


Mona Buonanotte said...

I love O'Toole. In "My Favorite Year", he had a revealing line..."I'm not an actor, I'm a Movie Star!" He's all that to me.

I've seen "My Beautiful Laundrette" a hundred times...first thing I remember Daniel Day Lewis in.

Lucia said...

You make this movie sound delicious!

Anali said...

That's a great review! And so interesting that we have both been thinking about old movie houses. I know that Peter O'Toole is a legend, which makes me wonder why I haven't seen more of his movies. I'll have to do something about that.

Aditi said...

hmm sounds like a nice movie.. they made a similar one here recently called nishabd but i think that was a copy of american beauty..
nicely done..

Asha said...

Great review.Movie sounds interesting.I will try and rent it.

Nishabd is remake of Lolita,that's all Indian population needed!!;p

patches said...

We have to commute an hour and a half to get to the closest independent film house. Our two local theaters carry the same commercial flicks. The larger theater carries the newest releases and the smaller theater carries releases that are about to be released to dvd (for an economical price of 1-2 bucks).

Sounds like a flick worth seeing. I like Peter O'Toole

meno said...

I am lucky to live where there are many different choices for movie viewing, from multiplexes to small independant theaters.
Volver is worth watching. I will go see Venus soon based on your not review.

Orchid said...

Thanks, will add this to my list of movies to watch.
I am like you i believe in the big screen social movie watching experience :)

Fuzzylogic said...

I also feel somehow there's something lost when I watch movies at home on a DVD,the big screen experience is special and that really quantifies how a movie out to be watched.This movie sounds good.I will look into it.

starry nights said...

I have to agree with you.Nothing like watching a movie in a movie house, the dvd just does not do it. Looks like the movie Venus would be a good movie to wach.have to see if i can get it.Right now I have to rely on a dvd, cannot sit that long at the movies yet, but am getting there.

Enyur said...

Strange, I never heard of this movie! But I enjoy Peter O'Toole's movies and would definitely want to see this one too. Thanks!!

Carrie said...

We have a circle cinema. They only play indie films. It is a great place.

Id it is said...

Thanks. I would want to see 'Venus' though its story line reminds me so much of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novel, Memories of my Melancholy Whores.(

Lotus Reads said...

Hey Sanjay, it was nice reading about your visit to the cinema on the weekend. We have several really nice Independent cinemas here in Toronto, I really should go visit more often.

I adore Peter O'Toole - I love all his movies but I think my favorite ones are "Becket" and "Svengali", though some would say "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Lion in Winter" were his best. Such a pity he's never won an Oscar!

Keshi said...

havent been to the movies in abt 3months now...ty for reminding me Jay.


Teri said...

I'm so glad you found a place to see indie flicks! I love old movie houses, too. THey have such personality!

moegirl said...

I want to see this movie- big fan of Peter O'Toole.

Shitrint said...

i agree with u on the cinema experience. unfortunately i cant shell out hefty bucks for a movie or two every week! :(
so dvds and cds it is!

i am not sure if venus released in india. i dunno if it will. but it seems like a nice subject that's been explored here...

take care!

Sanjay said...

@Mona.. I have to watch my beautiful laundrette again, it has been ages.

@Lucia.. Thanks.Hope you like it too.

@Anali, Thanks. As dingy as York Square was, there was a charm to the place.

@Aditi. How was nishabd?

Sanjay said...

@Asha..Yep I think you may like it.

@Patches.. An hour and a half? wow!

@Meno. That's neat. I hope volver comes around here soon. :)

Sanjay said...

@Orchid/fuzzylogic.. yup something about going to a movie house is special indeed.

@Starry.. Glad to know your back is coming along fine.

@Enyur. I think you will enjoy it.

@Carrie. Glad to know that. :)

Sanjay said...

@Lotus. Thanks. I was a bit concerned going there, new town and I had no idea what the name of the theatre was. But it turned out well. I have heard that about Toronto.. it is a fine city indeed. The Toronto International Film Festival also seems to have a good profile no?
Yes indie cinema is fun to watch. And there are times I really want a movie to provoke me and make me think, and there are times I love mindless entertainment too.
I have to watch Svengali, I loved him in Lawrence of Arabia. I agree with you though, too bad he has never won an Oscar yet.
I think the academy may give him a "life time achievement Oscar".

Sanjay said...

@Keshi.. I hope you make up for the lost 3 int he next 3 months? :)

@Teri.. Thanks they do have their own character and perhaps spirits of movies past?

@Moegirl.. You won't be disappointed me thinks. :)

@Shitrint. I know what you mean. I used to be a poor student too. :-/
Not sure if Venus will be released there. I remember being frustrated at that when I was in India too.

ML said...

Wow, what a lovely review, Sanjay. Sorry to use the word "lovely" to describe your review (blushing!), but it really moved me.


Sanjay said...

@Ml. Thanks.

Aditi said...

err nothing happened to my laptop.. the entry was from last april/may i just for some reason never published it and hit publish on it today..

Aditi said...

oh and never saw nishabd.. havent seen any movies lately

Sanjay said...

@Aditi.. Ah ok.

Viewer said...

I too went to see a hindi movie - honemoone Travels ( in the theater) ... a light comedy .. .guess this was movie weekend

Intern said...

I've neither seen volver nor venus ... and want to see both!

I love Indie movies too ...
some are so amazing and so much closer to life than big budget Hollywood movies.

have you seen old classics [not indie] yet I'm curious ... Citizen Kane and Dr Strangelove! Two phenomenal movies ...

Sai said...

Having lived in Ann Arbor, I absolutely agree with you about the charm of living in college towns.

Nice Review

deepsat said...

wow thats a great review Sanjay!! looks like a watch i dont wanna miss out!!


Cacophoenix said...

I have found Indie movies to be much more realistic and closer to real life than regular stuff. They also have this ability to get under your skin and make you think real hard and question a lot of things in life. But I agree that it is often impossible to get hold of these things in theater. I would love to watch them in say an open air theater and stuff.

You have been missing for a bit. Sorry, it is just that when there is good stuff to read you miss it sorely even if it is absent for a couple of days.

Sanjay said...

@Viewer. Yes did seem like a movie weekend.

@Intern. They are both great movies. I might see volver this weekend.

@Deepsat.. Thanks.

@Cacophoenix.I hear ya about indie movies. Thank you for your kind words. Ya I know I have been missing, but somedays I just dont feel like blogging. :-/