KUSP’s David Anthony reports on a breakthrough technology – showing a live play from London on a movie screen in Santa Cruz.
It’s a mystery to me, but sometimes I have to watch a film 2 or 3 times before I get the hang of it. I shudder to think how many fine films I’ve dismissed because of my obtuseness. It wasn’t that I disliked Albert Nobbs the first time I watched it. Clearly, there were some fine performances, and the sets were uniformly fascinating. But the stories behind the simple story of a woman disguised as a man, earning her living as a waiter in a Dublin hotel, did not leap out at me.
But that’s the deal with back stories. That’s the way they’re supposed to work. In retrospect, and with several viewings, the movie has become much larger for me, much more than a portrait of a lonely woman in an odd situation.
I knew there was more going on than I’d caught the first time around, because I felt compelled to return to it. And so, ruminating about it after a second look I could see that it was at least also a glimpse into the social history of late 19th Century Ireland. That it was a portrait of isolation, alienation, and confused gender identity. That it was about coping strategies for exercising forbidden sexual preferences. And that its protagonist was an unlikely, but credible, mix of cleverness and ultra naivete.
After a third view, and thanks to a conversation with my housemate Bonnie, I now see Albert Nobbs as an artful study of the oppression of women in western society. I know that sounds a bit grandiose, but as I listened to Bonnie point out several handfuls of examples in the film, I was left again with a sense of my own obtuseness. She’s right, and, sadly, perhaps the reason it took me so long to see what she saw, in just one sitting, not three, is that I am a man.
Glenn Close, who stars as the eponymous Albert Nobbs, also co-wrote the script. She’d been taken with the story for over thirty years and had been in an off-Broadway production of it decades ago. Bit by bit she put the key players on the same page, culminating with the director, Rodrigo Garcia. Garcia, son of legendary Columbian novelist, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, is described in the production notes as a man whose knowledge, love, and understanding of women far exceeds that of most humans.
While Glen Close is deserving of the plaudits she’s receiving for her role as Albert, my favorite performance was turned in by Janet McTeer. To say more than that she is absolutely terrific would be very unfair to the film and to your viewing pleasure. But you’ll see what I mean when the credits roll.
While much of Albert Nobbs is shot indoors, I loved the recreations of old Dublin. Keep an eye peeled for a wall festooned with notices and posters that appears in the background of two scenes. It’s basically a newspaper for those many Dubliners too poor to afford the hold-in-your-hand version. And the few shots of Dublin Bay are enough to make me want an airline ticket, immediately.
Though I was a bit slow to catch up with it, Albert Nobbs is a darn good film. It’s quiet, and unfolds almost matter-of-factly. But in retrospect, it turns out to have a lot more to say than may at first appear. I recommend it.
review by Dennis Morton
A Dangerous Method; Shame; and Haywire
A few years ago, for several months it seemed that Jude Law was in every other film released. A year or so ago, James DeFranco copped the mantle as ‘the everywhere guy’. But now, I am compelled to create a new award, based on the last three films I’ve watched. Though we’re not yet a month into the new year, I hereby crown Michael Fassbender with the Mr. Ubiquitous Award for 2012.
The man is omnipresent. On Thursday I watched him portray Carl Jung in A Dangerous Method. On Friday, I watched a movie called Shame. Fassbender plays a sex addict, a fellow named Brandon, who could use the help of a Mr. Jung, And, on Saturday, I watched Haywire, in which Mr. Ubiquitous takes on the role of a charming guy who specializes in assassinating government contractors who’ve strayed from the fold.
So, about these films, then….
A Dangerous Method gets its name from critics’ descriptions of Freud’s new approach to treating mental disorders - i.e., psychoanalysis.
As the film opens, Carl Jung, a 29 year old psychologist, and an appreciator of Freud, has just taken on his first patient, a brilliant young woman named Sabina Spielrein.
Jung sits behind her and they talk, and talk, and talk. Within months, her condition improves. She is able to resume her studies. She’s so impressed by Jung’s method that she, too, decides to become a psychoanalyst. What happens along the way tests Jung’s integrity and his new friendship with Sigmund Freud. Jung, as Fassbender portrays him, is a slightly uptight, but intellectually fearless man.
Viggo Mortensen is fabulous as Freud. And, as Jung’s patient, Keira Knightly, who plays Sabina, owns every scene she’s in. I’d never heard of Otto Gross, a psychologist himself, but also a patient of Jung’s. Vincent Cassel gets only a few minutes to flesh him out, but Otto Gross is the most fascinating character in the movie. A Dangerous Method is worth a few hours of your time.
Shame is a very different kind of film. The narrative line in A Dangerous Method is fairly traditional, but that’s not the case with Shame. While it doesn’t take us long to discover that Fassbender’s character, Brandon, is addicted to sex, director Steve McQueen quite consciously deprives us of Brandon’s history. We watch a few weeks of his life and the closest we get to his past are several fleeting references to where he was born and where he grew up. Most of these occur in exchanges with his unwelcome sister, played convincingly by Carey Mulligan. Shame is suffused with sex, but never have I seen sex so devoid of emotional content, which, of course, is the point.
I wasn’t sure what I thought of Shame when I left the theatre. But with a bit more distance, my appreciation of it has grown. If you see it, cogitate on the incipient relationship between Brandon, and his co-worker, Marianne. I believe that what happens between them is the true heart of the film.
And finally, there is Haywire. Simply, it’s a very clever adventure film. It’s neither as ‘smart’ as A Dangerous Method, or as serious as Shame, but it’s a helluva lot more fun than either of them. Gina Carano is a joy to watch as she woman-handles the bad guys, played by some of the best actors in the business, including Mr. Ubiquitous. Check it out.
Review by Dennis Morton