I rarely write about a movie directly after having seen it. Seems like it should marinate a bit before I expound. This practice caught up to me this week, as I watched four movies and, so far, only wrote about one (Purple Noon). So now I have to think back on two I watched early in the week, and do a rush job on one I saw this afternoon. Truth is, what I really want to write about is the season finale of Outlander, but that most definitely cannot be a rush job. So ...
Force Majeure (Ruben Östlund, 2014). I might have anticipated a disaster movie, since all I knew going in was that there would be an avalanche in the French Alps. So I was pleasantly surprised to find a film that examined expectations around masculinity and family dynamics, something of a chamber piece that was a bit reminiscent of some of the work of Östlund’s countryman Ingmar Bergman. The whiteness of the snow engulfs the screen ... it feels like we are always in a fog. Some have found a bit of humor in the film, but I must have missed it. And some have seen it as exposing the pretenses of the bourgeoisie, but I preferred to think it exposed all of us. The ending ironically brings things full circle. #273 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century. 7/10. Watch it with Scenes from a Marriage.
Ikiru (Akira Kurosawa, 1952). Takashi Shimura plays a long-time bureaucrat who finds he has cancer and begins to reevaluate his life. Shimura does such a great job of portraying a man beaten down into nothingness that you eventually want to slap him around and tell him to quit being so pathetic. Eventually, he does something with his life, and dies ... at which point there’s still half an hour to go. By the end, even the most hardened viewer (i.e., me) will have felt a case of allergies in the eyes, and it won’t even feel cheap. Not a masterpiece, but very good. Two years later, Shimura starred in Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, which is certainly a change of pace from what he gives us here. American fans of a certain age will recognize him for some of his later roles in movies like Godzilla, Gigantis: The Fire Monster, Mothra, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, and Frankenstein Conquers the World. #114 on the TSPDT list of the top 1000 films of all time. 8/10. Go ahead, watch it alongside Mothra.
San Andreas (Brad Peyton, 2015). If The Rock hadn’t been in it, I probably would have skipped it. I’m glad I didn’t. It’s a winner in the Truth in Advertising contest: it promises earthquakes, and it delivers them. There is no use expecting anything more. It hits all the standard moments (scientist trying to warn everyone, hero trying to re-connect with ex-wife who has a lame boyfriend, nubile daughter with potential suitor), which fill the space between disasters. We’re not exactly talking Mad Max: Fury Road here ... I don’t feel the need to see it again any time soon. But it’s never so stupid you want to give up, the cast is appealing (lots of eye candy between The Rock, Carla Gugino, and Alexandra Daddario, all of whom do good work), and the special effects are worth the money. It’s a perfect example of a movie that lies somewhere between 6 and 7 out of 10. I hadn’t decided which way to go, when I got some comments about the movie on Facebook. One friend said she was eager to hear what I thought, since she loved earthquake movies. Another friend said the idea of watching San Andreas was disturbing to her ... she spoke of people she knew who were still dealing with the devastation in Nepal, and then recommended a book, “for reality, not Hollywood bullshit”. Your own opinion of the movie probably depends on where you lie between those two responses. 7/10.