Friday, February 02, 2007

This Week's Movies

Pressures of time prevent me from going into detail about four films I saw in the past week and liked (as most people who know me would aver, this is an unprecedented phenomenon) but I will list them anyway, three of them are German: Matthias Luthardt's film-school graduation piece Pingpong, about a poor cousin cuckoo's presence in his rich uncle's family nest. Icily gripping and wonderfully edited. Then there is the Stasi thriller The Lives of Others that, despite some rickety characterisation, is great entertainment, and the main Stasi guy is the spitting image of Colm Tóibín.

A friend of mine in Dublin warned me off Philip Gröning's three-hour documentary on the silent Carthusian monks of La Grande Chartreuse in Grenoble, Into Great Silence. This friend goes on Buddhist retreats and Unitarian services and Tridentine masses while managing to be both gay and left-wing, but found three hours about monks intolerably boring. So the omens were not good but I found it engaging for the most part and a fascinating look at people that use utensils everyday that are usually only found these days in movie prop departments. Like ewers and so on. Mind you, the core audience for films like this is getting on a bit, when I finally got to see it after seeing it sold out twice, I was one of only about five people in the audience under the age of sixty. Last was the Catalan director Marc Recha's August Days, a road movie starring Recha and his brother David as themselves as they drive their camper van along the Ebro during a heatwave. I loved Recha's debut feature Tree of Cherries, which I saw in the Dublin Film Festival a long time ago and this film has the same balmy magnificence even though the difficulties putting a plot together is at times too obvious. But he more than makes up for that in the filming and the pacing.

I also finally got to see Robert Altman's Nashville on DVD, which is probably the best of all the Altman's I've seen. Most amazing is the music, which as well as being brilliant, was entirely written and performed by the cast. That's all for this week though. I'm off to Vienna for the weekend and I'm leaving the laptop at home. More next week.