The Good Liar Movie Review

From an online dating site, two people meet. They are two seniors, con artist Roy (Ian McKellen) and his seemingly easy prey Betty (Helen Mirren), a wealthy widow. That’s all I knew about the movie before I went into the theatre. When I came out, I was surprised by its intensity and scope. Not something I’d expected. Definitely not a romantic dramedy but a suspense thriller that drops hints along the way and slowly peels off its layers of disguise. 

The Good Liar

That’s all I’m going to say about the plot because any more details I give out would diminish your enjoyment. However, I’m sure there are those who, like me, had never expected the personal history behind these two characters. Some might have been caught so off guard that they’d find the story preposterous. To them I say, it’s no more preposterous than Gone Girl, or The Debt, or Inglorious Basterds, which Roy and Betty watch in the movie. The interplay between Mirren and McKellen more than compensates for the lack of plausibility in the revealing of truth in the latter part. Further, it’s these elements of surprise that make the movie entertaining. Take it as pure escapism.

The Good Liar is based on the debut novel by British author Nicholas Searle, a pseudonym. The author worked as a UK intelligence officer before becoming a full-time writer. After watching the movie now I’m piqued to read the book, not to explore deep subject but just for its structure, to see how Searle tells his story interweaving the present and the past. This is one good case for not reading the book before watching the movie.

Mirren and McKellen, two British acting icons for the stage and screen, deliver a captivating performance playing off each other and enjoying themselves too, by the look. Director Bill Condon deftly leads us on to some revealing that makes one think twice about the meaning of the title. Condon directed Dreamgirls (2006) to two Oscar wins and received a Best Writing Oscar for adapting Gods and Monsters (1998) and a nom for his screenplay for Chicago (2002).

Other cast members include Jim Carter and Russell Tovey, both lending good support. I admit I have to try hard to cast away images of Mr. Carson of Downton Abbey when I watch Carter in The Good Liar, no matter how modern his hairdo.

Cinematographer Tobias A. Schliessler (A Wrinkle in Time 2018; Beauty and the Beast, 2017) offers some interesting vantage points, in particular the aerial shots in several scenes. The beginning of the movie grabs our attention right away with the credits being typed out on screen and a high angle shot of the two main characters connecting online on a dating site, then pulling in closer. The extreme close-ups of their eyes prepare us for intrigues. The story moves right in wasting no time. Overall, just watching the duo play off each other is entertaining enough.

 

~ ~ ~ Ripples

 

Binge-Watching on the Small Screen

If you’ve not ventured out to the Cineplex lately for larger than life spectacles, you’re not alone. And that’s what Steven Spielberg is worried about. The small screen is taking over: streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Crave… are keeping movie goers at home. What more, these services are making their own productions; memory of last year’s Netflix original movie, multiple Oscar winner Roma may still be fresh.

If binge-watching is the new urban phenom, then binge-racing has to be the newest spectator sport on the couch. Binge-racing, a term not in the OED yet, just means watching a whole Season of episodes all within the first 24 hrs. of their release. That could amount to 12 hrs. of binge-viewing.

In recent months I too have discovered the joy of small-screen bingeing. I declare though, I’m not a racer; as the title of this blog implies, I’m a ripple rider when it comes to small screen viewing. So for a while I’ve been catching up with some interesting titles and I must admit, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the activity.

No, this is not a debate about which is better, watching big Hollywood productions in the theatre vs. streaming on your TV screen or just on your 6″ handheld device; it’s about accessing interesting human stories to watch in a continuous and user friendly mode, as you can pause to take care of more urgent needs that may arise, like heading to the snack counter, without missing a beat or having to wait for the next commercial break.

The following are some titles I’ve binge-watched in the past year or so. By ‘binge’ I just mean watching all the episodes in a Season in one sitting, or two. Some are mini-series, so it’s just like watching a slightly longer movie than you would in a theatre.

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The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime Video)

The-Marvellous-Mrs-Maisel

This is probably the best period series I’ve watched in recent years. 1950’s NYC, Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan), wife, mother of two young children, devoted daughter of a Jewish family living in the Upper West Side, decides to choose a different path.

Inciting incident is when her husband Joel (Michal Zegen) one day packs up and leaves. Happy families can be turned into unhappy in the blink of an eye, for various reasons. One time at the Gaslight Café in Greenwich Village, Midge rants about her domestic blues during open mike and is discovered, or rather, she hears her true calling, and that’s being a stand-up comedienne.

This must be kept a secret from her Columbia U. professor father Abe Weissman (Tony Shalhoub) and her mother Rose (Marin Hinkle), a deep-rooted figure in the community. Midge hides her double life successfully at first, and her resolve to strike out on her own is strong. First she finds a day job at B. Altman Department Store, unheard of in her social circle, and at night does stand-up gigs as a comedienne, even more far-fetched. She lies low with her new persona, why, her newly acquired language is too foul for her family and friends, but foul is fair for Mrs. Maisel’s career. 

Period events and personalities add to the authentic build up of the story: Lenny Bruce is Mrs. Maisel’s supporter, Jane Jacob hangs around the Village, emergent artists perform at the Gaslight Café, albeit some are the deadpan material of the comedy. For the larger picture, the Cold War, secrets and spies, the Kennedys form the backdrop.

Very well written comedy, beautiful set design and period costumes, superbly performed by the wonderful cast. Rachel Brosnahan won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV series, Musical or Comedy (2019); the show won a GG for Best TV series, Musical or Comedy in 2018, and for 2019, it has snatched SAG Awards, Prime Time Emmy, AFI Award for TV Program of the Year. Enough said.

Mozart in the Jungle (Amazon Prime Video)

Mozart in the Jungle.jpg

No matter which classy name you put in, Bach, Beethoven, Schubert… it’s still a jungle. The series doesn’t just showcase the music of the fictional New York Symphony but probe their private, and not so private, life as well. In the jungle, you’d expect that’s where the wild things are. Their softball team is aptly named Wolf Gang (no doubt a playful pun on Mozart’s name). The Golden Globe and Emmy Award winner for Best TV series, Musical or Comedy, does have some inspiring musical scores and thoughtful lines.

To add some real-life flare, classical music figures Lang Lang, Emanuel Ax and Joshua Bell had made personal appearances. What more, while the regular cast members had to fake their instrument-playing, Dermot Mulroney (My Best Friend’s Wedding, 1997) didn’t need to. In one episode as a guest star, he’d shown himself to be an impressive cello virtuoso.

Coincidentally, I’ve recently finished Jamie Bernstein’s memoir Famous Father Girl: A Memoir of Growing up Bernstein. With her book, she had successfully destroyed the image of my American idol during my youthful days, Leonard Bernstein. Fact is stranger, or wilder, than fiction indeed. The classical music realm isn’t a ‘holier than thou’ kind of high-brow milieu. It’s occupied by humans after all.

 

Killing Eve (Crave)

Killing Eve

I don’t have Crave (HBO), so this one I watched on DVD, after a long wait for holds at the public library. Sandra Oh won a Best Actress Golden Globe for a TV series with her portrayal of MI5 agent Eve Polastri, obsessed with tracking down the psychotic killer Villanelle (Jodie Comer). Comer is good too, like a female version of Hannibal Lecter. Only difference is, she’s more humane than Lecter in that she’d rather put a fast bullet in her victim’s head than slowly eat the grey matter inside. Exactly, this is not for everyone, but for the thrill seekers and Oh fans. Slick and fast-paced, engaging performance and suspenseful storylines sprinkled with humor every now and then.

Collateral (Netflix)

Carey Mulligan in Collateral

I’ll watch anything that stars Carey Mulligan. The David Hare written, 4-Episode TV mini-series stands out, for it features a 7-month pregnant Mulligan as a London detective solving a street shooting. Exactly, why can’t a woman with a baby bump be a detective and fight crime, and along the way, exposes issues within the government about immigration policies and some dark secrets? Kudos to BBC, director S. J. Clarkson, and Carey Mulligan for taking on the challenge.

The Crown (Netflix)

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The series deserves all the accolades it has garnered. Claire Foy is superb as a younger Queen Elizabeth and the whole cast is notable. I’m eagerly waiting for the new Season with Olivia Colman as the Queen, continuing with the relay. QE is the longest reigning monarch in England’s history, so we’ll have many more Seasons to come(?) Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret would make one lively addition in the upcoming Season.

The Kominsky Method (Netflix)

A dynamic acting duo, Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin exude good chemistry. Douglas is Sandy Kominsky, an acting coach transforming young actors with his own Kominsky Method. Arkin plays his long-time friend and agent Norman who recently lost his wife to cancer. Confusion and insecurities abound in this stage of their life. What better companion they have than each other to ride into the sunset. The well-written script and nuanced performance from both make this series an enjoyable and inspiring character study.

Z: The Beginning of Everything (Amazon Prime Video)

Based on the book Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler, who produced  the TV series and wrote the screenplays of several episodes. Beautiful set design, costume and makeup. Fowler’s book and the adaptation is framed from Zelda’s point-of-view, a writer in her own right and a tragic heroine when it comes to her marriage. Zelda (Christina Ricci) is an unhappy wife overshadowed by an alcoholic, egoistic writer. Only one Season so far has been produced and the biopic stops in midlife. I hope the production will eventually pick up to the end. It’s an image-questioning look at F. Scott Fitzgerald who’d given us some of America’s best loved novels.

The Highwaymen (Netflix)

A Bonnie and Clyde remake but this time from the the point-of-view of two Texas Rangers who come out of retirement to take down the notorious outlaw couple. No, it’s not a comedy but yes, lightweight. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway are replaced by Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson, who join hands to offer a non-glamorous take on the capture. Directed by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, 2009). A Netflix original movie.

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What are you binge-watching these days?

Ripple Effects Turns a New Page in 2019

Ripple Effects has reached a new milestone. After almost twelve years in the blogosphere, Arti has finally fought off procrastination and taken up an upgraded version. From now on, there will be no ads even if you’re not a WordPress blogger visiting (let me know if you still see them). What more, there’s a new URL address to the Pond, aptly:

rippleeffects.reviews

 

But if you type in the old, longer one it will redirect you to the right place here at the Pond as well.

While birding is still my passion, I’ll be posting mostly film and book reviews on Ripple Effects. My avian friends will probably fly by during intermission.

Your two pebbles are welcome as before. Throw them in, stir up some ripples. As always, I hope you’ll find here a respite for quiet thoughts and prompting to some interesting viewing and reading. I await your visits.

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Have you ever seen so many people lining up to go into a public library? It happened right here in my city, Calgary, Alberta, on November 1, 2018, when our New Central Library opened. 50,000 visitors in the first four days. Yes, there will be talks of books and movies here on Ripple Effects.

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The Calgary Central Library was one of Architectural Digest’s 12 most anticipated buildings opening in 2018. Check it out here.

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Dano’s ‘Wildlife’ elicits showcase performance from Carey Mulligan

Wildlife is a detailed capture of the dissolution of a marriage, from the point of view of the couple’s only child. It is also a coming-of-age story as 14 year-old Joe comes to realize the elusiveness of permanence in his parents Jerry and Jeanette’s once loving relationship. If all these names sound too common, that just might be one implication of the film – a specific look into a general human condition.

Wildlife
Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal as Jeanette and Jerry in ‘Wildlife’. Photo courtesy of TIFF.

The film adaptation of Richard Ford’s novel is a selection in the Special Presentations program at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, screened as a Canadian premiere. It is the directorial debut of actor Paul Dano, co-writing the screenplay with Zoe Kazan (The Big Sick, 2017).

To those unfamiliar with Dano, maybe these titles will help you locate where he’s coming from and appreciate the variety of works he’s been in. Remember Little Miss Sunshine (2006)? He’s Olive’s older brother Dwayne who reluctantly gets into the yellow VW Beetle van and takes a vow of silence, or the dubious preacher confronting Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood (2007)as the harsh slave driver in 12 Years a Slave (2013), or in the 2016 TV mini-series War & Peace as Pierre. Not the handsome leading man but always the character actor.

The small family in Wildlife consists of Jerry Brinson (Jake Gyllenhaal), a golf pro who has just moved into the town of Great Falls, Montana, with his wife Jeanette (Carey Mulligan) and son Joe (Ed Oxenbould). Just as they thought they’re settling in Jerry is fired from his job as a golf instructor in a country club. After waiting for a while for her husband to absorb the loss of job and pride but with no solution in sight to the household finance, Jeannette decides to come out of the home to look for work, ultimately finding a position as a swimming instructor at the Y.

That just may not be the cause of the conflict. What begins the total meltdown is when Jerry, out of the blue, packs up and follows a group of men heading to the forests to fight a wild fire fiercely raging near Great Falls, not knowing when he will return or if he can get out of it unscathed. Feeling utterly alone and abandoned, Jeanette begins to react to her precarious situation by venting with some out-of-character behavior. The successful businessman Warren Miller (Bill Camp), Jeannette’s swim student at the Y, just happens to be a convenient escape route. All these familial changes and development are observed uncensored by their sensitive teenaged son Joe.

From this his first attempt at directing, viewers would be gratified to find Dano to be an actor’s director; especially with the excellent cast he has under his helm, this is doubly rewarding. Dano lets the camera rest on the close-up faces of his characters to elicit superb performance, taking his time to capture the nuances in restraints, outburst, or just about any sort of inner feelings to surface.

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Carey Mulligan in ‘Wildlife’. Photo courtesy of TIFF.

This is one of the best, if not the best, performance I’ve seen Carey Mulligan in, changing from the loving wife and devoted mother to the angry and desperate single mom with a son to raise, to totally losing it, testing the boundaries of norms and behavior, and finally to the determined woman striking out on her own yet still bound by unseverable, familial ties. Mulligan deserves an Oscar nom for her role as Jeannette.

Watching his mother get close to Miller, Joe is torn between devotion and incredulity.  Although a successful businessman, Miller is a limping, older man. Joe is utterly perturbed by his mother’s capricious turn. Dano creates some poignant scenes depicting the interactions between mother and son during dad’s absence from home. Often the passive observer, Joe is restrained with countless questions he cannot express in words.

Mulligan gets all the juicy lines. After Jerry is gone to fight the wild fire, Jeanette brings Joe along to Miller’s house for dinner, putting on heavy make-up and dressing in a seductive night gown. She dances with the man intimately in front of her son. In another occasion, she dons cowgirl attire and admires herself in front of the mirror, reminiscing her younger days. Jeanette answers her son’s dazed expression with this line:

“It’s good to know your parents were once not your parents.”

There is a former life in every parent that even the closest child would not have known or understood. There are many thought-provoking lines in the film, but this one is particularly poignant.

Dano takes the liberty to follow the spirit of the text and creates a cinematic ending. His visual wrapping up is clear and spot-on, especially the scene at the studio where Joe works part-time. The final frame of the three sitting down together for a studio shot with Joe between his parents speaks volumes. A wild fire may have been put out, but the smouldering lingers; and the one keeping it under control may well have been a teenaged firefighter.

 

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Update Nov. 16:

3 Nominations for “Wildlife” at the Film Independent Spirit Awards – Best First Feature, Best Female Lead, and Best Cinematography.

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, Guernsey from Book to Screen

It was nine years ago that I posted a book review of The Guernsey Literary and the Potato Peel Pie Society, the post-WWII set, epistolary novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. It’s a book of letters between the writer Juliet Ashton and her publisher, and later the members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which is an impromptu excuse made up by quick-thinking Elizabeth to avoid arrest by German soldiers as she and her friends are caught walking home after curfew.

To prepare for German advances, residents on Guernsey evacuated their children and sent their young men to war. Later as the Channel Islands were under enemy occupation, the people were stripped of their freedom and had to endure hunger, casualties and disappearances of loved ones.

Here are some thoughts in my book review post:

“Despite the subject matters, readers will find the book witty and delightful. Authors Shaffer and Barrows have depicted a myriad of lively characters, charmingly joined in their humanity by their strengths and weaknesses.  Yes, we can also visualize the madness of war. But we’re relieved to see too that people can weather hardship much better when they have a common bond, here, in the reading and sharing of fine literary works.”

A few years ago I read that the NYT Bestseller would be turned into a movie and that Kate Winslet would play Juliet Ashton, and later, Rosamund Pike. And so we wait. Now we have Lily James, and I’m glad. She’s a younger Juliet, but her screen presence is always appealing, albeit the adaptation doesn’t give her much of a chance to shine as in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. She belongs in the singing and dancing limelight, maybe not unlike her character Lady Rose in Downton Abbey.

Lily James as Juliet Ashton (1).jpg

Matthew Goode (Henry Talbot from Downton) as Sydney, Juliet’s publisher, is a solid supportive figure. Surely what he wants is more books from her, but Sydney knows she can’t be forced to do anything she doesn’t want to. Nice play between the two, and some effective scenes as he tries to help Juliet dispel haunting war memories.

How do you turn letters into a movie? Director Mike Newell focused on storytelling and it worked. The helmer of Mona Lisa Smile (2003) and perhaps the more memorable, Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), had chosen to depict the dramatic narratives in the letters rather than the actual reading and writing of them; the writing part can be done by another character, the typewriter.

There are fewer literary mentions in the movie, and the book club scenes are kept to a minimum but interesting. Don’t miss the one at the end when the credits roll. We hear the sound of the typewriter, remember Atonement? With just two hours for the movie, naturally a lot of the details are skimmed out. What’s left are the essentials, loss and love.

Kudos to Penelope Wilton (Isobel Crawley of Downton, of course, and many more), she leads all the way by holding the suspense, the reason for her pain. We see her expressive face conveys tensions and deep sadness. Viewers who have not read the book would find the movie a mystery slowly being revealed as Juliet investigates the Society’s history. I appreciate Wilton’s face, from which I can clearly see how the loss of loved ones can drag one down to mere existence and nothing more, if not for Kit (Florence Keen).

Joining the roles as Society members are veteran actor Tom Courtenay as Eben, Katherine Parkinson as Isola, and Kit Connor as Eli. The fine cast let us visualize the events of the book as experiences of real persons. This may well be the very reason why some hesitate to embrace movie adaptations of the literary. To the purists, the imageries and characters conjured up in their mind while reading reign supreme and they’d guard them with much possessiveness. In this case, however, I find the adaptation offers something that’s not in the book. I can see the restraints of the characters, the burden as keepers of secrets, their faces telling stories and then withholding some.

Jessica Brown Findlay (Lady Sybil from Downton) as Elizabeth is well cast, albeit not much time is spent on exploring her love story with the German soldier Christian (Nicolo Pasetti, limited appearance). The resolution to such a dilemma and its fallout will never be easy to find.

As for the love interests, or disinterest, Glen Powell aptly plays the rich American Mark Reynolds. Recognize him from Hidden Figure? He’s John Glenn there. Here, he’s the high flying socialite publisher. After Guernsey, Juliet has to be frank with him, and with much apology, returns his engagement ring. After just a short exchange, he gets up from the table, says goodbye and walks away, only to return quickly to pluck the champaign bottle from the ice bucket before he leaves for good. Just spot-on. Is that in the book?

True love belongs to Dawsey Adams (Michiel Huisman, Game of Thrones) who begins it all with his letter to a name and address written on a book he happens to stumble upon. The moment he encounters Juliet as she sets foot on Guernsey, his fate is sealed. Dawsey is good at restraints, until he can’t hold it anymore at the end. The setting may be different but who gets to pop the question remains true to the book.

A movie as well can offer the scenery which the book can’t. But then again, imagination may still be needed as the shooting location is not actually Guernsey Island but North Devon. Click on the link to check it out.

What doesn’t need imagination is also my favourite scene: Dawsey’s carving of the juicy roasted pig.


~ ~ ~ Ripples

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Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is on Netflix.

 

 

 

‘Cleo from 5 to 7’: A Film for Paris in July

Summertime… and the viewing is nostalgic. On a lazy, hazy summer afternoon, what better way to spend your time than to catch up on classic films that you’d missed through the years, or, rewatch them. Sure, a glass of pink lemonade and some chocolate-dipped madeleines would add to the enjoyment.

Here’s a wonderful film by the venerable Belgium born French director Agnès Varda, who turned 90 on May 30 this year. Just exactly what she was doing a few weeks before her 90th birthday?

On May 12, Varda joined Cate Blanchett in leading 82 female industry figures to walk up the stairs on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival, a silent protest symbolizing the challenges women face in climbing the industry ladder. Blanchett gave a speech in English, Varda in French.

Cleo from 5 to 7 (Cléo de 5 à 7) is a 1962 film by Varda, a Cannes Palme d’Or nominee the next year. The story takes place on one single day in the life of a popular recording singer Cleo (as in Cleopatra) who loves everything beautiful looking. But early in the day she receives all sorts of bad omens about her health. Her zest for life fizzles through the day as she would be calling her doctor to find out the result of the medical test she’d taken a couple days ago.

Cleo from 5 to 7.jpg

We follow Cleo on the longest day in 1962, yes, that’s the first day of summer, which could have brought her vitality and joy. How does the fear of illness and mortality affect the beauty-seeking and fun-loving Cleo? It totally changes her outlook. Instead of being cooped up in her apartment with musicians rehearsing her songs, she steps out into the streets of Paris to escape the gloomy sense of despair.

Don’t worry, this is not Sarte or Camus. Cleo is just a gal seeking to be loved, and for the first time in her life, fearing for her own mortality. Varda takes us along the streets of 1962 Paris, and offers us naturalistic scenes of cafes and roadside buskers, and leads us into an art studio as Cleo looks for her friend who works as a model for sculptors.

Finally, she’s alone in a park, the serene, meditative milieu is the ideal setting for her to meet Antoine. The encounter is the magic she needs. The rest you ought to see it for yourself. Varda’s pace is leisurely, her viewpoint insightful, and the ending is satisfying. Maybe by now, Cleo learns the difference between beautiful-looking and beauty.

The original music is soothing and cooling for a summer day, composed by Michel Legrand (who is the piano player in the movie). Legrand is a three times Oscar winning French film composer. Which three times? Yentl (1983), Summer of ’42 (1971), The Thomas Crown Affair (1968).

As I said, summer is the best time for nostalgic viewing.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ Ripples

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Paris in July is hosted by Tamara of Thyme for Tea, an annual summer blogging event.

Paris in July 18

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The Portrait of a Lady, Sequel, Remake(?)

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

First, thanks to Bellezza’s open invite to a read-along, posting the photo of John Banville’s newest book Mrs. Osmond, a sequel to The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. I’d seen the 1996 movie adaptation directed by Jane Campion (The Piano, 1993), but had never read James’s novel. What better time to read both books than now.

The Portrait of a Lady

I got hold of The Portrait of a Lady (Modern Library, just love the cover) read part of it then turned to a sound recording (unfortunately couldn’t find the Juliet Stevenson narrated version). Prompted by JoAnn, I interspersed reading with listening and gleaned much pleasure doing that. Here’s my very short, 5-Star Goodreads review:

“Actually I was listening to the Blackstone Audio version of the book as well as reading  parts of the book to ascertain facts in the story or just savour the passages again. James’s portrait of Isabel Archer is one of the saddest fictional heroines I’ve come across. A reminiscence of Anna Karenina emerged as I read the latter part, but Isabel is a character much more likeable for me. Should she be destined to a ruined life due to a naive misjudgement, ok, maybe even foolishness, by marrying Gilbert Osmond? Osmond is evil personified, and I just can’t shake off the face of John Malkovich (from the movie) whenever I read about his cold, domineering hand over Isabel. Isabel definitely needs redemption and saving grace. So I do hope John Banville’s Mrs. Osmond will grant her that.”

The Portrait of a Lady by Jane Campion

Since the image of John Malkovich kept creeping up my mind as I read the book, I quickly turned to the movie adaptation right after I finished the book. I remember I was most disturbed by Osmond’s callous treatment of Isabel when I first watched it years ago; he appeared as a chilling, silent villain, bullying his innocent victim mercilessly. His stepping on Isabel’s floor-length dress to stop her from walking away was still vivid in my mind.

Nicole Kidman

Now as I saw the movie again, I find the feature more style than content. The tilted camera shots? A bit contrived. Malkovich is still evil, and Kidman still the innocent victim, but there isn’t much complexity in the characterization. The editing and much abridged dialogues leave a vacuum. Considering the rich descriptive prowess of Henry James, much is left to be desired in the film. Yes, I’m one who advocates for the appreciation of books and films as two different art forms, and should not be doing a literal comparison when judging the adaptation. Well, I’m not. I’m weighing the film on its own merits. Yes, set design is rich and some artistic shots, but overall pales despite the sumptuous colours. And, what happened to Nicole Kidman’s hair? As much as I’d appreciated Campion’s works, especially her Oscar winning (Best Original Screenplay) film The Piano, I do feel maybe it’s a good time to do a remake of The Portrait of a Lady.

Mrs. Osmond by John Banville

After the movie I turned right away to Banville’s book. Here’s my review on Goodreads:

Mrs. Osmond

“I jumped to this book right after reading Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady. As I understand this new work of Banville’s to be a ‘sequel’ to James’s book, I had high expectations of the Booker winning author carrying Isabel Archer’s (Mrs. Osmond’s) story forward, taking her through twists and turns and eventually letting her find redemption and a new life. However this was not to be exactly as I’d envisioned.

Mrs. Osmond is divided into two Parts. Maybe for the benefit of those who haven’t read or reread The Portrait of a Lady in preparation for his book, Banville retells James’s story in Part I. While he’s very detailed in his descriptive style, and to his credit, creeping inside the minds of his characters, he repeats himself frequently in reminding his readers how Isabel Archer got deceived by Madame Merle and fell into the marriage trap of Gilbert Osmond’s. So basically the story remains static throughout Part I.

(Spoiler Alert in the following)

Part II leads us to Isabel’s own scheme of turning the tables on Osmond and Merle, and let them have a taste of their own medicine by just transferring the ownership of her residence the palazzo in Rome over to Madame M. and let the culprits be trapped with each other. That’s all there is to her plan, and it’s an expensive vengeance. As for her own dear life and its purpose for the remains of her days, the path is as obscure as before, albeit Banville has dropped a hint of the suffrage movement being a meaningful direction.

While Mrs. Osmond may not be as gratifying as I’d expected, this is an interesting concept, taking literary classics and imagining a sequel. Now that could lead to a brave new genre of fiction writing.”

A Movie Remake, anyone?

If there’s one, who’d you like to see playing the role of Isabel Archer? Gilbert Osmond? Madame Merle? Director?

 

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Related Post:

Can a movie adaptation ever be as good as the book?

 

The Glass Castle: From Book to Screen

Jeannette Walls’ memoir had a “seven-year run on the New York Times best-seller list” after it was published in 2005, according to a NYT article . Now, 12 years later, a movie adaptation. So, the long wait is over. The wait, of course, belongs to those who don’t mind seeing a book turned into a movie.

As I’m a proponent of judging book and film as two different art forms on their own merits, I welcome movie adaptations. With this memoir, a non-fiction, I do feel the movie lacks the emotional punch as the first person narrative Jeannette Walls has so masterfully presented in her book. Walls’s memoir is a much livelier, engaging, and poignant piece of account depicting an extraordinary growing-up experience, a nomadic life of poverty until she and her siblings escaped from it.

As I’d mentioned in my review of the book, I was browsing in a bookstore when I picked up The Glass Castle randomly. The opening line captured my attention right away:

I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster.

That instantly drew me in. And for the rest of the book, Walls has not stopped captivating me with her growing up experience. She candidly shares how alcohol had ruined the potentials of her dreamer dad Rex, who had always dreamed of building them a glass castle. She tells us how her artistic mom Rose Mary had coped (or not), and the effects of their unconventional ‘parenting style’ had on the four children. Eventually, starting with the eldest, Lori, the children one by one escaped from their parents to NYC to start anew. As Jeanette saw her Mom digging through a Dumpster in NYC, she was a journalist at that time and living on Park Avenue. No judgement here, for the book explains all. The Glass Castle is a detailed account of Jeanette’s incredulous journey.

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Now, having said all that, I must state that the movie is still a watchable production. Unlike his previous realistic drama Short Term 12 (2013), writer director Deston Daniel Cretton has a tall order here: from the massive field of information in the memoir, to glean and pick just a few episodes to include in the film and string them up as a whole, while making them as interesting and captivating as the book. I know, Cretton must eliminate and condense, the difficult task of a movie adaptation.

Cretton chose to focus on the love hate relationships between father and daughter, and the actors have delivered, thanks to the performance of Woody Harrelson as Rex and the actors who play Jeannette as a youngster, Ella Anderson, and as adult, played by Academy Award Best Actress Brie Larson (Room, 2015). Harrelson is spot-on and dominates the screen.

Mom Rose Mary is played by Naomi Watts. And with this character, I feel there may be a miscast here. For one thing, since the film is heavily weighed on Rex, mom has a much minor role, which is a shortfall, for she does contribute to the children’s development, and taught them to appreciate reading, art, and the value of resilience, using the Joshua Tree as an object lesson, bent but alive. In my mind, Laura Dern could be a more suitable cast.

While the book is chronological, the movie juxtaposes the past with the present. It is done quite well, no confusion or disjointed feeling here. The editing is smooth and moves both storylines forward effectively. The scene of the accident when Jeanette has to cook as a young child and is burned badly is placed aptly at the beginning of the movie. Scars that can be seen visually is a good reminder of one’s past where memories could fade.

One of the main differences between The Glass Castle the book and the movie adaptation is distance. The book is intimate and close. Walls is such a straight forward writer that it feels like she’s right there sharing, opening up herself candidly to the reader. With the movie here, we are just like that, sitting afar as a spectator. It took me a while to engage.

The major issue is the mood. The book depicts a nomadic existence as Jeanette was growing up. The children were herded from place to place across States, often as dad Rex escaped from debtors. They had slept open in the Mohave desert, so, they could pick their own star as a present. Surely these may all be a disguise for their plight, euphemism offered by irresponsible parents. But none can deny the thrills and exhilaration of escapades and adventures. The togetherness of the siblings, the wonder of life are apparent in Walls’ descriptions. The word ‘dysfunctional’ had never appeared in my mind as I read the book.

The film however, focuses on the darker side. The abusive and volatile Rex dominates the screen. Poverty and gloom take over. The tipping point comes as the eldest Lori graduates from high school, and she makes an exit plan. We breathe an air of relief as the children one by one escapes to NYC. A few years later though, Rex and Rose Mary move out to be with them, so they can all be together again as one family.

Is a family being together always the best? As we see, togetherness may not be an ultimate good to pursue when harmony is impossible to reach. What’s more important is keeping oneself intact, one’s past reconciling with one’s present, the integrity of self. In the film, that is the turning point for Jeannette in the scene at the restaurant with an important client of her husband’s. Jeannette comes out from hiding about her family, albeit at the most inopportune moment.

The final scene is a beautiful wrap. The Walls gather together to have a family meal after Rex has died from illness. The siblings chat about their formative years in laughter. Resilience and loyalty to each other have kept them intact. A rewarding closure and a beginning towards a better future.

Do stay behind to watch the video of the real life Jeannette with her mom Rose Mary as the ending credits roll. And do sit through the credits until the very last line, wherein lies the emotional punch of the whole film:

“To all families, despite the scars, still find a way to love.”

~ ~ ~ Ripples

 

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Related Post on Ripple Effects:

The Glass Castle Book Review

Two Films for Thoughts at Easter

I’ve tried different words for the title: Two films for the uninterested, indifferent…

So you think Easter is too maudlin an occasion for you. You’re not fond of bunnies, nor church services, and this talk about death and new life has become too clichéd. That’s ok. How about watching a couple of films? No, not Mel’s Passion, you know how the story goes. Something different.

First is a rather tame one. Previously on Ripple, I’d written about the book by Georges Bernanos’s The Diary of A Country Priest (1936), here’s the film adaptation (1951). Watch it for its artistic values and for the appreciation of a French film legend, Robert Bresson.

Robert Bresson is one of the most influential figures in French cinema. The acclaimed New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard once noted: “Robert Bresson is French cinema, as Dostoevsky is the Russian novel and Mozart is German music.”

I know, Austrians would say Mozart was Austrian, but this just shows his influence has crossed borders. Same with Bresson, who is acclaimed as one of the forefathers of the French New Wave, even though his style is not experimental. Swedish iconic director Ingmar Bergman had specifically cited Diary of a Country Priest as influence for his Winter Light.

Do note this: Bresson was a professed agnostic. His adapting a work by the Catholic writer Bernanos shows the moving power and the universal appeal of the book. The parish of Ambricourt in the story is a microcosm of the human world. The seemingly placid village hides a spiritually barren landscape and a cocoon of malice. The young priest, an unwelcome alien, is barred from entry into the inner world of its residents.

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Watch for its cinematography. Watch for its symbolism. I won’t go into details again. CLICK HERE to read my full review after you’ve finished this post.

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A 1951, black and white film may not pique your interest. Here’s a modern version, and a word of warning: Definitely not for the faint of heart.

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Calvary, the acclaimed 2014 Irish film written and directed by John Michael McDonagh (The Guard, 2011). It won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the Berlin International Film Festival that year among other accolades, and Brendan Gleeson garnered several Best Actor awards in the festival circuit.

Unlike the young priest in Diary, Father James (Brendan Gleeson) chooses to enter the priesthood in his middle age. He was married before, now a widower, has an adult daughter Fiona (Kelly Reilly). He has his past, but has made a clean start, to serve with integrity in an Irish rural town. Like the young priest in the French town of Ambricourt, Father James’ sincerity and total commitment is met with ridicule and hostility, albeit on the surface, the town folks seem to be relatively friendly to him.

How has the world changed since Bernanos’s time? Plenty, not just for the way people conduct their lives, but the Catholic Church has left a tarnished image of sexual abuse.

The opening scene sets an ominous overtone of what’s to come. It is Sunday, Father James sits in the confessional. On the other side a man tells his story explicitly of being raped by a priest when he was seven years old. That horrifying experience lasted for five years almost every other day, rendering him irreparably damaged. He utters a death threat to Father James: one week later he will meet him on the beach and he will kill him.

Why kill Father James? He’s an innocent priest, a good one as a matter of fact. The man says: “There’s no point killing a bad priest. But killing a good one? That’d be a shock. They wouldn’t know what to make of that. I’m going to kill you cos you’ve done nothing wrong.”

Retribution for the crimes of the Catholic Church? Resolving personal bitterness? Administering justice?

A startling opening that turns into suspense as the film progresses. Father James recognizes the voice. He knows who he is, but we as audience don’t. The director leads us to look into the lives of several characters, allowing us to ponder who it is that wants to kill the priest. Sounds familiar? “Lord, who is it?” But Father James knows, and he still treats the man with a pastoral heart.

“I’m going to kill you cos you’re innocent.” Every day of the week, Father James lives with that threat. Each passing day sends him closer to the hill called Calvary. But Father James goes on with his work, caring, being a friend, ministering, including to his own daughter who has recently attempted suicide. He is heartbroken; she feels she can go on now knowing he cares.

Not saying that he’s a saint. How can you live with such a threat from a man who seems to mean business. Father James is all too human… and that’s the side that appeals. To say it’s been an eventful week is an outright understatement. Things just get too personal, and Father James copes with all the wits he can muster. He needs not turn water into wine, there’s plenty around. He waits. We wait.

Then Sunday comes. He prepares himself and heads to the beach.

The very last scene is one of the most heart-wrenching endings I’ve seen, and it’s not at the beach, not with Father James.

It’s about the ripple effects of Calvary: one man bearing the sins of all.


~ ~ ~ ~ Ripples
for both films

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Related Posts on Ripple:

Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar (1966): A Timeless Parable

Ida’s Choice: Thoughts on Pawlikowski’s Ida (2013)

Homage to Flannery O’Connor: Looking for Intrusions of Grace in Films

The Sense of an Ending the Movie

When I first knew that The Sense of an Ending was being adapted into a movie, I thought whoever that took up the project had a tall order. That it’s a Booker Prize winner automatically adds pressure and expectations, but the more important consideration is the nature of the book, introspection saturated with internal dialogues.

The novel is powerful and intense in that, in merely 150 pages, Barnes has dismantled the scaffold of self-knowledge in his protagonist by challenging the accuracy of his memories. The eerie effect is, that can happen to us too. How accurate are our memories of ourselves, of others, of events in our life? It’s crucial because what we remember about them build up the person who we think we are today.

So, who had taken up this difficult task to helm the movie? It’s Ritesh Batra, the Mumbai born, Indian director who brought us the interesting film The Lunchbox (2013). Batra has an excellent cast to work with, that should have made his job a bit easier. But one can see he follow the script pretty closely and that’s what made me wish there could be more stylistic touch. Similarly, the screenplay by Nick Payne could have been spiced up a bit. However, its being overall loyal to Barnes’s novel, except a few addons, may have cleared up some ambiguity for the reader.

The Sense of an Ending

In his old age, Tony Webster (Jim Broadbent) received a registered letter notifying him of a small inheritance from someone he had known way back in his university days. The money isn’t the important thing, it’s the diary that is supposed to go with it that opens up a door to his past. And so begins the story. Tony has to rethink everything about himself (younger played by Billy Howle), his first love Veronica Ford (younger played by Freya Mavor), Veronica’s family, in particular his mother Sarah (Emily Mortimer), and his school friends Adrian Finn (Joe Alwyn, who plays Billy Lyn in Ang Lee’s 2016 movie).

There are hits and misses in this adaptation. Broadbent delivers a solid performance as the clueless Tony Webster, a man who has lived all his life lacking the lucidity of seeing himself and others in the proper light, or is it selective memory? The little bit of addon is good, letting Tony set up an old camera shop to get him out of bed everyday. It’s also a good link because when he first met Veronica, she was toying with one, and he had received one from her as a gift as well. Herein lies the linkage of the object with the distant past.

Tony has his ex-wife Margaret (Harriet Walters) to thank, for she humours him by meeting him time and again just to listen. She may be doubting what Tony is telling her, but she is patient and wait for him to slowly rediscover himself. That’s what a good listener does, isn’t it, she helps you question yourself.

Adding the plotline of Tony’s daughter Susie (Michelle Dockery) giving birth to a baby is effective. Those who miss Downton Abbey would be glad to see Mary Crawley again, in a new role. But the real effect here is that her giving birth to a newborn son leads me to appreciate the title of the book, something that I did not quite get when I was reading. I wondered about the relevance of the book title when I was reading it. The movie’s last scene clears this up for me. After all these years of misinformed self-knowledge, Tony finally comes to the end of a chapter in his old age, still not too late. With the renewed relationship with his ex Margaret, and a new grandchild, Tony is ready to call an end to a clueless life and start anew. Once more, with feeling.

The weakest link I feel is with the elderly Veronica character played by Charlotte Rampling. It’s a missed opportunity for the director to draw out more from this veteran actor. Unlike in the book, which depicts an absolutely frustated Veronica, possibly traumatized by what had happened to her in life, finding Tony not understanding a bit about the past. “You just don’t get it, do you?” Exasperated, she has said this several times in the book, if my memory serves me correctly.

So here in the movie, the most crucial scenes ought to be Tony’s meeting with the older Veronica for the first time after all those decades and Veronica seeing Tony still oblivious to what had happened. But no, we see an utterly aloof Veronica, too calm for those tense cinematic moments. “You just don’t get it, do you?” has not been said even once, if my memory serves me correctly.

And the most crucial line in the pub when Tony finds out the truth, it ought to be the climax but the scene is so understated that any built up has been eroded. Now he gets it, and what reaction does he show at the moment and afterwards? I feel it’s the director’s job to augment the moment, and let it ripple into the next sequences. I’m sure the cast can easily oblige. Just for the sake of eliciting more emotional engagement from the viewers. I remember how sensational it felt when I came to that part in the book.

Overall, it’s a pleasure watching these veteran actors in the same production. Together with the above-mentioned cast members, there are also Matthew Goode, the history teacher, but not in a scene with Michelle Docerty, and Merchant Ivory star James Wilby playing the small role of Veronica’s father.

That it is shot on location in London, especially watching Tony meet Veronica again on “the wobbly bridge” leading to Tate Modern is particularly poignant in light of recent events. Overall, a watchable adaptation to go with the book.

~ ~ ~ Ripples

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Related Posts on Ripple Effects:

The Sense of an Ending Book Review

The Lunchbox Movie Review

Silence the Movie Arrives in the Most Unwelcome Time

 

Why is La La Land being embraced so readily and Silence shunned? Evidence from box office sales and nominations during this Awards Season clearly show the difference between the two. Just now, the Oscar Nominations are in. La La Land: 14  Silence: 1

Allow me to speculate.

One in glamorous primary colours, the other shrouded in misty shades of gloom. One a fantasy, romance in song and dance, the other realism of suffering, persecution, death. One is layback, relaxing entertainment, the other is 2.5 hours of intense engagement. One charms, the other disturbs. When offered at the end of a tumultuous year, and as we step into a new one when hopes and fears are renewed, the choice is easy. La La Land is an amiable feature (although I won’t get into the overrated debate here), but Silence sure doesn’t deserve the disregard it’s getting.

It’s just that Silence arrives in the most unwelcome time. But then again, there’s no suitable time for a feature like it. Isn’t it revelatory and even prophetic that this film, probably director Martin Scorsese’s most important in his oeuvre, seems to be a total outcast, a lost cause? Exactly, that’s just as it would have ended up.

It would be ironic, wouldn’t it, for a film about spirituality, other-worldly and intangible values, and challenges of faith in the face of persecution to be celebrated by this power and fame-obsessed, material world? For it to receive praise and honor would be the ultimate irony indeed.

In a society which aims at being great, where ratings, numbers, wealth and social media status define success, where loudness rules and silence shunned, it is only expected that a film entitled “Silence” will not be cheered on. It runs against the grains of popularism, for it’s a film about failure.

I have posted a book review of Silence back in December, 2016. In it is a historical note. To summarize, Christianity was introduced to Japan by Francis Xavier in 1549. It was well received then, and by 1600, there were 300,000 Christians in Japan. But the Edo Period beginning in 1603 changed everything. Ruler Tokugawa Ieyasu ordered expulsion of foreign influences and Christianity had to survive underground. Torture was used to drive Christians to disavow their faith. Stepping on the fumie, a brass plague engraved with a Christ figure, is the convenient way to show one’s apostasy, leading to instant release. During this time, the Catholic Church received the news that the stalwart leader of the Jesuits mission in Japan, Father Christovao Ferreira had disavowed his faith and became an apostate. He had since lost contact with the Church.

The film doesn’t need many words to explain these historical events, for its visuals are self-explanatory. It starts off with father Ferreira’s apostasy, apparently under duress as he sees his flock being tortured to death. Liam Neeson’s gaunt and horrified expressions speak all. That’s the power of cinema.

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Back in Portugal, two young priests, Father Sebastian Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Garupe (Adam Driver) appeal to their superior Father Valignano (Ciarán Hinds) to allow them to go to Japan to look for Ferreira and to seek the truth of the situation. Thus begins the story.

I’ve long learned not to judge a movie adaptation according to how loyal it is to the book, for the two are different art forms and a direct transposition may not be possible. But here is one exception. I’m glad that Scorsese’s Silence, co-written with screenwriter Jay Cock (Gangs of New York, 2002), is surprisingly faithful to Shusaku Endo’s historical novel, and that ‘faithfulness’ is both desirable and most admirable here.

By following Endo’s storyline to the dot, extracting pertinent text from the book as dialogues and voiceover, and spending time to cover the all important Epilogue, the director shows his desire to honour the author’s work, a wish that had long hidden in his heart. Indeed, it has been twenty-five years since Scorsese first read Endo’s masterpiece and was so deeply moved that he knew he needed to film it one day.

Another way we see Scorsese’s regard for Endo is his restraint when portraying the tortures of Japanese Christians. What we have, surely, is visual, graphic scenes which, while reading the book are left to the author’s descriptions and our imagination, but on screen are left to the director’s discretion. Kudos to Scorsese, those scenes are done with much restraints. This was a welcome surprise to me. I went into the theatre braced for his treatment like the ending scene of Taxi Driver (1976), or the bloody mayhem in Gangs of New York (2002). I need not have worried. But what I was hit with I had not expected.

Scorsese can definitely unleash more gore in Silence. But he chose not to. The scenes in the film are done with the utmost respect and dignity for the persecuted. Here’s a confession, I’m not one who easily succumbs to emotions, never need a Kleenex while watching a movie in the theatre. Here in Silence, as I watched the three Japanese Christians hanging on the makeshift crosses at the seashore swallowed up by the rising waves, tears slowly streamed down my face. What more, the guy sitting behind me was sniffing away, uncontrollably.

 

The main actors are powerful in taking hold of our emotions. Liam Neeson’s painful expressions both at the beginning and the end are very moving. Adam Driver lost 50 pounds for his role. His skeletal form is almost painful to watch. The Japanese actor Yôsuke Kubozuka is effective as Kichijiro, the ‘Judas character’.

The emotion of the whole film, however, is driven by two actors: Andrew Garfield as young father Rodrigues and the calculated, ruthless inquisitor Inoue played by Issei Ogata. The two form a stark foil: the hot-blooded idealist slaughtered slowly by the cold, harsh ruler. A tidbit for those who had watched Taiwanese director Edward Yang’s Yi Yi (2000), Ogata is Mr. Ota in there.

Garfield is effective in leading us to feel for Father Rodrigues’ sad and tragic journey. Martyrdom is the path to glory, and an easy way out. But no, Rodrigues isn’t given that luxury. Rather, he is faced with a most precarious test, tearing his soul and conscience, that is to apostatize or see his flock die by torture. It is unfortunate that the film has not been well received. Garfield deserves a nomination for Silence.

While it may be about the hidden church that runs underground to avoid annihilation, Silence is more about one man’s struggle with faith and doubt, and ultimately, making his choice and living with it for the rest of his life.

Here’s the rub. In this ‘either or’ society we live in, Rodrigues’s predicament is particularly distressing for us. It is often convenient and tempting to oversimplify issues and splitting them into clean-cut opposing sides, either B or W, L or R, D or R. In Silence, we’re confronted with yet another dichotomy: Devout or Apostate. What Scorsese reveals to us with his last scene is that, the line separating the two is blurry and permeable.

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In his compendium book to the movie, Silence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of Suffering, Japanese-American artist Makoto Fujimura, who is special adviser to the film, discusses the necessary existence of a ‘hidden’ identity to those practising Christianity in that historical era in Japan. For 250 years during the anti-foreign, ironclad Shogunate rule of the Edo Period (1603-1868), the only way to survive as Christians was to become hidden, Kakure Kirishitans as they were called in Japan. Stepping on the fumie, as the officials say, could well be only a formality, for it likely did not represent the heart. It is unfortunate that the persecuted Kakure Kirishitans had to succumb to this double life. As outsiders looking in, should we be so easy to judge them? Silence challenged us with that question. Unlike the bold declaration of Western Christianity, the Kakure Kirishitans held on to an inner faith that on the outside was wrapped with weakness and failure, total submission to the ruling authority. A painful, paradoxical existence.

The crucial, final scene in the film, which is the Epilogue of Endo’s book, holds the key to the question. I appreciate Scorsese’s closure. That is also how Fujimura explains Endo’s viewpoint. No spoiler here. Cinematically, the production is an artistic and powerful work worthy of Endo’s masterpiece. Scorsese’s quarter-century quest had not been in vain. Being recognized or not in the Awards Ceremonies just may not be as important an issue.

Of course, there’s always the bottom line. After investing so much resources, time and talents in the production, it is only natural to wish for a positive return. Could the voice that speaks to Rodrigues at that most crucial fumie moment speaks also to Scorsese as well regarding his film Silence?

“Trample! Trample! It was to be trampled on by men that I was born into this world…”

 

~ ~ ~ ~ Ripples

 

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CLICK HERE to read my review of the book Silence by Shusaku Endo

Top Ripples 2016

Here’s a wrap of my experience for the year, not that the books or movies are necessarily new, some are, some aren’t, and some are rereads. All top ripples:

 

Movies

Arrival (A different kind of Sci-fi)

Things To Come (Isabelle Huppert)

Paterson (Celebration of Everyday by Everyman)

The Salesman (I won’t miss any film by Asghar Farhadi)

Our Little Sister (Koreeda’s quiet and moving work)

Love and Friendship (Binge watched Whit Stillman after this)

Happy Hour (Worth every of its 317 mins. )

A Better Summer Day (Edward Yang, a late discovery)

45 Years (From short story to film: Upcoming post)

National Theatre Live: The Deep Blue Sea (Impressive)

 

Books

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Silence by Shusaku Endo

Culture Making by Andy Crouch

Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy

In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri 

Words Without Music: A Memoir by Philip Glass

Short stories by Ted Chiang

 

Experience

Five Days in London

TIFF 2016: The Zhang Ziyi Encounter