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Monday Movies: Cross-cultural opera extravaganza!

To get you in the movie mood, Ben Wolfson has pointed me toward this video bringing together scenes from the last decade’s films. Please identify each of them, in order, in the comments.

  • Farewell My Concubine — this movie really had it all. In addition to the inherent interest of the genre, it was informative both about history and about a cultural tradition (Chinese opera) I was ignorant of. Yet it also stood as a sad reminder of the fact that my movie attention span leaves much to be desired. I ultimately watched it over the course of three days, and even then my viewing sessions were not uninterrupted. To my mind, one of the advantages of watching a movie in the theater is that I at least get to see it as a whole — but perhaps it’s not that big a deal. Might it be better to watch it in pieces so that each piece commands my attention more thoroughly? I don’t know. (Does anyone know where I could find a video of the underlying opera in its entirety?)
  • Don Giovanni — continuing in my occasional efforts to gain a working knowledge of opera, I watched this movie adaptation. The movie format seemed to me to be a better way of taking in the opera than a recorded performance (though just going to see a live opera would be best). My main impression is that people back then were apparently really easily fooled by masks. It was also good to see Don Giovanni’s refusal to repent, given that Zizek has mentioned it about a hundred million times. Next up: Bergman’s adaptation of The Magic Flute.
  • Me and You and Everyone We Know — I have seldom seen such a radically uneven movie. The parts with the little boy’s “back and forth” idea are absolutely amazing, but the rest felt very forced somehow. The dialogue felt more like a stage play than like a film. If you want to save time and just see the best scene, I’ve embedded it below:

    You do, however, have to watch the whole movie to see the awesome punchline that this scene sets up.

  • Secretary — I don’t know what to think of this movie. I didn’t find it to be this hugely sexy thing, and I’m retrospectively baffled that so many of the women on the online personals listed it as the sexiest movie they’d seen. The Girlfriend remarks that the movie flouts expectations — you expect it to be very risque, and in that context, the mundane places it takes you are surprising. In many ways, it’s similar to Psycho — the part that people remember is actually only a very small part of the movie, but at the same time the movie is nonetheless all about that small part.
  • The Girlfriend Experience — this was probably my favorite movie of the week, helped by my reassessment of Eyes Wide Shut in the wake of this article. I loved the way it was shot, I loved the tie-in with the financial crisis, and I loved that it was only 77 minutes long.
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February 15, 2010 - Posted by | Monday Movies

10 Comments

  1. Huh, I guess swap.avi was not as original as I thought it was. “Me and You and Everyone We Know” is from 2005, so presumably that scene was conceived before Metis paid to make it real in 2004.

    Comment by anonymous | February 15, 2010

  2. “Crank 2: High Voltage” was everything I thought it would be–and more. Highly recommended.

    Comment by Craig | February 15, 2010

  3. Opera film adaptations are so creepy, me thinks. It’s artificial and awkward (any discussion of opera in your book?) enough (if you think about it) to watch on stage, in film it’s just over the top. These adaptations were super-popular in like 1980s for some strange reason.

    Comment by Mikhail Emelianov | February 15, 2010

  4. I actually like Me and You and Everyone We Know quite a bit. The stuff with the female lead and Sol Star from Deadwood does seem a bit forced, but the rest of it I’ll defend as pretty solid. I like the weird little girl with the hope chest, for example, and the blowjob scene manages to come across as oddly sweet, which is impressive considering the context.

    I’ve never been able to get into opera or musical theater of any kind, but clearly lots of people like that stuff, or it wouldn’t show up in like every culture ever.

    Comment by stras | February 15, 2010

  5. I found Secretary to be mostly unbearable—I couldn’t stand Gyllenhaal’s character, nor could I find her even slightly believable.

    I saw The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford this week, and while I enjoyed it a great deal, I can’t say I’m sorry I saw it in a context (at home) that enabled me to pause it occasionally.

    Comment by ben | February 15, 2010

  6. i watched Secretary and The girlfriend experience several months ago and don’t remember anything, the plots or characters but remember i disliked both
    i watched Expired and found it very like socrealistic, but i liked the woman in there, the guy was a very unsympathetic character, i didn’t get clearly whether a lifelong battering awaits her or he’s getting changed in the end, but i like when movies end not with a definite end of the story, that is always so sad, one human’s whole life all can be told just in 1-2 hrs like
    also i watched two other old Russian movies on their videoteka
    watching on youtube movies suits my attention span too, the other week i watched an old Japanese movie with Misora Hibari there and it was great, five or six 9-10 min sequences and i’ve watched the whole thing without noticing time

    Comment by read | February 15, 2010

  7. I thoroughly enjoyed Me & You. . ., including the weird, forced dialogue between the main characters. The Secretary, I thought, was nothing special, but for some reason I remember fondly. This has much to do, though, w/ a drunken rant at Glasgow about how Maggie G.’s character was surely a Christ-like figure, which angered a German girl in a manner disproportionate to the provocation.

    I saw A Serious Man finally. It was nice to see the Coens still had a Barton Fink-esque movie in them. Really fine performances all around, and wonderful to mull over. Also saw Chukhrai’s Ballad of a Soldier. I had no idea Soviet military officers were so kind and just.

    Comment by Brad Johnson | February 15, 2010

  8. The Girlfriend Experience reminded me of a Bret Easton Ellis novel. It just felt a little too detached and thin.

    Comment by Marc W. | February 15, 2010

  9. I recently discovered that I am related by marriage to the writer/director/lead of Me and You. Mrs. K-sky is a third cousin, I believe.

    Comment by K-sky | February 15, 2010

  10. Miranda July’s short story book is pretty good too. Me and You is a really original film in so many ways – the treatment of teenage sexuality is amazingly skilful and truthful I think. This is sort of what the ‘indie’ genre was supposed to be, no?

    Comment by Gabe | February 16, 2010


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