Wednesday, June 6, 2007

June 6th Log

2007, Sarah Polley, Canada
1st Viewing, Theater

Away From Her is (to date) the best 2007 release I have seen! Written and directed by actress Sarah Polley in her debut, who adapted the film from a short story by Alice Munro (“The Bear Came Over the Mountain”), Away From Her is a heartrending film of memory, and of marriage. The film is beautifully structured like a poem, drifting in a non-linear journey of the past and present. The film opens with a series of shots that are poignantly rendered, as we subtly observe three different perspectives of a couple cross-country skiing (together, on separate paths, and then together again). Polley effectively plays with time, skillfully heightening the films treatment of memory- much in a similar style of the films co-producer Atom Egoyan (who directed Polley in his 1997 masterpiece The Sweet Hereafter). Only 28 years old, Polley shows the grace and wisdom of a filmmaker far ahead of her age in the way she finds the perfect little details of a 44-year old marriage. A love that after 44-years has grown stronger through memory. So what happens when Fiona (played by Julie Christie in a career-defining performance) suffers Alzheimer's disease? Can their love persevere? When Fiona tells her husband Grant that she “is beginning to disappear”, she agrees to be submitted to Meadowlake Nursing Home, a place that seems destined to erase memories of the past, even a 44-year marriage. By Meadowlakes policy (which as a nurse states is probably more convenient for the staff), Grant must be away from Fiona for 30 days. The films title seems to reflect both husband and wife, as they are taken away (he from her, and her from herself) from the loss of shared memory. Carrying the emotional weight of the film without an ounce of sentiment is the incredible performance from the always reliable Julie Christie. As Fiona, Christie is heart-wrenching, but in a way that is perfectly subtle and underplayed. Away From Her is an incredibly moving film. It is heartbreakingly sad, but ultimately hopeful in its graceful observation of acceptance, and of selfless love.

2007, Danny and Oxide Pang, United States / Canada
1st Viewing, DVD

The Messengers begins with the typical horror scene before flashing to present day at the “haunted house”. The cliches continue throughout the entire film, including the cheap tactics the film uses for scares (editing tricks, and bursts of loud sounds). The film is directed by the Pang brothers, who hit international success with their Hong Kong horror hit The Eye (which is currently being remade in Hollywood). The Messengers is the first English-language release from the Pang brothers and the film is co-produced by Sam Raimi. With The Eye the Pang brothers were able to at least make their gimmicky style (flash editing, loud burst of sounds) a little bit absorbing and suspenseful. Here, any suspense is completely missing and the soap-opera family subplot is even less interesting. On the positive side, the film did look good in terms of set designs and use of colors.


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