Recent Movie Round-Up 12/3/2012

In today’s Recent Movie Round-Up: Mini-reviews for a Turkish film, Truffaut’s final Antoine Doinel films, and a depressing movie about Alzheimer’s. FUN ALL AROUND.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011)
It’s one thing for a movie to be long. It’s something else for a movie to be incredibly slow-paced. And then there are those movies that are both stupendously long and almost punishingly slow, which belong into a category all to their own. Yet despite the pace and length, there’s something oddly compelling about the Turkish film Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes 2011 (It was released in the US in 2012, so it technically counts as a 2012 release here), and perhaps the main reason why is because that deliberate pace is there to allow us to really live with the characters and their situation, which ends up feeling very authentic. Every scene in which the cops were wandering the desolate wilderness for a dead body was immensely well done, especially when the cinematography highlighted the gorgeous landscapes. However, that’s not the whole movie. The movie takes a break in a nearby village which isn’t quite as interesting as the searching segments, but still has a life unto its own. But where the movie really drops in interest is when the search ends and we experience the aftermath. At that point in this already long film, it feels like its outstayed its welcome.

Still though, I recommend Once Upon a Time in Anatolia for the very serious of art-house types, if only for the superb acting, quiet atmosphere, well-written dialogue, and some of the most gorgeous cinematography I’ve seen this year.

Bed and Board (Francois Truffaut, 1970)
Francois Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel Saga feels like a fictional precursor to Michael Apted’s “7-up” documentary series. The series literally went through 35 years in the life of a single character as he grew up, went job-hunting, got married, divorced, found new love, and all the joys and pains of bourgeois life; all while incorporating the exact same actor in each film. And in doing so, the series was able to capture a full spectrum of emotions. The 400 Blows, of course, being the most devastating of the bunch, while Antoine and Colette and Stolen Kisses were more on the comedic side. Bed and Board is also very comedic–hell, I’d even call this the most enjoyable entry in the saga–but it also contains a pathos and observance that elevates it. Not only does it remain absolutely hysterical, it’s also a beautifully observant study in married life that, with the added bonus of us viewing Antoine Doinel’s previous years in life, contains its own depth.

Love on the Run (Francois Truffaut, 1979)
As for the final entry in the Antoine Doinel saga, Truffaut himself admitted to it being an unsatisfying ending to the series. I wouldn’t call it unsatisfying, even though it is the lightest and weakest film of the bunch. But still, it has its own poignancy and works immensely as a nostalgia piece, especially when the film incorporates flashbacks that hearken back to Bed and BoardStolen KissesAntoine and Colette, and even The 400 Blows (These flashbacks especially connected). But that’s really all it works as: Nostalgia. The story itself isn’t as particularly nuanced or observant as the previous entries (And really, there are few movies that are as good as the masterful The 400 Blows), but it of course has its charms, and it’s always fun to see Jean-Pierre Leaud in this character.

Away From Her (Sarah Polley, 2006)
I was told by many people that this is the kind of movie that will rip your heart out and curb-stomp it into oblivion. Fine, I thought. Bring it on, Away From Her! Let’s see what you got! One hour and fifty minutes later, I found my cheeks insurmountably soaked from tears and my chest aching from the aforementioned heart curb-stomp. Everything about this movie is as beautiful, sympathetic, and genuine as it is wrenching, punishing, and unbelievably sad. Just the mere concept of it is enough to send a helpless romantic hanging themselves. Alzheimer’s Disease is already an unfathomably depressing ordeal to go through, especially with a loved one, but the situation that Sarah Polley constructs is unbelievably…well, heart-breaking, for the thousandth time.

What makes the film watchable is Polley’s elegant direction, which doesn’t wallow in misery and focuses more on grace and beauty in order to make the pain of the film’s heart-ache bearable, resulting in a nuanced, emotionally rewarding portrait of the effects of Alzheimer’s and its effects not just on the victims, but of those around them. And let’s not forget Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent are a pair of fantastic performances,

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