(from their 1975 Fleetwood Mac album)
Review by Ken Burke
|Bella, scarred at present but never defeated|
Take care, curious readers, for plot spoilers gallop rampantly throughout the Two Guys’ insightful reviews. Therefore, be warned, beware, and read on when you’re ready to be transported to … wherever we end up. Please protect your eyes from the dazzling brilliance.
|KB at May 12, 2015 dinner with Nina |
prior to the Neil Diamond concert
for both herself and the character. (Of course, she has to lose Valentine in the process but that makes for an intriguing comment on the original play as the assistant argues that Helena doesn’t necessarily commit suicide, she just disappears from the action, as Valentine herself does in this film.) Valentine, on the other hand, while she interacts with Maria much more as a colleague than an employee, seems to have aspirations for herself that transcend her working-class-status, shown especially in the earlier-line-reading-scenes with Maria where she clearly has a command of Sigrid herself, barely looking at the script, while later line-readings on the mountain path require her to look more frequently at the written text as if she’s abandoned any thoughts of being an actress herself given Maria’s constant dismissal of her interpretation of Helena, as if Valentine has no appropriate understanding of the nuances of written/performed drama. Finally we have Jo-Ann, a self-aware-talented-screw-up (whose actual clandestine screwing with Christopher indicates how difficult it is for her to put aside her temporal pleasures) who longs to give her career the type of substance that playing Sigrid brought to Maria but who fears that she’s not capable of rising above her own scandal-ridden-personality in order to inhabit the self-confident, domineering role that proved so pivotal for Maria long years ago and could easily strike real (rather than foolish) gold for her if she can just transcend her own self-detested-actions.
(I know, it would help if I’d gotten to it sooner, but as explained above I’ve been rather busy lately with other matters—just ask Bella) because it’s in only about 183 movie houses, having made only a bit over $1 million in domestic ticket sales (as the opening credits show, it took about a dozen companies to even get it made, indicating what a high-concept-but-low-mass-attraction-project it is), so I don’t expect much expansion, especially as the summer blockbuster season gets into full swing with the release this coming weekend of the Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller) remake to add to the latest Avengers’ cash-avalanche at the box-office (up to about $875 million globally as of this writing). Still, if you can find this marvelously-crafted-European-sensibility-but-done-in-English-language-film and are willing to contemplate what it has to offer about the inevitable process of coming to grips with both your younger self and the dreaded loss of that idealized-persona, this is a cinematically-beautiful-experience that should prove quite rewarding both for those of us looking back over our previous long haul and younger viewers who’re willing to at least consider what it will be like when they actually have to accept the aging process themselves rather than simply dismissing the thought of such along with the creaky, grumpy, cynical owners of those aged selves they might encounter (I speak from increasing experience here—especially the creaky part). For my Musical Metaphor to speak to the themes of Clouds of Sils Maria I’ve chosen The Beatles’ “Fixing a Hole” (from the 1967 Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=flGdFvkjMPU to acknowledge the emotional growth of Maria Enders as she comes better to terms with her middle-aged-status, finally embracing the character that she so despised for most of the film. (You know, I found my own mind wandering recently, trying to remember why I started doing these Musical Metaphors to go with the reviews, only being able to recall that it was a spontaneous decision [just as was the on-the-spot-move back in Dallas when I was the film critic for KTXQ-FM (1979-80) and one day decided to give “5 buckets of bitter tears” to some melodramatic mess (I forget which one) that fascinated the female member of the drive-time-DJ-pair that I worked with, which led to my ongoing rating system of 0-5 buckets of … whatever … for each film I reviewed], but after watching the penultimate episode of AMC’s Mad Men last Sunday I realized that I was inspired to offer my Metaphors by their use of such tunes with each episode’s closing credits of this fabulous [but almost-concluded] TV series, where their choices also vary between rather obvious to more obscure commentary).
2 nights ago at the San Jose, CA version of Neil Diamond’s latest concert tour (you can see virtually the same as what I've just experienced at https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=bdPLG2glts0, from the March 15, 2015 show at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center [the video’s a bit shaky, but Neil’s voice was equally a bit raspy both then and at my show, although he quickly got into a fine level of vocals for the rest of his non-stop-2-hours at his northern CA stop; this iPhone photo from San Jose’s not so great either but my wonderful wife, Nina, had to take it from our balcony seats which were practically in the next county—Neil may be even older than us but he’s not cheap … yet]), because I find myself to be a “believer” in the fascination and power of cinema, so that even when a movie is a “true ... disappointment” that haunts “all [the] dreams” of my fellow critics I can usually find something worthwhile about it, just because it’s up there on the big screen, with “not a trace of doubt in my mind” (even when it leads to me giving 4 of 5 stars to the universally-loathed The Lone Ranger [Gore Verbinski, 2013; review in our July 11, 2013 posting]—although I’m not a pushover for everything, to wit: 1 star to Horns [Alexandre Aja, 2013; review in our November 6, 2014 posting], despite my admiration for Daniel Radcliffe pushing himself into new territory). And, in case you need any further digression from my nervous attempts at real analysis of Clouds of Sils Maria (because of that very poignant accepting-the-realities-of-aging-theme), I’ll finish these comments with a note that you can find composer Diamond’s recorded versions of “I’m a Believer” on his 1967 Just for You, 1979 September Morn (with new lyrics), and 2010 Dreams albums (although the more famous recording was done by The Monkees as a 1966 hit single [for the last week of that year, continued on at #1 for the first 6 weeks of 1967], included on their 1967 More of the Monkees album—and, if you need one more [diversionary] Monkees reference, the theme song from their 1966-68 TV show [found on their 1966 debut album, The Monkees] is used for fun in the currently-playing-documentary, Monkey Kingdom [Mark Linfield, Alastair Fothergill; review in our May 7, 2015 posting], which I’ll let you listen to at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5X0NzFz8l0o because I could have easily used it for an already-established-Musical Metaphor in that Monkey ... mini-review but I was sincerely trying to keep that one brief enough to justify my Short Takes approach).
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By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile. Ken
P.S. Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.