Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Reports on Sarah and Salem

“It’s Over”
(from the 1964 Roy Orbison song of that name) 
[more on that below]

Review by Ken Burke
                             The Reports on Sarah and Saleem 
                                 (Muayad Alayan)   Not Rated

“Executive Summary” (with no spoilers): In Jerusalem 2 people from the deadly institutionalized-culture-clash defining the entire region—Sarah, running a café in the west side of the city, married to an Israeli army officer, mother to a young daughter, and Saleem, a Palestinian bread deliveryman (who has a daily run to Sarah’s place), also married, living in East Jerusalem with a child on the way, short of the financial needs to properly care for his family—are running a terrible risk by indulging in a clandestine affair in Saleem’s van on nights when Sarah can slip away with some plausible-enough-excuse.  Neither of their marriages is reasonably-responsible for the infidelities (the instigators seem more in it for lust than love anyway), but the dangerous encounters continue until the dreadful night when Saleem’s making a questionably-legal delivery into the town of Bethlehem (behind the containment wall dividing the 2 countries), at the encouragement of his brother-in-law to earn extra cash; Sarah decides to go with him, they encounter trouble in a local bar, this ultimately leads to Saleem having to claim to Palestinian Intelligence Sarah’s an Israeli he’s been trying to recruit for espionage work (she doesn’t know about any of this, nor is she supposed to) in order to clear himself, but from there real troubles continue to rise then escalate, bringing personal and interpersonal crises upon all of these spouses.  Normally, I’d encourage you to avoid the spoiler comments below until you’ve seen the film under review or decide not to in favor of just reading about it, but given how difficult it’s likely to be to find this one most anywhere except in a video format you might rightly be tempered to read on anyway, as my encouragement to know about this powerful story when it might become available to you (a choice I hope you’ll make).

Here’s the trailer:  (Use the full screen button in the image’s lower right to enlarge it; activate that same button on the full screen’s lower right or your “esc” keyboard key to return to normal size.)

If you can abide plot spoilers read on, but as this blog’s intended for those who’ve seen the film—or want to save some bucks—to help any of you who want to learn more details yet avoid important plot-reveals I’ll identify any give-away sentences/sentence-clusters like this: 
⇒The first and last words will be noted with arrows and red.⇐ OK, now continue on if you prefer.

(Just for clarity here, this is Sarah with her husband, David, not her secret lover.)
What Happens: Within contemporary Jerusalem, we find Sarah (Sivane Kretchner) is a café owner living and working in the city’s West section, married to Israeli Defense Forces officer David (Ishai Golan), making a comfortable home with him and their young daughter; Saleem (Adeeb Safadi), is a Palestinian living in East Jerusalem with his pregnant wife, Bisan (Maisa Abd Elhadi), delivers bread to Sarah’s café among many other clients, but barely makes enough to support his family, subletting an apartment below the home of brother-in-law Mahmood (Mohammad Eid), a source of frustration—to some degree, humiliation—for Saleem (intensified later when he learns Bisan sometimes sells her jewelry to pay their bills rather than ask her brother for help).  However, more acute difficulties arise for all these characters due to Sarah’s frustrations that David’s ever-improving-military-career frequently forces them to move with a new promotionconnected to a likely relocation—probably preventing her from furthering her own career with the café she’s struggling to make into a success, along with Saleem’s dangerous decision to accept Mahmood‘s offer of making nighttime deliveries (under the cover of bread runs, as he’d be using the company van) to the other side of the high wall separating Israel from the occupied West Bank territory now known to the larger world as Palestine, without knowing for sure what or why he’s delivering.  Yet, the situation most fraught with danger for each of these main protagonists is that they’re having a torrid affair, with Sarah making excuses to be out late some nights, parking her car in a remote lot, slipping into Saleem’s van for passionate sex, then both of them returning to their homes later, acting as if nothing’s amiss with whatever they were supposedly doing in their absences (even as David's a bit “in charge” when he’s home, carrying his respected military bearing into his personal life, while Bisan needs the comfort of her husband as they scrape by on meager income, with hopes his extra work/clandestine pay will soon better their lives; he’d like nothing more than to rent their own space, so as to not feel so beholden to Mahmood).  All of this starts them down the road to disaster on a night Saleem needs extra time to make a delivery “beyond the wall” in Bethlehem, frustrating Sarah who has only tonight this week for their secret rendezvous, Saleem irritated she won’t just ride along with him, have their intended-sex afterward, which she ultimately agrees to do.

(Now Sarah's with that secret lover, Saleem, where they won't be secret for long.)
 Following the delivery (she’s told to stay in the van yet gets out anyway while he’s out of sight, then finds the car door locked when she tries to get back in, setting us up for immediate problems that, thankfully, don’t occur [but serve as foreshadowing for the rest of the night and beyond]), he convinces her to have a beer with him in a local bar (so it’s clear breaking strict adherence to major tenets of Muslim religion—as if betrayal of 2 marriages isn’t evidence enough—isn’t part of the explored problems in this already-complex-narrative) where, once again, after a little drinking and dancing he’s briefly gone again, setting in motion all the unraveling-lives to come in the rest of this story.  A man at the bar makes passes as Sarah, she tries to put him off by claiming she’s Dutch Jewish, then tensions erupt when Saleem returns as he quickly gets into a fight with this intruder (who knew Sarah was there with Saleem, but she muddied the situation—while trying to not reveal anything someone could follow up on—by claiming he wasn’t her boyfriend, giving the pickup-hopeful-guy plausible reason to push on, even though he becomes a jerk by insisting she have a dance with him); Saleem and Sarah quickly leave, hurriedly driving back home.  Somehow the angered-bar-guy got enough of an i.d. on Saleem, though, to have him picked up by the Palestinian Intelligence agency, claiming he’s smuggling Israeli prostitutes into Bethlehem, causing Mahmood to rush to Saleem’s aid without telling Bisan what the trouble’s all about.  (Later, Saleem will claim to her there was a misunderstanding, leading to a fight with the bar guy, saying nothing about Sarah’s presence).  Mahmood brings in Abu Ibrahim (Kamel El Basha), a respected community leader, who leads Saleem into a fabricated defense of recruiting Sarah as a spy for the Palestinians, a statement he signs to secure his immediate release, but in the process it’s clear to Mahmood what Saleem was really doing, leading to him beating up on Saleem, threating to do further damage if Saleem ever cheats on his sister again (which Saleem does anyway).  From here, all hell slowly breaks loose when David tells Sarah he won’t be home one night because his unit’s conducting an operation in Bethlehem and Ramallah.   ⇒Not knowing any further details about this action, she calls Saleem, warning him to stay away from Bethlehem; we see a seemingly-simple-operation of soldiers taking files from various buildings but, then, 3 Palestinians—including Abu Ibrahim—are killed that night.⇐

 ⇒Soon after the raid, Saleem’s grabbed by authorities again, but this time it’s the Israeli army who’ve found his “confession” about the “recruitment” of an Israeli woman to be a spy so they demand to know more, to which Saleem answers the document is based on a lie, he never recruited anyone, all in a desperate attempt to keep Sarah out of this increasing mess.  Frantic Bisan, though, goes to the female Palestinian lawyer assigned to her husband’s case but is told almost nothing, although she’s aware this unhelpful-woman's been in touch with her brother yet he won’t tell Bisan anything either.  On another visit to the lawyer’s office (where we can barely see her at times given the piles of files on her desk, indicating how overworked she is in these tense sociopolitical times) Bisan grabs a report while the lawyer’s out of the room, runs away with it, sees in it the truthful statement from Mahmood about Saleem’s affair, then follows Mahmood and the lawyer one day to Sarah’s café, waits for them to leave then confronts Sarah, demanding she confess the truth to the Israeli authorities in an attempt to free Saleem or at least get the charges against him or his sentence reduced (at this point the Israelis still believe the recruitment scheme), but it’s all beginning to unravel for everyone.  Previously Saleem’s bakery had their delivery stopped by Ronit (Sarah’s employee) because she’d received no bread on the earlier days when Saleem was in custody (for that, he also got fired); Bisan’s furious with Saleem for the affair, demanding a divorce even while he’s facing his legal troubles; David’s suspicions about Sarah and Saleem are confirmed, so he tells her she must admit the affair, then say she called it off when she found out she was to be a recruitment target, all to protect his military standing, with no sense he’s any threat to state security; Sarah becomes furious with David for wanting to protect himself more so than their relationship, then another crisis arises when he follows her into East Jerusalem as she goes to talk with Basin, leading to a confrontation, locals attacking David with rocks as he fires his pistol back at them, but Sarah’s hand’s injured so David takes her to an emergency room for treatment.⇐

 ⇒Finally, after a lot of trauma for/among all these characters we more toward resolution as Sarah breaks up with David (keeping custody of their child), admits her involvement with Saleem was purely sexual; David loses his security clearance (essentially a demotion) because his superiors have a recording (Is phone tapping standard procedure for Israeli military officers?) of Sarah’s raid-warning to Saleem, info he should never have told his wife about to begin with; Bisan—who’s now delivered her baby—is going through the Palestinian procedures to divorce Saleem as he awaits punishment (it’ll probably be 3 years instead of 10 because of Sarah’s testimony, although he’s still committed crimes with those deliveries [we’re told cellphones he brought to Bethlehem were used by terrorists—or maybe could have been; scribbling notes in the dark doesn’t always allow me to catch all relevant info in those subtitles]), with the last shot being Sarah and Bisan, now somewhat reconciled, waiting in the hallway while Saleem’s about to be sentenced, as the film ends there, allowing us to imagine what might come next or far into the future for any of these troubled folks.⇐

So What? This was another one of those weeks where there was much to do otherwise than moviegoing (Chicago’s Second City troupe with their Left Leaning and Always Right skits/improv show at the Berkeley Reparatory Theatre [highly creative, hilarious, I recommend it if they might be coming to your area]; Oakland Athletics baseball game [beat the Chicago White Sox due a “walk-off” throwing error by the Sox]) with little of inherent interest opening up (although nice to see ongoing love for Spider-Man: Far From Home [Jon Watts; review in our July 11, 2019 posting; now at about $847 million worldwide after only 2 weeks] and Toy Story 4 [Josh Cooley; review in our June 26, 2019  posting; now at $773.6 million worldwide after 4 weeks]; not so spectacular for Yesterday [Danny Boyle; review in our July 3, 2019 posting; $68.3 million worldwide after 3 weeks], but at least it’s still making money—not nearly as much, though, as Avengers: Endgame [Anthony and Joe Russo; review in our May 1, 2019 posting], now up to $2.780 billion worldwide [after 3 months], not far behind Avatar [James Cameron, 2009] at $2.788 billion as the All-Time Champ); however, overall strong reviews—95% positive at Rotten Tomatoes (from just 21 reviews, admittedly), a less-stellar 67% average score at Metacritic but from a mere 8 reviews so that might change if other critics work their way to finding this film—gave me reason to try The Reports on Sarah and Saleem, especially when I learned it was based on real events (how based, how fictional I don’t know).  The performances are uniformly powerful, the situation shows how human beings, even those in what could be considered stable relationships—by outsiders at least, without knowing fully what goes on within the confines of the home—find themselves willingly caught up (even when the result of being discovered is extremely dangerous) in Woody Allen’s statement: “The heart wants what it wants.  There’s no logic to these things.  You meet someone and you fall in love and that’s that” (referring to how he became romantically involved with—later married—Soon-Yi Previn, adopted daughter of his former lover, Mia Farrow).  Certainly in this film neither Sarah nor Saleem had anything to gain from their clandestine-connections except satisfied-lust (helped, surely, by Sarah’s irritation with David his army career kept interfering with the stability of their home life, her attempt to keep her café operational; Saleem’s frustration with Bisan for not making love with him while she’s pregnant, fearing for the health of her fetus), yet they continued to scramble for every opportunity to be together, as if both of them needed what little they were achieving with their infrequent-nightly-trysts more so than what they were trying to achieve with their respective mates.

 As I note below in the next section of this review, most of you will certainly have difficulty in finding this film, short of some video-viewing-opportunity, so you might question why I bother to address this narrative in my globally-available-format when what I’m discussing is so unavailable to the majority of my (still healthy in total numbers, still internationally diverse, still graciously appreciated by me) Blogspot readership; however, this is the sort of story about human passions and the potential harm they can cause, exploring a universal situation not limited at all to Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem, neighboring Palestine but something that could occur anywhere relationship-infidelities shake the foundations of marriages,* made all the more intense here by the vicious cultural divide these particular “infidels” attempt to cross, but, again, this could be representative of any “tribes” separated by barriers of race, religion, nationality, gender orientation, anything working to keep us apart, stay “pure” to our roots rather than find more satisfaction with “the enemy” than within our own literal or extended families.  Director Muayad Alayan and his screenwriter-brother, Rami Alayan (who also serve as producers), do their best—in a viable accounting of this specific location where some of the dialogue’s in Arabic, some in Hebrew (all with English subtitles), some in English in circumstances where it’s best for the characters not to promote their ethnic identities (but all those subtitles might be another deterrent to watching this film for those so disinclined, just as various aspects of this subject matter might be difficult for some viewers to tolerate)—to present balanced portrayals of all involved: some inherently bitterly opposed to those on either side of the physical walls dividing Israel and Palestine; some realizing the complexities of 2 opposed nationalities both “occupying” (in some manner) their opponent’s ancient homeland; some open to negotiated compromises; some wiling to make drastic changes to find a path to coexistence given how fruitless the current sociopolitical climate has become in this extremely-troubled-region.  Perhaps the simplest statement of how difficult any attempt at progress beyond the current stalemates comes when Ronit confronts Sarah with disgust at her boss’s affair, not so much because it endangers what she assumes is a solid marriage but more so “Why did it have to be with an Arab?”

*Did I mention I can relate to this story because my first wife—many decades ago—got into an affair with a married man (this couple also had a young daughter), leading to both of them getting divorces, marrying each other?  Well, I guess you could say I’m a relevant observer of these current cinematic activities (yet, being much happier in my much more loving, more stable, much-longer-in-progress second marriage [29 years as of a couple of weeks ago] to the marvelous Nina Kindblad).

 Another Arab, director Alayan, has this to say about his intentions with this film (from the press notes): “By setting our story of two couples in the divided city of Jerusalem, I could depict how life in the holy city dictates a dangerous response to a common social drama that can happen anywhere in the world.  [See, this intelligent director agrees with my brilliant insights!]  But when it happens here, with the crushing pressures of the socio-political environment, a steeper price is exacted from characters that are pushed to act selfishly and hurtfully towards one another in order to survive. […] I was a teenager during the years of the second Palestinian uprising, the Intifada. Jerusalem was haunted with fear and tension. As dark as these days were, everyone had to go on living, breathing, securing an income and searching for happiness. At the time I had to take jobs in the western part of the city, like most Palestinians from East Jerusalem. In most cases, this would be the first encounter for a Palestinian with the Israeli community, beyond the usual daily encounters with Israeli soldiers.  ¶ […] To witness was also to experience first hand how, amidst the intense political atmosphere, some rare moments of ease could let you forget the social and political barriers set between you and the other. I also witnessed how the politics and social divisions found their way into human interactions when least expected and suddenly, the barriers were back in place in a heartbeat. […] The direction in the film was intended to let the audience experience the city with the characters as they navigate their fears, passions, dreams, disappointments, dilemmas and hopes, and as they confront the surprises of fate and life in the system of occupation, corrupt politics and social pressures that collectively form the antagonist against them as individuals.“  For me, as an outsider to the specifics being depicted (but not to the underlying human conflicts), I was grateful to get a more personalized look at this city (and its surrounding territory) so often in the news but not as detailed in its various neighborhoods, even when so many dwellings are massively crammed together on hillsides or flatlands.  You can easily sense the constant tensions in these streets where even something as seemingly innocent as Saleem delivering goods beyond the wall to people not allowed into Israel itself can easily become part of terrorist activity, despite him having no intention of adding to the established chaos, just as Sarah had no intention of creating a problematic-situation in the Bethlehem bar even though both she and Saleem must have known such a result could easily occur; yet, you also know these are specific people desperate to find relief—however temporary—from lives not yet fulfilled, even as options they’re exploring easily lead away from desired goals into the horrors they’ll eventually face.

Bottom Line Final Comments: As noted above, you won’t easily find The Reports on Sarah and Saleem as it’s currently playing (or, maybe, has played) in just 15 domestic (U.S.-Canada) theaters so far (with only 3 others listed into August 2019), so it’s not clear to me what further reach this film hopes to accomplish in its theatrical release (it has been shown at several film festivals from Tokyo to San Francisco to Hamburg, picking up awards in Rotterdam, Seattle, South Africa’s Durban), with its few active locations not generating enough ticket-sales-traffic to even register on the latest Box Office Mojo chart, so if anything I’m saying about it sparks your interest I encourage you to take note of it, search for it later when it might be available in various video options.  Beyond such, all I can say is that it’s a low-key, ultimately-unpredictable film, well-conceived, well-crafted, a haunting delight (as much of an oxymoron as that might seem) which feels longer than its running time (127 min.), although that’s a compliment to its attractive intensity.  In my last posting (July 11, 2019), in the process of reviewing The Space Between Words (Ian Fowler), I referred to the Sight Sound Motion textbook (Herbert Zettl, 8th edition 2017) I used (prior to retirement) in my Visual Communication class, where the author discusses perceived time and aesthetic energy in film/video presentations, noting that subjective experiences of viewing often differ from objective running time with dull material seemingly (boringly) lasting forever while more compelling content (as well as form) will allow the minutes to fly by, the viewer not even realizing how much time has elapsed because of the psychological investment in what’s on-screen.  (I still can’t imagine such intensity occurs with cell-phone-screens [I don’t care how big they are, although maybe the larger tablets might prove me wrong, but I wouldn’t know because I don’t use any of this technology except when I ask Nina to check a baseball score].)  In a way, … Sarah and Saleem blends aspects of Zettl’s extended or compressed subjective time in that it absorbs your attention early on (with a cluster of what seems then to be intriguing-but-random-opening-images [Saleem being questioned; hot sex in a car; a dead body being examined—by David, as we later learn] but will quickly take on useful context as we get to know the characters, their complex situations), keeps you easily fascinated until it reaches its point of stark closure so you lose all track of time as you’re completely occupied by these constantly-intercut-storylines, yet when it’s done you feel like you’re watched much more than a standard-2-hours-worth of cinematic projection because the raw emotions eventually felt by all the main characters keep building to a point of ever-engaging-connection with what’s presented.

 However, when I set out to choose something for my usual review-ending-tactic of a Musical Metaphor to offer a last dose of commentary, I had to ponder for awhile to come up with something relevant.  What I finally settled on may feel a bit too metaphorical, given the specifics of these lyrics along with the situations they detail (even the musical style itself may seem offsetting, relative to the Mideast-story-content explored in … Sarah and Saleem), but I do hope you’ll bear with me in considering the fit here as I connect this story of an Israeli-Palestinian affair ultimately gone wrong to the opening 14:25 medley of interconnected tunes on Willie Nelson’s 1975 album, Red Headed Stranger—“Time of the Preacher/I Couldn’t Believe It Was True/Time of the Preacher Reprise/Blue Rock, Montana/Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain/Red Headed Stranger/Time of the Preacher Reprise”—at (this version from the 1978 Willie and Family Live album so you don’t have to work your way through the entire original [unless you want to; if so, here it is, running at 33:55]).  While this film offers no broken-hearted-preachers, trauma-induced-killings, or unpunished crime it does resonate (at least for me, at least in a metaphorical manner) with Nelson’s story of “the choice of a lady And the love of a man How he loved her so dearly He went out of his mind When she left him for someone That she’d left behind.”  Certainly, there’s no intent of a literal correspondence here between Nelson’s lyrics and the Alayans’ screenplay because Saleem wasn’t someone Sarah had ever left behind (we really never know what their attraction’s all about, except availability and agreement—neither claims to be in love with the other one), while both David and Bisan go “out of [their] mind[s]when the truth comes out, but, remember, we’re in Metaphor-land here so I encourage you to just flow with the music wherever it might take you; however, where both of the cheaten-upon-spouses are concerned, “my eyes filled with tears and I must’ve aged ten years And I could not believe it was true.”  We’ll have to get more metaphorical in the next song of this cycle, though, because the situation of the crazed, heart-wounded husband who “found them that evening at a tavern in town In a quiet little out-of-the-way place And they smiled at each other when he walked through the door And they died with the smiles on their faces,” doesn’t parallel any homicide in … Sarah and Saleem (execution for infidelity generally’s only acceptable with royalty in olden times, thankfully) ⇒but there are certainly some emotional “murders” in this story, with David insisting Sarah accept some of Saleem’s “recruitment” lie in order to protect his job (putting the entire blame for endangering state secrets on her) leading to her demand of a divorce from him given his priority of career over marriage, while Basin’s determined to force Sarah into a confession about the affair rather than espionage to lighten Saleem’s sentence even though she also demands a divorce, despite the economic difficulties for her and the baby.⇐

 While I doubt you’ll find all that many blue eyes "cryin’ in the rain” or doing much of anything else in this part of the world (purely a comment on the likelihood of eye pigmentation among these populations with no demeaning of any sort of bodily-pigmentation intended now or ever [unlike grotesque, racist Agent Orange consistently defiling the office of the U.S Presidency]—although maybe the events of … Sarah and Saleem are enough to “make my brown eyes blue” if we want to bring in a bit more from country-music-classics, in this case Crystal Gayle*), but the heartaches shared among the 4 primary characters in this film definitely verify that at its worst, “love is like a dying ember And only memories remain Through the ages I’ll remember Blue eyes crying in the rain [... because, long after the events presented here, we may find for any or all of these characters] Now my hair has turned to silver All my life I’ve loved in vain,”** based on those curcumstances of how all 4 lives were undone in various ways, likely leaving a lasting, bitter residue, ready to lash out at anyone daring to get close again, as our extended Metaphor ends with “He bought her a drink and he gave her some money He just didn’t seem to care […] He shot her so quick, they had no time to warn her She never heard anyone say ‘Don’t cross him [or her], don’t boss him He’s wild in his sorrow […] Don’t fight him, don’t spite him Just wait ‘til tomorrow Maybe he’ll ride on again.’" We're given little insight into what happens later with these angrily-terminated-marriages (along with variously-compromised-lives for all concerned), but there's little expectation to assume better days.

*From her 1977 album We Must Believe in Magic.  Also, if you look closely at the video (or photos of Crystal Gayle), you'll see she already has blue eyes anyway, but that's part of show-biz-faux-reality. 

**This line's from original 1945 Fred Rose lyrics, not the Nelson version used here, but it’s just too appropriate to skip.  If you’d like a full rendition of that original recording here’s one by Roy Acuff from 1946 (it may have been recorded in 1945 as noted in this video but it was a hit single in 1946).

(The out-of-focus background here is an example of Jerusalem's hillsides of crammed houses I noted earlier.)
 However, if all that rationale about Willie’s tunes is getting too strung out for you, we could cut to the chase with a song I’m glad I'm reminded of (from the closing credits of the most recent [7/14/2019] cablecast of HBO’s Big Little Lies), Roy Orbison’s “It’s Over” (on the 1964 More of Roy Orbison’s Greatest Hits) where the message is simply “Tender nights before they fly Send falling stars that seem to cry Your baby doesn’t want you any more It’s over […] We’re through.”  Got it?  Now, if you’d like to see Roy in performance, you get 2 options: (1) from a 1965 concert in the time when he wrote the song,* or (2) from the famous 1988 HBO TV special Roy Orbison and Friends: A Black and White Night (there’s an album here also, 1989'a A Black & White Night Live).  I’m hoping all this music might take a bit of the edge off the intense drama to be found in The Reports on Sarah and Saleem, a truly powerful story of human beings caught up in their own needs, egos, fears, and bad decisions, leaving us with a bit of a sense of why we so often do such traumatic things to ourselves and our loved ones, assuming they’ll still somehow continue to love us anyway despite our weaknesses or confusions.  But, don’t you be confused about where to find Film Reviews from Two Guys in the Dark because we’ll be waiting for you again next week with useful commentary on the new documentary about famous rock musician David Crosby, Remember My Name (A.J. Eaton).

*It’s the right era for my memories as well because the only time I saw Roy Orbison on stage was at the 1965 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo concert (although it was called the Houston Fat Stock Show until 1961, the name many of us from then continued to use).  Strangely enough, however, when I found a website with names of all (?) previous performers at that event (it’s still happening, if you ever want to explore it some March), Roy wasn’t on the list (neither were the Four Tops, Billy Joe Royal, or B.J. Thomas and The Triumphs, all at that show I attended), so either what I saw was in some alternate universe or the listings at that site are incomplete; to make matters worse for me, though, I found another site listing all of Roy’s concerts during his career, with no mention of Houston in 1963-’66 (had to have been then, when I was in high-school in Galveston), so who you gonna believe?  Me or the Internet?  I wish Roy were still with us; I’m sure he’d remember.

 One more thing to remember this week is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Eagle module making its moon landing on July 20 (in 1969 if your math skills are eluding you) when Neil Armstrong and "Buzz" Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the lunar surface while Michael Collins stayed in orbit around the moon on the Columbia command module.  I still remember watching this on (transmission-delayed) live TV broadcast at Mike McMurtry’s apartment in Austin, TX that night, then walking out onto his balcony to look up at the moon itself, trying to process the significance of such a stunning technological feat.  Back when it happened it had our entire planet enthralled, so that if Sarah, Saleem, and their troubled spouses had such an opportunity to distract themselves with similar global news coverage they might have been able to forget their traumas, at least for a bit, as indicated by one last song this time, "Armstrong" (written by John Stewart in 1969, finally on his 1973 Cannons in the Rain album, but I remember it best from those years by Texas folksinger Allen Damon at the Kerrville Folk Festival), noting examples of Earthly troubles (none of which have improved much over the last 5 decades) put aside momentarily to be in awe of this historic moment.  It would be magnificent if such a universal pause for reflection might be part of this year’s remembrance of that storied “one small step for [a]* man, one giant leap for mankind.”

*Armstrong’s not sure if he actually articulated this crucial grammatical article, but he intended to.
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Here’s more information about The Reports on Sarah and Saleem: (includes the short list of where this film’s playing through early August)

I normally try to find a video with more in-depth info on whatever’s being reviewed but for this film, besides the trailer, all I could find in searching the title was a woman named Sarah Saleem, 2 cats with those names fighting, and lots of videos about the Salem Witch Trials (although there were some others about this film but in languages I don’t speak—with no subtitles—so I hesitate to post something where I have no idea of its content).  However, this is the informative press kit at which I pulled from the just-above official site for the film.

Please note that to Post a Comment below about our reviews you need to have either a Google account (which you can easily get at if you need to sign up) or other sign-in identification from the pull-down menu below before you preview or post.  You can also leave comments at our Facebook page, although you may have to somehow connect with us at that site in order to do it (most FB procedures are still a bit of a mystery to us old farts).

If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my email address of if you truly have too much time on your hands you might want to explore some even-longer-and-more-obtuse-than-my-film-reviews—if that even seems possible—academic articles about various cinematic topics at my website,, which could really give you something to talk to me about.)

If we did talk, though, you’d easily see how my early-70s-age informs my references, Musical Metaphors, etc. in these reviews because I’m clearly a guy of the later 20th century, not so much the contemporary world.  I’ve come to accept my ongoing situation, though, realizing we all (if fate allows) keep getting older, we just have to embrace it, as Joni Mitchell did so well in "The Circle Game," offering sage advice even when she was quite young herself.

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.  But wherever the rest of my body may be my heart’s always with my longtime-companion, lover, and wife, Nina Kindblad, so here’s our favorite shared song—Neil Young’s "Harvest Moon"
—from the performance we saw at the Desert Trip concerts in Indio, CA on October 15, 2016 (as a full moon was rising over the stadium) because “I’m still in love with you,” my dearest, a never-changing-reality even as the moon waxes and wanes over the months/years to come.

Finally, for the data-oriented among you, Google stats say over the past month (which they seem to measure from right now back 30 days) the total unique hits at this site were 14,752 (as always, we thank all of you for your support with our hopes you’ll continue to be regular readers); below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week:

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