Men: Can’t Live With ‘Em …Yeah, That’s All
Reviews and Other Items by Ken Burke
|OK, Death, this time I'm winning! I'm using strategies from Dr. Fauci.|
In this time of semi-quarantine, global-recovery-concerns, and near-shutdown of all theaters I aim to make the Two Guys blog as relevant as possible in providing cinematic options hopefully worthy of your time (you probably have a lot of it to spare now); in that endeavor I’ve been helped by long-time-contributor Richard Parker who’s suggested I put notations of all of my Short Takes inclusions into the opening Executive Summary as well as add a section on classic movies available over the coming week on TCM's TV channel, concepts I’m agreeable to and done, starting with this posting.
I invite you to join me on a regular basis to see how my responses to current cinematic offerings compare to the critical establishment, which I’ll refer to as either the CCAL (Collective Critics at Large) if they agree with me or the OCCU (Often Cranky Critics Universe) if they choose to disagree.
Executive Summary (no spoilers): Here’s the new format for this opening section: Quick comments on the first film to be reviewed, followed (this time) by reference to the next full review, then Short Takes on various things—more possibilities for you during the upcoming week, other brief items of cinema-related-interest. The lead review was decided by coin toss because I have no favorite between 2 excellent films about family discord, one featuring a lot of intense emotional displays, the other more restrained and seething, both impactful in their own manners. So, in Invisible Life (Amazon Prime) from Brazil (yes, subtitles) we see the awful consequences of 2 young adult sisters living in 1950s Rio de Janeiro, one who gets pregnant by a randy sailor then is disowned by her father, the other who dreams of life as a professional pianist but becomes weighed down by social convention to have a husband and children; both women, after initial events, live in the same city, longing for each other, not knowing the truth of their proximity. This is a powerful 2019 drama, well acted, had potential as an Oscar contender. My second long review (a short summary's far below) is of Tigertail (definitely NOT the true-crime Tiger King docu-series, but both on Netflix) shuffles between 1950s/1970s Taiwan and current U.S.A. as a young man breaks away from his true love to marry the boss’ daughter, move to America, always struggling to find fulfillment even as he’s distant from the women in this life. Short Takes here is mostly about a long list of recommendations of classic movies on TCM (given the tediousness of flush-aligning sentences/ paragraphs with this software I’ve abandoned that style for those summaries); maybe I was just too enthused with all their offerings for next week to pare them down further, so I’ll try to be more concise with this in future postings. OK, on to those reviews of films I highly encourage you to see.
Invisible Life (Karim Aïnouz, 2019) rated R
Here’s the trailer:
(Use the full screen button in the image’s lower right to enlarge it; activate
that same button or use the “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.
What Happens: Beginning in late 1950/early 1951 (depending on when a key pregnancy begins) we’re in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro with the Gusmão sisters, 18-year-old Eurídice (Carol Duarte)—on the right in the photo above—and (just a bit younger, I’d say) Guida (Julia Stockler), both with aspirations of what their futures can be (like young Taiwanese Pin-Jui in Tigertail reviewed below), especially free of their controlling-home ruled by their father, Manoel (Antônio Fonseca), whom they consider to be little more than a rural-peasant-baker-immigrant from Portugal. Eurídice has great talent already as a pianist, wants desperately to qualify for admission to the Vienna conservatory, an ambition her mother, Ana (Flávia Gusmão), admires even as Dad’s dismissive of such lofty concerns when she should be focused on marriage and children, possibly with Antenor Feliciano (Gregório Duvivier), son of the supplier (Hugo Cruz) of the tasty yeast that’s increased Dad’s bread sales recently. While such a domestic life is the last thing on Eurídice’s mind, such a fate is exactly what Guida desires with her barely-known-Greek-sailor-attraction, Iorgos (Nicholas Antunes), so when elder Mr. Feliciano joins the family for dinner (piano entertainment from Eurídice) Guida fakes illness, changes into a striking green party dress, sneaks out the back to meet her hoped-for-lover (no sex yet, but some erotic touching), drops one of her grandmother’s precious earrings as she runs down the stairs (Eurídice finds it much later that night when she looks around outside, wondering what’s become of her sister). Next morning there’s a telegram from Guida saying she’s sailed away with Iorgos, looks forward to a wonderful life in Greece, angering Dad, upsetting Mom and Sis (my wife, Nina, says something similar happened back when she was 20 as her slightly-older-sister, drunk, came rushing in one night to say she’s off to Reno to marry a big Georgia redneck, leaving forlorn Nina with her own room for the first time in her life but not nearly the way she’d hoped it would happen). Next thing you know, Eurídice’s getting married to Antenor (admitting she’s never even seen a man naked yet) in a ceremony most-joyful, followed by a wedding night less-satisfying than she’d hoped as her new husband crawls all over her, even follows her to the bathroom when she has to vomit then jumps on top of her as she tumbles into the bathtub (I guess the censors are loosening up a bit because the full-on-shot of his large, erect penis still garnered only an R rating*; we also get nude copulation scenes between them here and later [he’s especially noisy during climax; we don’t hear much from her], but just with his back and butt showing, her legs spread, no “money shot”). Her goal was always to keep him from ejaculating inside her to avoid pregnancy, but that forthcoming “afternoon delight” will greatly compromise her plans for auditioning at Rio’s conservatory. Back to late 1951, though, Guida’s also pregnant, with horrible consequences for her.
*Or maybe not. IMDb says R but Metacritic says Not Rated; I’ll go with R because that’s what’s on the Amazon Prime official site (see Related Links), currently the only place to find this Brazilian film.
We see Guida coming down the gangplank of a ship, obviously with impending-child, having left Iorgos who turns out to have several other lovers, along with children, but not before he’s left her with something notable to remember him by. Ana’s ecstatic to have her daughter home again, but Manoel’s disgusted, calls her a slut, disowns her, forbids Ana from having any contact with her (remember, these are old, stern patriarchal times, at least in this culture, where men often had unquestioned-interpersonal-power [sounds like a current U.S. President whose vile name will go unspoken]), lies that Eurídice’s in Vienna, so Guida has to find refuge wherever she can. As she takes up residence in a poverty-stricken-neighborhood of this vast city, she constantly writes letters to her sister, sends them to Mom in hopes they’ll be passed on to Eurídice with no knowledge her sister’s just across town (obviously Ana doesn’t want to defy Manoel by simply sending the letters to her older daughter’s known-local-address). Tensions continue over pregnancies for both sisters as Eurídice’s horrified to be in this state (Antenor’s not so happy either, as he had to find out from their doctor rather than his wife), Guida finally delivers, then leaves her son, Francisco—Chico—at the hospital, staggers back to her dwelling, but goes out to a club the next night with a friend who calls on neighbor Filomena (Bárbara Santos) to watch her own baby (Guida pays the fee so she can stop Filo’s sermonizing, get on with the partying where she ends up in the restroom with a pick-up, gives him a hand-job as milk drains from her breast, ends the night with breast-feeding the friend’s baby, then goes back to the hospital to belatedly reclaim her own child, later tries unsuccessfully to get a passport for him so they can attempt to find Eurídice in Vienna but “protocol” demands the father’s approval for the application). Over the next few years Guida and Filo become close friends, Guida moves into her house (left to Filo by her “last client” so we get a sense she was once a prostitute who envied women with children), gets a good job in a shipyard, still writes unanswered letters to Eurídice, whose own life with little daughter Cecília (Maria Carolina Basílio) is barely tolerable as she becomes more distant from her husband. An unexpected connection almost occurs on a Christmas Eve when Guida, Filo, and Chico (Thales Mairanda) go to a restaurant but aren’t allowed in because all the tables are (supposedly?) reserved, even as Eurídice’s also there with Cecília, meeting Manoel before they go back to her home for their first family dinner since Mama Ana died in 1958. The unaccompanied kids meet in the restroom (Chico was used to using the women’s room I guess), but the sisters never see each other, as Guida’s group leaves in disgust.
|(Finally! A photo that focuses on Eurídice instead of Guida—yes, they both smoke a lot.)|
At a later time, Eurídice finally has a triumph she can celebrate because after long years of ongoing piano practice (made quiet difficult at times by her pregnancy) she finally participates in the Rio conservatory audition, taking top honors (although after that we never really know what becomes of any sort of possible-public-career except to assume it doesn’t happen because there’s no mention of it in any of the final 1950s scenes nor any of the much later ones). ⇒Guida, for her part, also has a victory that comes when Filomena knows she’s dying, wants to leave her house to Guida, so (in return for sex with a local supplier) Guida obtains 5 vials of morphine, shoots them into Filo’s arm at once by her direction, then assumes her identity with some manipulated paperwork so she now owns the home, posing as Filo. Another plot point comes to closure when Macedo (Flávio Bauraqui), an ex-cop/private investigator hired by Eurídice to find her long-lost-sister, calls with news he’s finally been successful—in a way—because what he’s found is her crypt in a huge cemetery (even with scenes being narrated to me—see the next paragraph for a explanation—I can’t say for sure what’s going on here because the crypt bears Guida’s name and the PI knows the person buried there died of organ failure, so maybe Guida and Filo completely changed identities, forever allowing Guida to “disappear” because her real name would never emerge again). Eurídice’s overwhelmed by this turn of events as her father finally admits he knew Guida was in Rio but didn’t tell his older daughter to spare her the “shame” of her sister’s situation. That night, Eurídice’s so upset she burns clothes and other items (things of Guida’s she’s kept over the years?) then sets fire to her piano, distressing Antenor who takes her to their doctor; he says she has Manic Depression Psychosis so he’s going to prescribe some drugs, institutionalize her for awhile until she recovers. Suddenly we cut to years ahead (seemingly around 2018 or so) where elderly Eurídice (Fernanda Montenegro) lives in what seems to be an elegant retirement home where her family—adult Cecília (Christina Pereira) with a teenage son of her own, Eurídice’s middle-aged-son (unnamed)—joins her for lunch, noting the passing of Antenor, when the adult son brings in a box of long-ignored-items, including all the letters Guida wrote to her sister during the 1950s. The old woman’s overjoyed to read them, then goes (with Cecília) to the return address where she meets Guida’s granddaughter, also named Guida (she still has the other family earring, matching the one Eurídice found on the back stairs years ago when her Guida “escaped”), the scene implying the sister supposedly living in Greece all those years (Manoel’s story) is now truly dead. The film ends with Eurídice out on her huge terrace looking over the beautiful landscape of her city, lost in her reconstructed memories.⇐
So What? Just like you shouldn’t confuse Tigertail (reviewed below) with the Netflix series Tiger King, you shouldn’t confuse this soulful-Brazilian-film with the current horror thriller, The Invisible Man (Leigh Whannell; review in our March 20, 2020 posting), although both of those alternative titles are likely to show up when doing searches for the films I’m addressing in this posting. Invisible Life, despite its strong emotional impact (and searing indictment of patriarchal-privilege, which sadly still hasn’t gone out of fashion globally, despite some attempts at anti-discrimination laws in many countries over the ensuing decades) almost got consigned to my Short Takes section because the first time I saw it the subtitles (both the ones embedded in the film to aid those of us who don’t speak Portuguese and the added closed-captions ones useful for my wife, Nina, and I—we were in the process of finally getting hearing aids when the coronavirus put a hold on the final stage of that process) were further enhanced with ongoing-narration, which I assume is how blind people “watch” cinema (when such enhancements are available), which helped me ensure I was getting (almost) everything I needed to know about the storyline, but the constant descriptions of the contents of every shot, along with the reading of the subtitles, became somewhat distracting well into the 2 hr. 19 min. running time; I have no idea how this function was activated (still can’t find any button to turn it on/off), why it wasn’t happening with other TV series or films on Amazon Prime (I spot-checked a few), or how to disengage it, so, concerned this was somehow a regular aspect of the presentation, I didn’t want to recommend too strongly something that might be as offsetting for others to see/hear as well (although, certainly blind patrons of Amazon Prime films would likely appreciate the thoroughness of the shot descriptions, plus this wasn’t happening when I checked it on my computer so I thought maybe it was some weird glitch with my LG smart [?] TV). However, in calling it up again the next day, everything was back to normal so I watched it all again, benefitting even more from observing those well-conceived-structural-depictions of intra-familial-interactions without having them simultaneously voiced to me. Like Tigertail, this is a tragic tale but, also like Tigertail, it’s one where the broken-down-interpersonal-connections (sadly) are far too common—no matter what culture they’re occurring in—giving us a universally-recognizable-narrative even if the location, language, and events from the past are “foreign” to us. This conception wasn’t foreign to the judges at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, though; they gave it the top prize in the Un Certain Regard competition. (What’s truly amazing to me, though, is director Aïnouz at one point wasn’t going to use the device of Guida’s letters at all, despite that inclusion being such a central element of the narrative; watch his interview in Related Links [at 40:00] for intriguing details on this choice.)
Bottom Line Final Comments: The last time I can recall seeing a film set in Rio with a major character named Eurydice (Marpessa Dawn) was the marvelous Black Orpheus (Marcel Camus, 1959), although it’s a mythologically-inspired, tragic romance whereas the interpersonal tragedies in Invisible Life are well-grounded in sociological-realities (although the events of the former story also reflect economic disparities of this culture in the 1950s [there’s even a sailor—named Chico—in it, as well as a Death character, somewhat reflecting the many family demises occurring throughout Invisible Life]). But, back to the film at hand (though I also highly recommend Black Orpheus, a true 5-stars accomplishment, winner of the Palme d'Or at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival and the 1960 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film; it’s available for streaming, rental, and purchase—use the JustWatch site at the end of my Related Links section much farther below to find out where), in Invisible Life (also known as The invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão, yet, to me, both sisters endure equally-invisible-lives where the other is concerned) we find a beautifully-made, emotionally-challenging film that easily speaks to anyone who’s somehow lost touch with a loved one, desperate to connect again but with only dead-ends when a search is initiated; anyone who’s endured trauma from a domineering parent or spouse/significant-other who’s complicated their life in a significant way; anyone who can appreciate any small sense of accomplishment (those letters don’t bring Guida back to Eurídice, but they fill in gaps of connection that at least provide her with direct, personal remembrance); anyone (everyone?) who knows what complications intra-familial-relationships can provide. What’s not so easy for me where this film’s concerned is finding an appropriate Musical Metaphor to round out the review (as I attempt to do with every analysis of mine) because I just couldn’t think of anything directly addressing the lost-opportunity-elements of this film so I ultimately settled (and am open to suggestions for something more relevant) on Neil Young’s “Helpless” (from the 1970 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Déjà Vu album) at https://www. youtube.com/watch?v=qOv9nwuC67Y (video from the 1995 Farm Aid concert* in Louisville, KY, joined by Willie Nelson for additional guitar work, Willie’s bandmate Mickey Raphael trading harmonica parts with Neil) because, while there’s nothing about a “town in north Ontario” or “big birds flying across the sky” in Invisible Life, I still find a strong sense of elder-Eurídice at the end with “dream, comfort, memory to spare.” You can find this “tropical melodrama” (director’s words; see that interview in Related Links) on Amazon Prime readily available under their 30-day-free-trial.
*Young also played this song on the recent TV broadcast of 2020’s stay-at-home Farm Aid mini-concert, by himself, just like other performers; I don’t know how much they were able to raise for this annual event with such an unusual format, but you can still donate at https://www.farmaid.org/.
Tigertail (Alan Yang) rated PG
Beginning in early 1950s Taiwan we follow the life of a young boy in a poor family as he grows into young adulthood, enamored of a local girl only to find himself in an arranged marriage, moving to the U.S. seeking financial independence, aid for his mother; later we see inability to open up damaging his relationships with all of the women in his life.
Here’s the trailer:
Before reading any further, I’ll ask you to refer to the plot spoilers warning far above.
What Happens: (This film has lots of flashbacks/returns to contemporary-times in its concise 91 min. so to reduce confusion in this summary I’ll just recap events in chronological order rather than how they appear on-screen, although the transitions are handled well cinematically, making it clear how past impacts present.) In early 1950s Taiwan we first meet very young Pin-Jui (Zhi-Hao Yang) whose father died when the boy was just 1-year-old so Mom’s sent him to live with his grandparents in the countryside while she’s looking for steady work (apparently for quite a while). Even this seemingly-idyllic-rice-field-setting has its traumas, though, as Grandma has to hide the boy from soldiers of the ruling Kuomintang (Chiang Kai-shek‘s displaced-government onto the island-nation [still functioning], pushed there by Mao Zedong’s 1949 mainland China Communist revolution) looking for “dissidents,” chastising the old woman for speaking Taiwanese rather than Mandarin (any scenes set in this Asian locale feature subtitled dialogue in one of those languages, the rest is in English), but when he meets also-young Yuan Lee (Hai-Yin Tasi) she becomes his active playmate until he’s called back to his original home when Mom lands a position. We then jump ahead many years (Pin-Jui’s [now Lee Hong-Chi] in his late teens) where son and his mother, Minghua (Yang Kuei-Mei), work miserably in the same factory, a place of dilapidated-machinery and a demanding boss, Old Li (not in cast list), with the young man’s life lightened by Yuan (now Yo-Hsing Fang) moving to the town, sparking up a romance with Pin-Jui although he’s embarrassed for his rich girlfriend to know how poor he is, focusing instead on his dreams of going to America, becoming wealthy so his mother can retire; he even takes Yuan to an expensive restaurant (which both he and the waiter know he can’t afford), but after bluffing his way through the meal he convinces her to rush away through the kitchen with him, knowing he’ll never have to worry about going back there. Pin-Jui’s fortunes turn, though, when Old Li offers to pay his way to America in return for marrying the man’s daughter, Zhenzhen (Kunjue Li), which he explores by taking her to dinner where they struggle to make conversation. All Pin-Jui really accomplishes is irritating Yuan by being late for their date that night, so, after the lovers share a rendition of Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” he finally takes her to the cramped place he shares with Mom (asleep), which actually endears him to her more, but when Minghua injures her arm at the factory, making her work even more difficult, Pin-Jui accepts the marriage proposition with Zhenzhen, leaves with his new bride for a sought-after-life in NYC, which he (mistakenly) expects to be quickly prosperous.
However, even as the newlyweds head to the airport, Pin-Jui briefly sees Yuan in a crowd on the sidewalk (she sees him too) as his cab drives by, turning quickly to look at her (reminding me of the ending of The Bridges of Madison County [Clint Eastwood, 1995] when farmwife Francesca Johnson [Meryl Streep] is riding with husband Richard [Jim Haynie] in their truck in the rain after he’s been away a few days, sees Robert Kinkaid [Eastwood], the studly-photographer she’s just had a fast affair with, puts her hand on the door handle in quick thought of running off to join him, decides instead to stay in her decent, stable, yet ultimately-unfulfilling life). Pin-Jiu and Zhenzhen struggle in the U.S. as he gets a job at a small deli-market, she stays in their tiny apartment cleaning all day (we get a visual sense of the monotony: intercut shots of them moping floors plus an extended, repeated montage of him as he unlocks the store, works, shuts it down; there’s also another nice scene where they go to a restaurant they can’t afford but she graciously goes along with changing to a cheaper place) although he does cheer her up by buying her a keyboard but maintains the growing distance between them, declining her offer to put on a record and dance (later she just piles books on the instrument). As he spends more time at work, she regularly goes to the local laundry to be around people, one day strikes up a conversation with an older Taiwanese woman, Peijing (Cindera Che), who becomes her friend, encourages her to take courses toward a teaching credential, a future with no support from Pin-Jui. That option disappears, though, when she becomes pregnant with daughter Angela (there’s also a son, Bobby, later, but we never see him; we don’t see much of Angela as a girl either, except once at a piano recital where she stumbles a bit, cries later). Over the years as their material status greatly improves the marriage frays to the point of Zhenzhen (now Fiona Fu) wanting a divorce; Pin-Jui (now Tzi Ma) angrily replies “Get out!”—one of the few times he’s able to express much of anything to his frustrated, neglected wife—compounding his troubles as the marriage was intended to allow him to support Mom but when he really pushes her to quit her job, move to America, she turns him down. As we then move further years toward the present (but in a scene early on in the film, just as these time periods are often intercut) we find adult Angela (Christine Ko) driving Dad back home from the airport; he’s just returned from Taiwan after Minghua’s funeral, yet even this sudden revelation hardly brings about much conversation between father and daughter, except in a later scene where he disapproves of her fiancée, Eric (Hayden Szeto), who doesn’t work as hard as Angela in Pin-Jui’s estimation. Worried about Dad’s continued isolation (and her own problems at work), Angela reaches out to Zhenzhen who then calls Pin-Jui, even though they hadn’t spoken in years, but she’s not able to get much out of him either (even as we see parallels with father and daughter, intercut shots of them lonely, eating isolated at home, a result of Eric calling off the marriage for some unrevealed reason).
Finally, Pin-Jui tries to connect with Angela, inviting her to lunch, but he’s still very reserved until she breaks down, admits her failed engagement, wonders if she’ll ever find true love (although she knew Eric only about 8 months; I had a few relationships—including an early divorce—each lasting a few years before they fell apart, but that likely helped me be better prepared for the real thing about 33 years ago when I was almost 40, luckily stumbled upon Nina Kindblad, who I’d hoped for—in principle at least—all my adult life, so maybe when Angela’s somewhat older she’ll have better perspective as well), then storms out of the restaurant when Dad still can’t offer much consolation. ⇒Later, at Angela’s Chinese New Year dinner at her home, friends are there along with both parents, but Zhenzhen’s now happily remarried, works as a teacher (don’t know what level) as Pin-Jui sits alone drinking tea. He’s still there when everyone else leaves, finally confesses to his daughter the story of his lost love, Yuan (made all the more bitter by a recent incident in which he decided to search for her on Facebook, found her, they exchanged short messages, she told him she’d be coming from Maryland to NYC on business, they meet for lunch, have nice enough conversation, but then she [now Joan Chen] mentions [for the first time, at least where we’re concerned] her husband, so we know there’s not going to be any romantic-reconciliation between these former lovers; actually, she’s still irritated she never told her he was leaving Taiwan so the reality may have made it difficult for them to patch things up anyway, but they leave pleasantly enough with no sense there’ll be further contact—this is followed by sad-parallel-intercutting of Pin-Jui and Angela walking home at night, alone, each lost in thoughts). In an attempt to give Angela a sense of what all he’d hidden from her all those years—as well as denied to himself, even with altruistic reasons where (he thought) Mom was concerned—Pin-Jui takes his daughter to Taiwan (she hadn’t been since she was a young child, visiting Grandma) to show her the factory where he and his mother worked, the bar where he used to meet and dance with Yuan, the house where he lived with Minghua, all in a town named Huwei (Tigertail). In a poignant final shot the camera pulls far back from the 2 of them looking through the open window of this empty, dilapidated building.⇐
So What? For me, this is a very poignant story told in a subdued, melancholy manner about a man who consistently, increasingly felt he needed to hide parts of himself from all the women in his life—Minghua, Yuan, Zhenzhen, Angela—simply making son/lover/husband/father into a human-desert-island (despite John Donne's rejection of such [from his 1624 book, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions]) with little sense of accomplishment except he felt in his own, very traditional way he’d tried to do the best he could for each of them, never feeling resolved in his existence due to the loss of Yuan, sacrificing what may (or may not, depending on how open her more-well-to-do-family would have accepted him as a son-in-law) have been his only path to true happiness in a futile move to provide better material comfort for his unappreciative mother; Yuan was clearly “the one who got away” (similar to how his daughter felt about Eric, but she’s got a lot more time to find a relationship that works for her—trust me, Angela, if it will ever happen fate will be waiting for you), leaving Pin-Jui (or as some summaries note, he Anglicized his name to Grover, but that never seemed noticeable to me) withdrawn, bitter that even his dreams of material success in America led to no sense of personal satisfaction, just a comfortable existence shared with hardly anyone else. Director Yang based this debut-feature on the life of his own father’s journey from East to West, also with a lost love left behind finally revealed to his children years after the fact, made all the more relevant here with the older Pin-Jui’s voiceover narration at times throughout the film about his life in Taiwan actually done by Yang’s father. (In watching this, I couldn’t help but think about a close friend of mine [now sadly deceased for a few years] who also had an adolescent love he had to leave behind as circumstances took him away from his home country to other locations around the world; decades later [and long-divorced] he made an attempt to connect with her again, traveling a long distance back to where they were first together only to find she’d changed so much there was nothing left between them but old memories, so the trip was a bittersweet voyage for him; I had a minor version of this myself when my final [of several, of course] high-school-sweetheart and I went our separate ways to distant universities, only to meet up briefly after my freshman year on the way to Ohio to spend the summer with my parents, so we stopped by her new home in Tennessee for a short, pleasant visit at which point I could tell that whatever we’d once had was long gone [besides, I had a new girlfriend back in Texas, but by a year later that had run its course as well]). However, Variety’s Peter Debruge was only partially impressed by Tigertail but felt it was lacking in ultimate impact: “[…] remains too obtuse in the telling […] It’s courageous of Yang to share such a tribute to his father, though the most important things remain unspoken.” Yet, does everything important in a narrative need to be spelled out? Does every emotion have to elaborated to be sure we don’t miss the nuances of a situation? I don’t think so in general terms, nor do I feel Yang held back too much.
Bottom Line Final Comments: In this case, though, I guess the CCAL’s trending more toward Debruge than me as the RT reviewers could come up with only 74% positive critiques while the hardboiled-cases at MC are back to their more-expected-norm of a mildly-supportive 66% average score (that one based on just 18 reviews, though). I wish more of them had the responses of Rolling Stone’s David Fear (and me) about both the sublime father role played by Tzi Ma (“The sheer amount of loss and grief and, later, slow and steady joy he brings out of the elderly Pin-Jui is astounding in its modesty — he lets you see someone who’s been taught to stifle emotions fumblingly attempt to reach out”) and the experience as a whole (“[…] the film exits on what is, for my money, one of the single greatest last shots in recent memory. That Yang can collapse time and communicate such a rich, personal history with that final gliding image is proof that his aims do not exceed his grasp. It would be a beautiful and bittersweet work no matter when it was released. The fact that it comes at a moment when the country has forgotten its core values and compassion is a rare currency only makes this unassuming tribute to one’s roots feel more vital.”)—although even Dubruge’s review (cited just above) is considered positive by RT, so I still wonder at times where they draw the “thumbs up” line—but you’re going to find a lot of hesitation, if not outright rejection, as well like in this commentary from The New York Times’ Kristen Yoonsoo Kim: “It’s easy to see how disappointment would wear Pin-Jui down, yet the callousness he develops toward his wife feels abrupt and unwarranted. The film is especially heavy-handed in the present-day scenes with his daughter, who says she was neglected. Their painfully expository conversations reveal the weakness of Yang’s script.” Yes, what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another, although you’ll find some consistent praise for Michael Brooke‘s haunting score (exquisite to the mood of this star-crossed-tale). For me, though, Tigertail's a beautiful, subtle, sorrowful experience which deserves a worthy Musical Metaphor, with John Lennon’s elegant “In My Life” (from The Beatles’ 1965 Rubber Soul album, although Paul McCartney disagrees about the amount of his contribution) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqpysaAo4BQ, named by Mojo magazine (you'll need to scroll down) as the best song of all time (others rated it highly as well). It captures Pin-Jui’s memories (“All these places had their moments With lovers and friends I still can recall Some are dead and some are living In my life I’ve loved them all”) and never-ending-feelings for Yuan, “But of all these friends and lovers There is no one compares with you […] Though I know I’ll never lose affection For people and things that went before I know I’ll often stop and think about them In my life I love you more” (how I feel about Nina, although I have the good fortune of being with her for 33 years, not sadly-reminiscing about what could have been). You’ll find (I hope) Tigertail via Netflix streaming, available to all their existing subscribers and everyone else now for this 30-day-free-trial.
Suggestions for TCM cablecasts
At least until the pandemic subsides Two Guys in the Dark also want to encourage you to consider movies you might be interested in that don’t require subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon Prime, similar Internet platforms (we may well be stuck inside for longer than those 30-day free initial offers), or premium-tier-cable-TV-fees. While there are a good number of video networks offering movies of various sorts (mostly broken up by commercials), one dependable source of fine cinematic programming is Turner Classic Movies (available in a lot of basic-cable-packages) so I’ll be offering suggestions of possible choices for you running from Thursday afternoon of the current week (given that I usually get this blog posted by early Thursday mornings) on through Thursday morning of the following week. All times are U.S. Eastern Daylight so if you see something of interest please verify actual show time in your area for the day listed. My suggestions are particular favorites of mine (no matter what time they’re on, although some early-day-ones might need to be recorded, watched later), but there's considerably more to pick from on TCM; feel free to peruse their entire schedule.
Thursday, April 16, 2020
8:00 PM A Star Is Born (George Cukor, 1954) The first musical version of this story, starring James Mason and Judy Garland; stellar performances from both, especially in her “The Man That Got Away” number in an early scene.
11:00 PM Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927) Marvelous example of German Expressionism set in the future (2027!) where elites run society, workers toil as underground slaves to huge machines until the city leader's son joins in a rebellion (silent with intertitles and music).
Friday, April 17, 2020 (A glorious day at the movies!)
6:45 AM The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957) One of Bergman’s masterpieces, an allegory of a medieval knight (Max von Sydow) returned from the Crusades playing chess with Death to stave off the inevitable while searching for some hint of God's presence.
8:30 AM She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (John Ford, 1949) John Wayne stars as a U.S. Cavalry Captain attempting to prevent an all-out war with local Indians rebelling against life on the reservation in the aftermath of Custer’s defeat.
10:30 AM Sounder (Martin Ritt, 1972) A Black family in Depression-era Louisiana struggles to find a balance between immediate economic survival and better future opportunity for their son, starring Cicely Tyson and Paul Winfield.
12:30 PM A Hard Day’s Night (Richard Lester, 1964) The Beatles’ big-screen-debut based loosely on their actual Beatlemania lives as world-sensation-rock-musicians now burst upon the scene.
3:15 PM North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959) Cary Grant plays an ad executive mistaken for a government agent in pursuit of a foreign spy, also stars Eva Marie Saint and James Mason;
the quintessential Hitchcock thriller based on misunderstandings, especially the cornfield chase.
5:45 PM Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959) A marvelous comedy with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis disguised as women in a nightclub band trying to escape gangsters; also stars Marilyn Monroe and George Raft. Joe E. Brown’s final line was marvelous for its time, now immortal.
10:00 PM Deliverance (John Boorman, 1972) From “Dueling Banjos” at the beginning to a nightmare at the end this is a brutal, intense thriller likely to put you off trips out into the
wilderness; starring Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Beatty, and Ronnie Cox.
Saturday, April 18, 2020
5:45 PM Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976) Brilliant satire from Paddy Chayefsky about TV news, ratings, soulless corporations, and “mad prophet” Howard Beale, a harbinger of Reality TV and Social Media. Ned Beatty’s CEO rant to Beale is priceless. Excellent cast: Peter Finch (Oscar), William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Robert Duval, and Beatrice Straight.
8:00 PM Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942) Do you really need to know what this one’s about? If so, Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre are “looking at you, kid” to catch up, now!
4:15 AM The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1928) On my All-Time Top 10 list, many say the last great silent film, starring René Falconetti (her only major screen role) in the stark, emotionally-impactful story of a heretic-turned-martyr; enhanced with intertitles and music.
Sunday, April 19, 2020
10 AM Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962) Oscar winner as Best Picture, Best Director in this history-based-version of Brit T.E. Lawrence working with desert-dwelling Arabs against the Ottoman Empire in WW I, starring Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn, Alec Guinness, Claude Rains, and many others; a monumental classic!
6:00 PM Singin’ in the Rain (Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, 1952) The beloved-musical starring Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Jean Hagen, and Cyd Charisse about Hollywood’s clumsy transition into sound movies, featuring the fabulous “Broadway Melody” sequence.
9:45 PM The Hustler (Robert Rossen, 1961) Paul Newman as a would-be pool shark forced to
prove himself against top-notch-player “Minnesota Fats” (Jackie Gleason) with some ups but mostly downs along the way to the finish; also stars Piper Laurie and George C. Scott.
Monday, April 20, 2020
8:45 AM Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960) An early classic of the French New Wave starring Jean-Paul Belmondo as a small-time hood involved with Jean Seberg (an American actress
Kristen Stewart’s recent film, Seberg, is based on), a primer in attention-grabbing jump-cutting.
Tuesday, April 21, 2020
2:15 PM Dial M for Murder (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954) A perennial favorite on stage brought to screen, famed tennis star Ray Milland sets up an accomplice to terminate wife Grace Kelly yet she kills the assailant instead in self-defense, then is set up by her husband to be convicted of murder, but …
6:00 PM Wait Until Dark (Terrence Young. 1967) Also based on a play, this thriller is about a blind woman, Audrey Hepburn, attacked by Alan Arkin trying to find drugs unknowingly stashed in her apartment. She rigs a terrific set of defenses, keeping us on edge throughout her ordeal.
Wednesday, April 22, 2020
10:00 PM Koyaanisqatsi (Godfrey Reggio, 1982) The title means “life out of balance” leading to 86 min. of superb cinematography contrasting images of serene nature with pixilated scenes of frantic human activity; made even more impactful with Philip Glass' mesmerizing score.
Also … PBS stations (almost always available on basic cable) have great classic films as well, but I’m sure they vary from market to market, so all I can recommend, for readers who happen to be out my way, are ones playing Saturday nights at 8:00 PM (Pacific Daylight Time) on KQED-TV in the San Francisco area as Fail-Safe (Sidney Lumet, 1964), a still-relevant-thriller about nuclear confrontation between the U.S. (Henry Fonda as President) and the Soviet Union, is broadcast on April 18, 2020.
If you'd like to have a PDF of ratings/summaries of this week's reviews, suggestions for TCM cablecasts, links to Two Guys info click this link to access then save, print, or whatever you need.
If you'd like to have a PDF of ratings/summaries of this week's reviews, suggestions for TCM cablecasts, links to Two Guys info click this link to access then save, print, or whatever you need.
Other Cinema-Related-Stuff: Here are some other items you might be interested in: (1) 83 movies on Amazon Prime from The New Yorker, very different from my TCM list, many titles I’m not familiar with (noted to me by my used-to-be/will-be-again-usual-weekly-screening-companion, Michaele O’Leary-Reiff); (2) Will AMC Theaters file for bankruptcy?; (3) Cinemark Theaters offer $250 million in debt-reduction-secured-notes (Disney offers $6 billion); (4) Disney furloughs employees at Marvel, Pixar, Lucasfilm, Searchlight; (5) Variety’s Owen Gleiberman: why he misses movie theaters; (6) a non-cinematic link from my friend Barry Caine, 100 uplifting photos/ posts from BuzzFeed. As usual for now, I’ll close out this section with Joni Mitchell’s "Big Yellow Taxi" (from her 1970 Ladies of the Canyon album)—because "You don't know what you've got 'till it's gone"—and a reminder you can search streaming/rental/purchase movie options at JustWatch.
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
We encourage you to visit the summary of Two Guys reviews for our past posts.* Overall notations for this blog—including Internet formatting craziness beyond our control—may be found at our Two Guys in the Dark homepage. If you’d like to Like us on Facebook please visit our Facebook page. We appreciate your support whenever and however you can offer it!
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Here’s more information about Invisible Life:
https://www.amazonstudiosguilds.com/film/invisible-life/ (clearly this is a site intended for awards group voters from last fall; doesn’t help much with the overall film, but you can go here for the official Amazon Prime site taking you directly to streaming)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTWIYZXXnHs (46:27 interview with director Karim Aïnouz)
Here’s more information about Tigertail:
https://www.netflix.com/title/80202958 (also the site for direct streaming of this film)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dR5vEO991V8 (26:41 interview with director Alan Yang conducted in safe social distancing fashion [an ad pops up at about 8:30—at least that’s
how it worked for me])
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If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my email address of firstname.lastname@example.org. (But 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,
https://kenburke.academia.edu, 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.
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