As it's said things come in threes, two this week and a week ago I saw a documentary about the children of prostitutes in Calcutta. Three films in a row showing how painful and desperate life can be. I saw the Spanish movie, Biutiful yesterday with Javier Barden as a man struggling with an impossible life who is diagnosed with cancer and given two months to live. He is an in between man -- helping illegal immigrants fit into the local economy -- Sengelese selling knock off goods on the street and Chinese "business" men exploiting illegal Chinese immigrants who work all day and live in a crowded warehouse basement. He has two kids, a boy about 6 and a girl about 9 and is estranged from his bipolar wife who also sleeps with Barden's older brother who is also a go-between in the building trades. The desperation of everyone is reflected in the tiny places in which they live, the cramped quarters kitchens and bedroom, the noise and emotional chaos. Besides his two children, there's a Chinese woman and child who sit for the kids and later a Senegalese woman and baby -- motherly love is the only warmth and the wife only has it in her few good times.
Americans don't make movies like this. The money men in Hollywood know it can't make a lot of money, it's not "entertaining", "feel good" is not part of it, one has to pay attention to see what's happening. The handsome actor probably lost weight for this film, he looks gaunt, haggered and, indeed like a man who is often in pain but can't take time to pay attention to it because he's so mired in all the responsibilities he's taken on just to have enough money to exist himself. All that's beautiful by our standards is the frame of the movie set in a snowy forest -- it's fantasy, an ambiguous metaphor for death where he talks to the father who died before he was born and who's dead body he sees later in the movie. The acting was superb, that almost goes without saying, the man is SUCH a fine actor.
I'm feeling emotionally battered from these three films, but, hey, I've lived a long life and I'd rather see and read about what the real world is than merely fill my mind with comedy and saccharine romance. Oh, I guess it's not three but four, because there was King Lear a couple of weeks ago also, no "feel good" veneer on that story either.
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