I have written about the foreign (mostly) film series that I attend on Tuesday afternoons and the college -- officially a "course", it is free and I always hang around after my poetry class ends at about 2:30 to catch the 3:30 showing. So far it's been a pleasure, including the over-3-hour Berman film, Fanny and Alexander which I saw when it was new and loved and loved again. Last week I saw The Barbarian Invasions, a Canadian film from director Denis Arcand which was a sequel to The Decline of the American Empire (made 17 years earlier) still resonant in my memory as one of the most enjoyable domestic films I ever saw (domestic in the sense of being about family dynamics).
Both Canadian films have jaw dropping titles and don't hint that they are really about a family in Montreal (they are in French), husband and wife are university professors. In the first, the children were among the smartest (but not smart aleck-y) children I've ever seen on film and the dialog reflected people who are involved with intellectual ideas. Such a film is so much a rarity I forgot much about it but not my delighted astonishment. In the 2003 film the father of the family has a couple of weeks to live. The daughter is somewhere in the Pacific delivering a yacht to a client but is sometimes seen on Skype talking to the father. The son has become a multimillionaire through some kind of banking enterprise and lives in Australia but he comes to his father's beside. Immediately he begins using his wealth to make his father's last weeks comfortable and enjoyable -- money is no object but father refuses to leave Canada to go to a great US hospital. So the son situates dad in a swanky room (thanks to simple bribery of officials and labor union leaders) he procures heroin when morphine is inadequate to control pain, gathers ex-mistresses and ex-students and old friends and arranges a good death. In this respect (given the money and suavity needed) the story becomes a kind of fairy tale. Actor Stefan Rousseau is entirely charming, a magician who can do anything. Once again the gathered friends and the sick man occasionally have philosophical discussions. They are smart people, none are stereotypes, family dynamics are complex. American movie makers seem to feel people are not intelligent and that deathbed stories won't sell. Ridiculous!
This week's movie is another oldie-but-goodie that I saw long ago, Wings of Desire by Wem Wenders, one of my favorite smart German movie makers. I'm looking forward to this one too. Very good movies are to me in the category with very good books. I can never read all the very good books I'd like because there just isn't time. I try to only go to very good movies because I do not have a TV and don't want to give my precious time to the junk one has to put up with on TV -- just as I hate to go to the big mall cinemas because one is subjected to half an hour of violent trailers at ear splitting decibels plus various advertisements before the film and there are few worth seeing. At seventy-five I do not have the patience to have my time wasted by commericalism that is ugly and distasteful. So I go to these movies and enjoy them greatly, and I go to the local art house which shows new movies with a minimum of ads. And I read books.
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