Friday, March 13, 2015

More Films About Love, 2 Comedies & 2 Dramas

"Choose Me" is director Alan Rudolph's charming love story about night owls who are lost souls who come together (Lesley Ann Warren and Keith Carradine). Geneviève Bujold is hilarious as  the night time shrink radio personality. She almost steals the entire show as she plays the predictable disaster in her own personal life, while she is such a success professionally. Although this is a comedy, it is a very quirky one with these eccentric characters, who cover the gamut in depicting true but less-than-sane, love. 

Carradine is a patient at a mental asylum who wanders off looking for love and meets Warren. You never are sure whether he is still crazy or not but it hardly matters. His best line is, "No, I'm the same. The town's different." This covers the classic situation of people trying to change their lives by moving or travel. He knows the town does not make the man so is very sane in this respect.

I love all of Alan Rudolph's films. They are highly artistic and independent. The soundtracks are always superb and this one is no exception. There is not a cliche in any Rudolph film. He has always made the films he wanted to make rather than becoming a household name in your mall cineplex. Most of his films only screened at art theaters and university film societies.  Most fans consider him as comparable to the late Robert Altman in artistic cinematic achievement. Carradine worked frequently for both directors.

"Besieged" Is Director Bertolucci At His Most Beautiful. This is his best film since "Last Tango In Paris". It is a wonderful love story set first in Africa and then in Europe, between an English pianist-composer, as played by UK actor David Thewlis and an African medical student, played by UK actor Thandie Newton. The film is English language. (Both of these actors can sound like Americans if they make our movies so you may have mistaken them as being from the USA in other films.)  Newton must flee Africa as she almost loses her life there. Her husband may still be alive and coming from Africa. She works as Thewlis's maid and his passion grows from there.

This movie shows rather than tells; everything is done visually with a minimum of dialogue and a wonderful accompanying soundtrack. Both actors, even though normally outstanding, exceed even their own best work in this film. The hero-pianist, Thewlis, is perfection in his understanding of self sacrifice for the one you love. 

I had to have the soundtrack too which is still available online, often as downloadable mp3s. Trust me, the movie without the music will leave you feeling incomplete. These works totally complement one another. There is both African and European music to go with the two different settings in the movie. Both are great but the abstraction in the European music Thewlis's character played on the piano haunted me long after the movie was over.
I picked the film "Center of the World" because I generally admire director Wayne Wang's work and have followed his career from its start with "Dim Sum." Wang has moved away from using solely Japanese American characters but has not moved away from his independent, edgy roots. This is an American romance through and through. Peter Sarsgaard is a wealthy cyber geek who is not a bad guy but his long suite is not the social graces. 

Shane Edelman plays the woman who comes into his life. She plays in a rock and roll band and also strips to support herself until she "makes it" as a drummer. This is actually about as American as you can get and is a far cry from the woman waiting for a man to rescue her from a life of stripping cliche. These two really match up quite well because they have a lot in common and in many ways are similar souls. 

It may not look that way on the surface but this is a deeply layered work and much becomes apparent to the patient viewer. Shane Edelman also does a nice job of showing how a "regular" woman can range all over the place in both her appearance and her emotions. 
"Lovesick" is a favorite of mine. I must caution you that if you never liked the late Dudley Moore's ability to blend comedy with romance, then it may not appeal to you as much. Moore began as a comic in the UK straight out of Oxford and then became enormously famous in the USA for his romantic comedy "10". This film was made after "10" in 1983. The female lead is Elizabeth McGovern, who currently is best known as Lord Grantham's wife in "Downton Abbey". McGovern was a beautiful leading lady at this early part of her career and prior to this had scored big in "Ragtime" and "Ordinary People." Today viewers know her primarily in her current Countess role.

Dudley Moore plays the psychiatrist who falls in love with his new patient, McGovern, the very first time he sees her in session. He was sent her as a patient because the preceding psychiatrist, played by a beleaguered Wally Shawn, had the same problem. 

This is comedy and romance and not in the least drama. The ethical problems of such a dilemma and the problems this might present on both sides are not a concern of this film. Since he falls hard the minute he meets her, that is not much of an issue anyway.

There are flights of fantasy in this film with Moore and Sigmund Freud. There are also hilarious moments, especially in the beginning, when Moore stumbles all over himself with being caught in this dilemma. He also stalks McGovern at one point early in the film and ends up stuck in ridiculous spaces as a result. He gets many laughs with these stumbling gaffes.

Another source of hilarity is when the other psychiatrists learn of his seeing his newest patient and start giving him a hard time. The whole thing is pretty preposterous of course but broad farce was what Moore was best known for as an actor. This was true from his earliest appearance in the 1960s as the comedy partner of the late Peter Cook at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland, where they made an enormous impression. (To this day that festival remains a huge starting point for most UK budding talent in the arts. Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie also made a huge, early impression there as a comedy duo.) Moore had also studied classical piano at Oxford and if that could be worked into one of his films, it was. Not this one though. 

Many viewers were amazed to learn that Moore and Cook were Oxford graduates, that Fry and Laurie were Cambridge graduates, as was their other campus friend, Emma Thompson. Hugh Grant is also an Oxford graduate. The guitarist from Radiohead was a musical prodigy at Cambridge. This flow from the first tier universities to the arts is not that unusual in the UK.

I like this film better than his most popular films, "10" and "Arthur". I like this film as much as his earliest film with Peter Cook in the UK, reviewed elsewhere on this blog, "Bedazzled." In all fairness though, long term "Bedazzled", 1967, is what he will be remembered for as his best artistic achievement as an actor.

This film was written and directed by Marshall Brickman who was Woody Allen's co-writer on "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan." 

1 comment:

  1. Great reviews--can't wait to see these! Your reviews help me appreciate the finer points of the movies, because they give me something to look for and notice, like having the audio gadget at art museums. Deepens the experience. Thanks!