Sunday, February 20, 2005

Movie Rentals, Week of 2/15/2005

HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (1986) This “late-period” Woody Allen film was perfect for a recent rainy Sunday afternoon. Starring Mia Farrow, the film follows the romantic entanglements of Hannah and her two sisters, played by Dianne Wiest and Barbara Hershey. Michael Caine (who won his first Oscar for this role), Max von Sydow, Allen, and Sam Waterston co-star and the befuddled husbands and lovers. I have a real sense of nostalgia for this and earlier Woody Allen films. I discovered his films as a teenager, and as a kid trapped in a rural northwest Texas town, I longed for the jazz, urban conversations, and even the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that color Allen’s films. Hannah and her Sisters also introduced me to one of my all-time favorite poems, e.e. cummings “somewhere i have never traveled…”

HOME MOVIE (2001) This short documentary comes from Chris Smith, the filmmaker who brought us the hilarious and touching doc AMERICAN MOVIE (1999), a chronicle of one man’s passion for filmmaking. Home Movie takes us on a guided tour of six of the most unusual homes in the country, from a grand tree house in Hawaii, to a converted missile silo, to a charmingly retro “house of the future”. The phrase “home is where the heart is” takes on a quirky new meaning with this piece.

THE SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD (2003) Isabella Rossellini announces, “ If you’re sad and you like beer, I’m your lady!” in this film from the unique mind of Guy Maddin. Rossellini plays Lady Port-Huntley, an amputee beer magnate in Depression-era Canada. Wanting to drum up business, she sponsors the “Saddest Music in the World Contest” where top musicians from around the world descend upon Winnipeg to duke it out for the title. I really can’t begin to describe the surrealness of this tinted and filtered black & white film that seems to take inspiration from such sources as silent movies, German Expressionist sets, and Hollywood musicals, among others. Maddin blends these diverse sources with bizarre storytelling to create a singular work, not some random pastiche of styles. I was first introduced to Maddin’s films through CAREFUL (1992), featuring an Alpine village whose populace had to whisper due to the threat of an avalanche. I like Careful better than The Saddest Music, but that could be due to the shock-of-the-new I experienced. I would definitely recommend seeing both films if you want to see one of the most interesting directors working in film today.

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