Category Archives: Movies

Anatomy of a Fall



The director of this film is Justine Triet who won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival with this film that later became a hit in France. She was only the third female director in the 76-year history of that festival to win that top prize.  That the movie was a hit there and not in North America tells us much about the two cultures.

The film is centred on the death of a man from a fall from a French chalet and the sole issue is whether or not he fell or was pushed by his wife. Disturbingly, the corpse was discovered by the son of the couple.

First, I was fascinated by the details of the French Inquisitorial legal system so unlike our English adversarial model of trials. It seemed like the principals at the trial, the judge, the prosecutor, the expert witnesses, and defense lawyers were engaged in a psychological inquiry that felt penetratingly real and satisfying.  In many ways better than ours.

The really haunting actor in the film is Machado Graner who plays Daniel, aged eleven, the son of the accused woman and the deceased.  He says “I want to understand.”   We all want that of course. And that seems to be enough for the French court to permit an 11-year-old child to attend in court while awkward intimate details about his parents are revealed. Yet Daniel is central to the film Even though he is legally blind, what he “sees” or hears or doesn’t see or hear,  is vital to the mystery and its unfolding. It is he who has to decide if his mother killed his father or his father committed suicide. Not a great choice for an 11-year-old kid.

This is a mystery with a deep feeling of reality, even though the lawyer for the accused novelist, Vincent Renzi (Swann Arlaud), tells his client Sandra Voyter (Sandra Hüller), speaking of her murder trial, “this is not about the truth, this is about perception.” The lawyer also counsels the wife “you have to start seeing yourself how others are going to perceive you.” She tells her lawyer “I did not kill him.” And he responds, “that’s not the point.” If that is not the point what is?

The director Justine Triet who also wrote the script with her partner, said to the New York Times this about why he liked his choice of her as leading actress:

“the absence of any kind of seduction both on and off the set… [she] says what she thinks and is very direct.”..[this honesty], is probably what gives her such power on set: She’s real.


I agree with that completely. The fight she had with her husband felt hyper real. It was spell-binding.

The mother wakes up her son the day before her son has to testify in her trial for the murder of his father, and tells him, “I’m not a monster.”

When truth unravels the result is not necessarily a revelation. In fact, it might not even be the truth.  It can just as well be another veiling of the truth.

The family dog, Snoop, may be the only witness to the murder, if it was a murder. In a weird way the dog does bring out the truth. And I mean that literally. You’ll know what I mean when you see it.


Maestro is a supercharged film. It needs to be for it is a story of life that was huge. It is the story of Leonard Bernstein (Bradley Cooper)  the legendary Maestro and his prickly but loving relationship with his wife Felicia Montealegre (Carey Mulligan).  From the opening scene where Leonard Bernstein, an assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic, is called to the big stage as the conductor, his career was explosive. He was called up on very short notice to replace the conductor who was sick. Needless to say, Bernstein was up to the challenge. A new star was born. Immediately.  For Leonard Bernstein was an absolute star. He conducted with astonishing exuberance. The audience seemed to enter a state of rapture with the performance. When I watched Bradley Cooper play the star I was as mesmerized as I think I would be seeing a supernova’s birth. Compelling is not a strong enough word.

Bernstein said this about art: “A work of art does not answer questions it provokes them, and the essential meaning is in the tension between the contradictory answers.” That is what Leonard  Bernstein did and this film is true to that fact and those tensions.

In the film Bernstein was interviewed on television by the famous Edward Murrow who wanted to know what was his primary occupation. After all Bernstein was a world famous conductor and  composer of music. Added to that he was a teacher of music. So what was his main occupation? He had a good answer that neatly ducked the question—he was a “musician” he said.  “Anything that has to do with music is my province. Whether it’s composing it, or conducting it, or studying it, or playing it. As long as its music I like it and I do it.”  That was the central point of the film No one occupation could contain him. And no one person could contain his love. It overflowed. Like many great artists he needed many lives to live. And that can be very hard on those he loves.

The first part of the film is shot in black and white and the latter in color. Ultimately, as his wife Felicia eventually realized, Bernstein could not be constrained by 2 choices. They could not contain him. He loved his wife. And he loved having sex with men. Such a man must be experienced in color. Black and white alone is not enough.

Murrow then asked him what is the difference between the life of a composer and the life of a performer. Bernstein replied:

“It’s a personality difference between which occurs between any composer or creator versus any performer.  Any performer whether its Toscanini    or…whoever it is, leads a kind of public life. An extrovert life if you will. It’s an oversimplified word, but something like that. Whereas as a creative person who sits alone in his great studio that you see here and writes all by himself and communicates with the world in a very private way and has a rather grand inner life rather than a grand outer life. And if you carry around both personalities. I suppose that means you become a schizophrenic and that’s the end of it.”


Bernstein has more than 1 life. He lives with his wife whom he loves, but he has another life where he has affairs with men. One life is not enough. His wife Felicia thought she could survive on what Bernstein had left for her. But she wanted more. It was not enough.

These lives were still not enough for Leonard. As he told Murrow, “Music was the greatest thing I could do and when you add it all up, I haven’t done much.”

As a result of not being able to give Felicia all that she needed, Bernstein said “she has a deep sense of futility.” Therefore, he felt he was not creative enough. “I feel like the world is on the verge of collapse. I’m quite serious. The grinding of creativity which is coming to a grinding halt.”

Bernstein knew that he needed time alone, but because of his performing personality it was hard for him to be alone. That was part of his struggle as a composer. “Can one ever believe that man is just this trapped animal. He is a victim of his own greed and folly. And either one believes in the divine element in this or one doesn’t. As long as I believe it, which is I assume I love people so much, that I have to believe in a remote corner of my soul, there is a way out.”

After one stirring concert of a work, he had created he is sitting in a box seat with his wife Felicia and his lover Tommy. She sees Leonard holding hands with Tommy and not with her, right beside her. They did not even try to hide it. They had always agreed that he would be discreet with his dalliances.  It upsets her terribly. But Leonard is the great artist. Everyone has to bend to his desires.

When Leonard and Felicia have a terrible fight and she denies what he said about all the love in his heart. She says, he has “hate and anger” in his heart. Not love.  “Your truth is a fucking lie,” she yells at him.

Leonard’s sister Shirley tells Felicia, “He is a horribly aging old man who just can’t be one thing.”  She understands him well. He can’t be contained by one thing.

Yet perhaps Leonard’s best person came out when Felicia was dying of cancer. He was relentlessly there for her. Felicia has a change of heart and tells Leonard lovingly, “There is no hate in your heart.” He becomes a devoted husband until she dies. And he learns a valuable lesson: “All you need is to be sensitive to others. Kindness.”

That is all that anyone needs.


Leonard also shows the same feelings to his music students.  He tells the orchestra: “I think the whole point of the piece is becoming one.” All the instruments and all the players become one. Then when he meets a student at the bar, and quotes Edna Vincent Millay to her:  “If summer doesn’t sing in you, nothing will sing in you. If it didn’t I would have jumped in the lake a long time ago.” There was no doubt that summer sang in Bernstein for a while. A considerable while in fact. But not forever. Eventually his life of great music, great wealth, fame, sex, alcohol and drugs took its toll. The summer song could no longer be heard in him. But of course, summer is just a season. It is not a life.


But this film sings. For a season. And that really is enough.

Poor Things



One afternoon this year in Arizona, with our friends MaryLou and Dave Driedger who were staying with us for a couple of days, we went to see a movie.  We try each year to see as many of the films as we can that have been nominated by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts for Best Picture of the Year. Presumably, those films are worth a look.

As a result of doing that we see a lot of movies we probably would never otherwise see. Poor Things, the movie we saw today is probably one of those we would never have gone to see. My first reaction to the film was not very positive. In fact, I thought the title referred to us. We were the poor things who paid to see the film. It was pretty close to porn. Frankly, I considered it “claptrap.” Its ideas seemed clunky.  By and large I considered it messy nonsense.

So I thought at first.  Later, I had time to moderate my opinion. Maybe it was not claptrap. It was not pornography. First, because it was nominated for an Academy Award, for Best Picture, and earned11 nominations in total! How could it be pornography? It was performed by big name stars including Emma Stone for best actress and Mark Ruffalo for best actor. Perhaps I was wrong. It does happen.  So what had I missed?

To begin with,  I asked myself was it pornography? Pornography is notoriously difficult to define. Many people say—I have said it myself—I don’t know how to define pornography but I know it when I see it. I had to admit to myself the sex was obviously not inserted to arouse sexual desire. It wasn’t at all arousing. It was clinical and comic. Besides there was a point to the sex. It was a vital part of the story of the film.

The first thing viewers must realize is that there is a lot of sex in this film. But is that really so bad?  Why? Bella knows nothing about sex and nothing about conventional attitudes about sex. She is free to explore and that is exactly what she wants to do.

The story of the film is the story of a young girl Bella Baxter (Emma Stone)  created by a scientific experiment by an unorthodox scientist Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe). He is like a father to Bella or even a god. In fact, Bella refers to him by the short name, “God.”  The Doctor does in many respects play the part of a god. A very unusual god.  Bella is brought to life by a transplant performed by God of the brain of a very young child into the body of an older woman. Her mother in fact. As a result, Bella has no preconceptions and this is the point. She knows nothing about any of our conventions so she feels no need to be shackled by them. Soon it is obvious they don’t make sense. Why do we feel bound by them unless they actually make sense?

The first thing Bella notices is that there is a lot of pleasure involved in sex. In fact, she asks, “Why don’t we do this all time?” Now that is a pretty good question. Secondly, Bella, has no sense of shame. She does not understand why anyone would feel shame about sex. Well, why should she?

As a result, Bella embarks on what most of us would consider an ill-advised trip to Europe with a debauched lawyer (not an ideal travelling companion) who becomes mesmerized by Bella. But it does turn into a trip of discovery, which of course, every trip should be.

No wonder this is a good movie. All of these are interesting questions and a film that explores them is well worth the look.

I must admit that the rest of the film was not very inspiring. But was it claptrap? Probably not.


Women Talking (the Movie)



I have already blogged about the book. I loved the book. Now I want to blog about the film. I loved the film too. I know this sounds like I am a homer. But I like Cactus Jack Wells a Winnipeg Blue Bomber football announcer always said, “this is a true and unbiased report.” This is like that. Biased in other words.

I admit it, I am proud that woman from Steinbach, who I know a little bit, wrote a novel that was the basis of a movie nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. As I would have said in my lawyerly days, “I am not in a conflict of interest.”

We also must remember that the film is not the book. It doesn’t have to be. It is an independent nation.  But, of course, they are closely related. They are different interpretations of the same thing. This time I will just talk about the film.

The film is about oppression and what to do about it. If that is not a universal theme there are no universal themes. And it is a big and important theme.  It is worth our attention. Not because it deals with Mennonites.  That is irrelevant. It could have dealt with the Taliban. Or Roman Catholics. Or your place of employment. Or your home.

The film involves discussion among the Mennonite women in a South America where they have discovered that they have been sexually assaulted by the men of the colony. the men accomplish this by drugging the women so they don’t realized what was happening. After it is discovered the women must decided if they should leave the colony, stay and submit, or leave. Each choice involves terrible risks.

One of the women in the film says:

“Boys have learned from their father how to oppress.

And women have learned from their mother how to submit.

Both have learned well.”



There is another element I can’t resist talking about. The religious element. After all the central characters are Mennonites in a strict conservative Mennonite colony. As a result, here is a conversation between Ona and Scarface:

ONA Are we asking ourselves what our priority is? To protect our children or to enter the kingdom of heaven?

SCARFACE JANZ  Does entering the kingdom of heaven mean nothing to any of you? After all we have suffered? ANNA Are you really willing to give up what we have always lived for?

ONA Surely there is something in this life worth living for, not only in the next.


That is an issue worth wrestling. Is it more important to save your child’s life than it is to save your immortal soul?

The women are told by the men of the colony that they are mistaken about their allegations of sexual abuse. The allegations are the product of the wild imaginations of women or of Satan. They can’t be true.

Later there is another interesting conversation (there are many):

SALOME … The only certainty we’ll know is uncertainty, no matter where we are.

ONA Other than the certainty of the power of love.

Yup, but is that enough to save the conundrum at the heart of the film?


Ona also asks an incredible question: “How would you feel if in your entire lifetime it had never mattered what you thought?”  This is the ultimate question. The women want to think! And that is not permitted.  

The women have been taught that they have a religious duty to always forgive. So they must forgive the men, they think, or risk going to hell. But as Agata said, “Perhaps forgiveness can, in some instances, be confused with permission…”

There is much worth talking about in this film. Watch and participate in the conversation. That’s what we all should do.

I am giving a true and unbiased report here. Therefore I say, this is the best film of the year and it will win the Academy Award for Best Picture because the academy will do the right think. But perhaps like the women in the film, I am just a dreamer. But sometimes a dream is all you get.




This film magnificently captures the electric sexual energy of a poor white boy from the American south.  This was the exciting and hence dangerous energy that the establishment whites closely associated with African Americans and it frightened them.  They called Elvis “a white boy with black hips.” And they did not like it. Particularly, they hated to see good white girls lavishly enthralled by this energy. One white man called his music “voodoo devil music.”  That’s how dangerous it was. To them it harboured the irrational revolution of the youth against the old, and black against white.

Those like me who mainly remember only the late Elvis of the Las Vegas years and mild smarmy Hollywood movies forget what a revolutionary force he was in his youth. There was nothing like it and this film, and in particular the actor who plays Elvis, Austin Butler, brings it directly to us without filters or banisters. And it is excitingly thrilling. Butler must be considered a serious contender for best Actor and the film  for Best Picture. This film is a marvel of cinematic art that brought this young Elvis to us. I loved this film. I was surprised by this film. I don’t know what I was expecting, probably because, I like so many, remember most clearly the vapid Las Vegas Elvis who was by then a pale afterthought of the kinetic youthful Elvis.

A major character in the film is Colonel Tom Parker (played exceedingly well by Tom Hanks). Frankly, I knew nothing about the Colonel’s role in Elvis’s life, but that just shows you how little I knew about Elvis. As the Colonel said himself, “without me there be no Elvis, yet there are some who make me out the villain of this story.”  This film is brought to us through the eyes of that low class but powerful salesman who liked nothing better than to snow people, or worse. “Elvis was the showman; Parker the snowman.”  The Colonel snowed the public into buying the Elvis he created.

The Colonel deserved credit for seeing the potential of Elvis right from the start. He knew it by looking into the faces of swooning young women lost in the rapture of Elvis. It was like religious rapture and was saturated with sexual power. As the Colonel said about one of those  young women staring at Elvis, “She was having feelings she wasn’t sure she should be having.” These carnal delights however filled the white men of the south with deep fear. They did all they could to stop him and almost succeeded.  But Elvis’ energy could not be denied. Even his very religious mother came to see the light. As she said, “the way you move is God-given, so it can’t be bad.”

Elvis knew that he was “ready to fly.” He acknowledged that “if I can’t move, I can’t sing.”  The Colonel tried to rein in Elvis to make him presentable to stiff necked southern white men and that was a massive mistake, but who knows what would have happened if he had let Elvis loose. As a result, the Colonel allowed Elvis to serve his 2 years of mandatory Army service and come out of the war a clean-cut American kid. By then Elvis was ready for an array of  sun-cleaned and bloodless Hollywood films that made him a lot of money, but in my opinion, at the cost of his soul. Elvis strafed at the restrictions imposed on him by the Colonel including an NBC special where the Colonel contractually bound Elvis to sing a vapid Christmas song and Elvis revolted.

Fortunately, the film does not resolve these tensions on Elvis just as they were not resolved in his life. Elvis lived those tensions and they contributed to his early demise. Like so many rock and rollers, he died too young.

But he sure could rock and roll.

Triangle of Sadness



This film surprised me. I don’t know what I was expecting. I knew little about it before I watched it. The only reason I watched it was because I wanted to see all the films nominated for Best Picture by the Academy of Motion Pictures. And this was on the list. So I thought, I must watch it.  I am glad I did.

I was surprised at how funny this film. I heard it was a dark comedy.  That is what it is. But that means it is a comedy. It is a dandy comedy. a comedy of the absurd.

It begins with a very attractive couple Carl and Yay arguing about money on what appears to be their first date. Both claim they don’t care about the money, but obviously both do. I soon realized this is a movie about money, and the production of money.  In the modern world this means it is a film about capitalism. On the boat they are constantly photographing each other. Their job is to create the illusion of happiness. That is their job. But instead they create the reality of sadness. The triangle of sadness visible upon them.

The real question is whether or not the film is as shallow as the empty-headed rich people it tries to skewer.  It seems to assume that all rich people are shallow. In doing so it picks easy targets for its satire. It would have been more interesting had those targets been less obvious, but that would mean the film would have to work hard. It wants the easy targets instead.

Somehow the young couple  are on a luxury cruise with the very wealthy. The wealthy are not attractive so the young couple is in a class by themselves in this respect. And the rich are made easy targets because they lack beauty, grace, and intelligence. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. They don’t have a chance. Who would love them?

On the ship Carl and Yaya meet Clementine and Winston, a dim British couple who made their fortune selling grenades. Who could love arms dealers? When a grenade is later tossed onto the yacht by a gang of pirates Clementine, like a dunce she is meant to be, picks it up and says, “It’s not one of ours,” before it explodes in her face and causing the ship to sink.

The couple also meet Dmitri a Russian oligarch who got rich “selling shit.”  That doesn’t mean he sold shitty stuff, as we might think, rather it is literally true, he sold fertilizer. That is big business in Russia and Ukraine.

Another wealthy matron insists the Captain see to it that the sails are cleaned because they are gray. But there are no sails as this is a powered vessel. Dim rich again.

Therese, a stroke victim can only say one thing , in German: “in den Wolken.” It’s in the cloud. Like so much is these days. Everything is in the cloud, except intelligence.

As the sea is starting to get rough and the rich people sea sick, except Dmitri and the unhinged Captain, brilliantly played by Woody Harrelson. No one does deranged better than Woody.  They have a drunken debate about socialism that consists of sending verbal barbs to each other consisting of amusing quotations from famous people. For example, Dmitri says,  “Can I tell you a joke. Do you know how to tell a Communist? It’s someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And do you know how to tell an anti-Communist? It’s someone who understands Marx and Lenin!” Ronald Reagan.  Captain: “Never argue with an idiot, they’ll only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” Mark Twain. Dmitri responds, with a joke from Ronald Reagan, “Socialism works only in heaven where they don’t need it, and in hell where they already have it.” Captain That’s pretty good. I’ve got one here. “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell.” That’s Edward Abbey. Dmitri,” Listen: The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” Margaret Thatcher.  You’re going to like this one…”The last capitalist we hand will be the one who sold us the rope” Karl Marx. Captain:. “Freedom in capitalist society always remains about the same as it was in Ancient Greece. Freedom…for slave owners.”

Over the PA Dmitri tells the already awfully sick passengers their Captain is a Communist, but the Captain corrects that, “I’m a Marxist.”  That should make them feel a lot better. But the Captain admits he is a “shit socialist,” because he has too much.

Meanwhile the passengers get increasingly sick either from the waves or food gone bad and pretty well everyone is soon projectile vomiting or trying to hang on to their toilets. As the ship has turned into a floating palace of derangement, pirates blow it up and the survivors are washed on to the shore of what appears to be a deserted island.

On the island the cleaning lady, Abigail, saves the survivors because she can catch fish and start a fire while the rich passengers are useless. But Abigail turns out to as bad as the rich.  She may have been a cleaning lady on the yacht, but now that it has vanished she insists on being Captain with all the privileges of wealth and power. She controls the food and has no intention to share equally. Why should she share now that the tables have turned? She usurps jurisdiction over the life boat (now called “The Love Boat”) and uses it to exercise dominion over pretty boy Carl much to the chagrin of pretty girl Yaya.  Carl tells her, “I love you; you give me fish.” The peons are as shallow as the rich.

Dmitri, a Russian Oligarch not famous for sharing, suddenly wants to share and build “a good society,” when he realizes here his wealth buys him nothing. Now he adopts Marx’s maxim, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” He is surprised when his fellow wealthy passengers do not know this saying.

Later, when the tables are turned again and it appears that the group will be rescued, Abigail is sad because she will become a cleaning lady again.  She picks up a rock and stands behind Yaya and we wonder if she will kill her.

Yaya was right, “it’s surreal.”

My favourite magazine, The Guardian was impressed by the social critique in the film. I was much less impressed. I think creators of this film set up straw men and women just to pull them down. I think films can do better. Though Woody Harrelson alone was worth the investment in this film. He has paid rich dividends to us all. We are enriched by the comedy. I hope we are not dim.




Lydia Tár (played brilliantly by Cate Blanchett) is a Prussian musical conductor. And a music teacher. A Professor. It is essential to realize that in Germany music is sacred and the conductor is the high priest or, in some cases, God. Everything the conductor (or music teacher) does is by definition intra vires. Nothing is ultra vires. Everything in other words is authorized. Not in the cards. As a result there is no such thing as sexual assault or sexual harassment by the conductor or teacher.

Yet, on the other hand, this is a film about power. Specifically, about the power of the conductor, but actually the power that any powerful person wields over a young student. That makes any sexual relationship between conductor and student as unacceptable as sex between a teacher and student, or physician and patient. Ipso facto the powerful person is guilty of sexual harassment.  In such circumstances consent is impossible. There is no point in looking for it. It cannot be there. This is the more modern view

These opposing facts are the background to this film. The film bounces between these polar opposites.

A few days with a Prussian authoritarian can be a very unpleasant thing. You have to be able to shoehorn yourself into the job. Why would we do it? I submit, we would only do it if the suffering endured would present us with a spiritual or artistic epiphany.  The purpose of suffering is to burn the fire within you so that you can achieve enlightenment. Then, and only then, is the suffering worth the trip. Every religion has recognized this fact. Those without religion must learn it. I think that is what Tár is all about. The epiphany learned must be sharp to be worth the price. I think this film qualifies.

Tar is smart, and a musical genius, and a great conductor, but she is impossible to like. It is only possible to submit. But submission is dangerous as at least one young music student learns.

We meet Tár early in the film being interviewed by Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker. [Gopnik plays himself in the film] I always liked his articles for that magazine, but here he and she both seem unbearably pretentious. Either that or we are stupid. Or both.

Tar first interrogates a young female music student, Olive and points out to her, “Good music can be as ornate as a cathedral or as bare as a potting shed.” It must help you to learn powerful lessons.

Then Tár quickly turns to Max, another student, and puts him on the spot in front of all his peers.  “What do you think Max?” she asks. Clearly, she wants to humiliate him. I remember I had a grade 9 mathematics teacher like that.  He liked to call us up to the front blackboard and demonstrate how stupid we were. It wasn’t hard. Teachers like that would not be allowed today, I. hope. And then people say they would like to have the good old days of education. Not me.

Max on the stage is “as nervous as his bouncing feet” according to the screenplay. After all he is being asked by the Great Tár. Tár is conducting a master class in bullying. First the young female student, then Max. Max is properly humiliated. Tár  asks him what he thinks of Johann Sebastian Bach. Max is “not into him.” He explains, “Honestly, as a BIPOC pangender- person, I would say Bach’s misogynistic life makes it kind of impossible for me to take his music seriously.”

Then Max’s knee “goes into overdrive” according to the Screenplay and Tár cannot resist. Like a wolf cannot stop from pursuing that prey that runs away, Tár attacks. She asks the class, and Max in particular, “Can classical music written by a bunch of straight, Austro-German, church-going white guys, exalt us individually.” She says she is a “U-Haul Lesbian” and might not be “into Beethoven” but must confront the music. No one wants to confront the Maestro, who is of course, the Master.

She tells the class this about Bach’s music:

“When you get inside that you see what it really is. A question, and an answer. (plays second change) That begs another question. There’s a humility in Bach. He’s not pretending he’s certain of anything. He knows it’s the question that involves the listener. Never the answer.”


The she confronts Max again, what do you think?  “He sheepishly responds, “nowadays? White, male, cis composers? Just not my thing.” Tár sees his knee bouncing with nerves again and dismisses him with this remark:

“Don’t be so eager to be offended. The narcissism of small differences leads to the most boring conformity… as an ultrasonic epistemic dissident is, if Bach’s talent can be reduced to his gender, birth country, religion, sexuality, and so on — then so can yours”

The poor humiliated student has his dignity shredded by the older, wiser teacher. All he can do is blurt out, “You’re a fucking bitch!”  And she turns it all on him, the hapless student:

And you are a robot! Unfortunately, the architect of your soul appears to be social media. If you want to dance the mask, you must service the composer. Sublimate yourself, your ego, and yes, your identity! …You must in fact stand in front of the public and God and obliterate yourself. The problem with enrolling yourself as an ultrasonic epistemic dissident is, if Bach’s talent can be reduced to his gender, birth, country, religion, sexuality, and so on–then so can yours.”

She might be right, but that is not the point. The point is the teacher should be the civilized one in the class. That is what respect is all about. Tár has a problem with that. But if the weak  must lay down before the powerful  we don’t have learning, we don’t have music, we just have pugilism. And there is no art and no honour in that. This is the lesson that Tár must confront in the film.

Tár is smart and says smart things about music. Like this from her book which she reads to a group while protesters gather outside and while she watches her latest prey flirting with a boy in the back and she receives snide text messages:

“The link between music and language is what makes music unique to human beings—Indeed, the common metaphors used to explain music are based on the idea that music is a language… albeit a secret one, and in this way, holy and unknowable. These joyful noises we make being the closest thing any of us might ever experience to the divine... yet something born by the mere act of moving air…”


Can someone who speaks so well be a brute? Can such a person be a bully? Can such a person approach the divine?


Banshees of Inisherin




This film shows how easy people can become estranged and how easily that estrangement, even among friends, can lead to violence. In this case shocking violence. Perhaps nowhere is that better understood than Ireland where former friends and neighbours have repeatedly come to blows, and worse, over minor disagreements. Sometimes the more minor the disagreement the more deadly the response to disagreement.

Ireland generates drinkers, great writers, and violence.  That is a potent brew. And it can be a toxic brew. It was in the case of Pádraic (played by Colin Farrell) and Colm played by (Brendan Gleeson).  I might add played brilliantly in both cases.

The movie opens with a sharp rupture between the two friends. The rupture occurs in a dark and dank Irish pub. How do I know it is dank?   It takes place in Ireland. Moreover, I can feel it. It must be dank.

The film takes place on the fictional island of Inisherin on the coast of Ireland and mainly in the homes of each of the protagonists and the nearby pub where, as good Irishmen they must sojourn. The setting is Ireland in 1923 when the Civil War was already firing separating erstwhile friends so the rupture here is merely a piece of the main. Occasionally shots are heard from the battle. But no explanation is offered.  Pádraic says he doesn’t even know what they’re fighting about, just like he doesn’t know why Colm is bent on separating from him and then going to such violent extremes to do it. That is how disputes so often go.

As in all art the particular is universal. Ireland is saturated with violent separations. So are the parties on Inisherin. Violence is inevitable. And so is the legendary mythic banshee cry that follows.

Notwithstanding the dankness of the pub, the pub is the heart and hearth of western civilization. Well at least Irish civilization. It is what civilization is all about. Convivial conversation and interesting music (art really) in the midst of darkness. An interesting feature of Irish pub music, which I love, is the democracy of it.  When I was in  Irish pubs it was explained to me that anyone can join the group of musicians sitting on chair in a corner, ignoring the audience. But in this case the civilizational aspect of it was broken by Colm abruptly breaking off the relationship with his friend Pádraic. He claims to do it to preserve his art. He feels he cannot take the time out from his art to spend time witha dullard like  Pádraic. But the severance seems deeply wrong. After it happens, Pádraic’s best friend is a donkey.

There is an interesting side bar involving a simple young man, Dominic, who is being beaten and abused by his brute of father. This is another parallel severance that results in violence with Dominic eventually found floating dead in the water. The cause of death is not clear, but he might have taken his own life. Once more no explanation is offered.

Pádraic  and his sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon)  both have little respect for Dominic as they think he is dull, echoing Colm’s views about  Pádraic. Dominic also asks her for a date but is rejected, just like Pádraic was rejected. Both rejections lead to violent deaths, suggesting that this is the common result of the severance of a relationship.

Throughout the film Pádraic runs into a quirky old woman who seemingly knows all the town gossip but is hungry for more. This is Mrs. McCormick (played by Sheila Flitton) and perhaps she is the banshee in the movie title.  According to Irish folklore a banshee is a wailing woman who signals an impending death. She seems bizarre and eerie befitting a banshee. And death does follow her.

In this way that convivium of the small community is shattered, selfishly and inexplicably but viscerally real. And what follows when the sense of belonging is wrenched apart is fierce violence. Again, that is something Ireland is quite accustomed to, but it is difficult to witness even in a film.  It is pungent barbarism. They may have forgotten why they are fighting but that does not heal the wounds.

I thought this was a fine film, well deserving of its accolades.


Top Gun: Maverick




As I have said before I am getting tired of modern action movies, particularly those involving super heroes or martial arts.  Fortunately, this action movie does not fit into those over-used genres, so I was open to it. Not thrilled about it, but I wanted to see all the films nominated for the Academy award for Best Picture. Besides I enjoyed the original Top Gun and a good friend of mine told me the original was the best film ever. I did not agree with that assessment but it was worth seeing. So was this one.

Action movies can be great. I have enjoyed them all my life and I enjoyed this one. It is worth seeing and not just for special effects. Is it the best film of those nominated? Not in my opinion. But it is worth the cost of admission and promises an entertaining couple of hours. What’s wrong with that? Is that not good enough?

Sometimes small pleasures are the fine pleasures.