Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 12

Now we're down to the final stretch. 2 movies a night from Monday through Thursday. And I am so grateful that Presidents Day is a paid holiday at my work. I really needed the chance to sleep late, update my blog, and spend a leisurely day before heading up to the movies.

First up was FORTY YEARS FROM YESTERDAY, set in the small town of King's City, California (co-director Robert Machoian's hometown) and starring non-actors (some from Machoian's family) it's a simple, carefully constructed, and surprisingly beautiful story. One day, after his morning run, Bruce comes home and finds that Suzette, his wife of 40 years, has passed away unexpectedly. We then follow two parallel paths, told through the quiet, ordinary moments that are usually left out of a movie. One path is Bruce's mourning process. Questioning his faith, talking to family, going through his days. The other path has a documentary feel, as the funeral home picks up and loads the body, cleans her, dresses her, and prepares her for burial. They are also training a new employee (I got the sense both the assistants were the mortician's sons, but I don't think that was ever said.) So we get a subtle glimpse into the process as he's learning the ropes.

I can't help but review this movie from a very personal perspective (more so than most of my reviews) because it's a very personal movie. I have friends--friends whose opinions about movies I respect quite a lot and usually agree with--who found this movie boring. They got nothing out of it, and I can understand that but I actually got quite a lot. As I've mentioned a few times on this blog, I lost both my paternal grandparents in the past couple of years. So I was back at the same cemetery three times (twice for burials, once for a headstone unveiling, with another unveiling upcoming this summer.) I was a pallbearer for both funerals and was guided by the same man (I don't know what you call the guy at the cemetery who oversees the logistics of stuff like that) and found myself both times thanking him for his help. And I realized something I could finally articulate after seeing this movie. We think at a funeral that we gather together with friends and family to find comfort in mourning together. And we do...but a group of fellow mourners are better at sympathizing than comforting, and that's an important distinction. Actually, a bunch of sad people can be really bad at providing comfort. Even when they try to make it a celebration of life and tell funny stories about the deceased, it's still not great comfort. But I found comfort in the fact that there are professionals who deal with the logistics of death and burial with grace, dignity, courtesy, and professionalism. At least, to me it's a comfort. Your mileage may vary.

And then to Poland for the opposite end of the timeline of life with BABY BLUES. 17 year old Natalia (Magdalena Berus) has a little baby Antek. She loves him, and is...generally a good mother. But she's still a teenager, and subject to all the various temptations of youth. For better or worse, she's intent on making sure having a baby doesn't ruin her own childhood. That's evident in the opening scene where she confronts her baby-daddy about his alleged infidelity and then confidently roller skates away with Antek in the stroller. The father, Kuba (Nikodem Rozbicki), is 18 years old and not much of a father at all. He's way more into skateboarding with his friends or just laying back and lighting up a joint. The colorful energy masks how serious it is to have a baby, particularly when you're still a child yourself. So while all these hijinx are going on, you just sort of know that the other shoe has to drop. Something horrible will happen eventually, and...I'm not giving away the ending. You'll have to watch it for yourself, maybe it all works out in the end (SPOILER ALERT: no it doesn't.) A pretty great movie, even given the technical glitch that disrupted the climactic scene.

Oh, and also add "blue" to the list of Indiefest themes this year--goldfish, pregnancy, breaking glass, vomiting, and blue. Not just in the titles--BLUE RUIN, BLUEBIRD, BABY BLUES, but it seems to be a recurring color theme, too.

Total Running Time: 185 minutes
My Total Minutes: 352,320
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