Monday, November 16, 2015

Lisbon Story (1994)

I'm so glad that I recently stumbled across this film at the dollar store. It's a shame that such a gem was not purchased for what it was worth, but it is with thanks to this venue that it found it's way into my hands and before my eyes (And, to think I nearly put it back!).

This film was more than I expected it to be, because frankly it sounds like a slow-moving plot, and not very exciting:

Fritz invites his friend Phil to Lisbon, where he claims he needs his help. Phil, an idealist, wishing to help his friend and to do some work, manages to find his way there, only to show up without Fritz anywhere to be found. 

So Phil, a thoughtful and positive observer, moves into Fritz's humble abode and befriends the local children who wander playfully through the streets. Phil then starts about his work; He travels around Lisbon looking for Fritz and along the way picks up the breadcrumbs of clues as to the work Fritz had called him here to do. Phil reads the books Fritz left behind, discovering where Fritz's addled mind had been over the last month or so before he disappeared,
 ("Ah não ser eu toda a gente e toda a parte!". This phrase (roughly translated as "Would I be everybody and everywhere!"), written in one of the walls of the house where Winter's staying, is the last verse of "Ode Triunfal", a poem by Álvaro de Campos, one of the three main heteronyms of Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa.) 

and he starts to record the sounds of the city to match the images he finds that Fritz had captured. Along the way he befriends a Fado band, Madredeus, who has an enchanting lead singer. (The music is very beautiful!)

Though the idea for the film is merely intriguing enough, the scenery was beautiful and the Lisbon life captured was charmingly pleasant. Stopping to smell the roses truly feels like something of value and purpose in this film, something I believe we too often overlook the significance of in our lives. The very fact that this is an artful act is valuable. Phil even makes his mishaps seem like worthwhile events.

Ultimately though, I found the lead actor added much to the film with his endearing character; humorous in his human authenticity at his goofy mishaps, in his stumbling over himself in-love with the beautiful singer, and in his being so eager to capture the beauty of the city and to share this joy with the children (and with us). I found myself engaged through the whole film, wanting to know what Phil might wander into, what happened to Fritz, and if Phil will piece together this story he's stumbled into?

A simple, yet truly delightful film. It has settled onto my heart and nestled in to it's very own spot there.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Cashback (2007)

The title doesn't do much to explain what the film is about. A young man, struggling with insomnia due to a breakup, gets an night-shift job in a grocery store.

With it's affecting score and film-making style, the film succeeds in bringing the ordinary into the extraordinary. Combined with the lead's voice-overs, this gives the film an authentic presence. We feel what he feels and see what he sees. We open ourselves up to the simple beauty that exists around us. So many others are blind to it, because they are too busy with managing it to appreciate it. They are too accustomed to trudging through the boring day to day monotony, to stop and stay open to the good things that may exist in each moment.

This is portrayed through effective juxtapositions of attitude in the characters:
While the lead is an artist, who appreciates the aesthetics of a woman's body in and of itself, celebrating it's beauty romantically and gently, from afar, many of the other characters objectify women's bodies out of lust (their way of managing it for their own purposes). While lust is also a reality for Ben, it is not the purpose.

In reality, anyone coming across such a man as the lead character could see his attentions in women as creepy and frustratingly detached as he peers at you quietly, stopping in place in his task at the supermarket.Women may imagine that Ben is imaging stripping their clothes off for lascivious purposes, but no, that is the average man. Perhaps the creepiness factor is attributed to not understanding his simple reason for admiration, a fear that there is some other motive or reason than what is normally acceptable for a man to observe.

Yet, Ben's attentions are actually more ideal and respectful than the commonly accepted objectifications existing rampantly in our modern culture, and as exhibited by the other male characters.

The difference is that there is more to it for Ben, but not in any creepy way. The difference is the unnerving authenticity behind his gaze. The basic fact that he is not just a man in front of a woman, but he is a whole individual, in front of a whole individual. That he actually sees you. That you are seen the way you always wished you would be seen, you are gently honoured for who you simply are, but there are no words to explain or confirm that it is so. This is what actually scares us as women: that he is genuine, that he renders us vulnerable before him and that this demands a level of commitment from us if we are to accept his authenticity. For some women, they need time to ease into, to learn of and to trust such a commitment. Perhaps they have been fooled and hurt in the past.

For Ben, the most average beauty in the film develops further significance and becomes more beautiful, as you get to know her and learn to appreciate her for her interests, goals and values.

In the end, love is simple.

Love is there if you want it to be. You just have to see that it's wrapped in beauty and hidden away in between the seconds of your life. If you don't stop for a minute, you might miss it. "