August 17th, 2012. Carpe Diem. Movies Reviewed: And If We All Lived Together?, Dimensions, This Space Available
Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.
Carpe diem: seize the day. Sometimes, when facing seemingly insurmountable odds, you just have to face the problem head-on, and go ahead with your outrageous plans. This week I’m looking at three films; a French social comedy about a group of elderly friends don’t want to live in old-age homes; a documentary about activists confronting the proliferation of public advertising; and a British historical meta-drama about a group of young scientists in Cambridge who want to go back in time.
Dir: Stéphane Robelin
A group of middle-class friends have held onto their bonds even in old age. But one of their number, Albert (Pierre Richard), seems to be slipping. He keeps an exquisite daily journal to keep track of events, but he’s never sure what year it is. And his wife, Jeanne (Jane Fonda), may be facing terminal cancer, but she’d rather pick out the most fashionable coffin she can find than to worry about surgery. So what will happen to Albert when she’s gone?
With the help of a leftist activist, Claude, and a couple, photographer Jean and Annie (Geraldine Chaplin), they decide to move in together, like college students in their first home. Meanwhile, after Albert hires Dirk, an anthro PhD student from Berlin, as a dog walker, he soon changes his ethnological thesis to look at the real lives of a distinct population: aging, white Europeans. So we get a birds-eye view of their sex lives, social lives, politics, and their long-buried secrets… which come to life again in their new close quarters.
What can I say? This is a sweet, gentle French comedy with excellent acting and realistic characters, including the sexuality of seniors. And you get to see Americans, Germans, and others happily acting in lovely, accented French.
Dir: Sloan U’Ren
Three children – Conrad, Steven and Victoria – are best friends, living in Cambridge in the 20s. They play by racing around willow trees, and dropping things into an extremely deep well. At a lawn party, they encounter a fascinating old professor who explains to them that time is not just something linear, like a piece of string, but also bendable, something that can be looped back again. He puts paper masks over their eyes with little slits in it to show what it’s like to live in two dimensions. We only have to learn to look outside our own restrictive masks, that trap humans in three dimensions. The three of them find it fascinating.
But when something terrible happens to Victoria, Conrad and Stephen become bitter rivals, riven with guilt.
The movie then jumps to the 1930s where they are working together again, with another woman, Annie, to build a functional time machine so they can stop history, and the tragic loss of their friend. If, as they suppose, in parallel universes all possible events might exist, then they should be able to escape the flawed one they live in. One of them must dive right in and change time. But who will it be? And might Victoria already be with them?
This is a fascinating and intricate meditation shaped into a meta-narrative, where the characters end up wondering whether they are emperors dreaming they’re butterflies or butterflies dreaming they’re emperors. It’s part drama, and part puzzle, filmed in period costume beside the University on the banks of the river Cam.
Are billboards taking over the world? Sometimes it seems that way. Experts estimate that in 1984 Americans saw 2000 advertising images a day. And it’s tripled since then. Billboards, online banner ads, posters, pop-ups, and traditional commercials. Apparently Japanese advertisers have come up with urban digital screens that read your age and sex and change to target the viewer of the moment. And their ever growing sizes – sometimes illegally wrapping entire 30-storey buildings and turning them into city-sized ads – are becoming more and more common.
But what can we do to counter this? The documentary takes a look at activists around the world and what they’re doing to stop this. It was shot around the world, in Tokyo, Bombay, Moscow, Sao Paolo and across North America.
Graffiti artists slightly alter messages to change them from ads to dire statements. In Toronto, artist activists are replacing crass paper posters on kiosks and in bus shelters with beautiful, translucent prints, paintings and conceptual installations. And local politicians – in places like Houston and Sao Paolo – ban billboards altogether, exposing long hidden parks, spectacular architecture, and breathtaking urban vistas, lost for decades.
But what about freedom of speech? US court rulings have stated, you have no right to illegally post billboards; just the right to post what you want once given legal permission to use the space. But in reality, the bigger the company, the less likely to be fined for illegal postings.
This is a good introduction both to the value and the harm of outdoor visual and sound advertising and how it has changed our lives.
And If We All Lived Together and This Space Available open today in Toronto, And Dimensions will be showing for one night only, August 18th. check your local listings. And it’s only three weeks until TIFF — North America’s biggest film festival and one of the most important ones in the world. Ticket packages are still available, including ones for students and seniors.
This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com .