Clandestine, Intimate. Movies Reviewed: Suitcase of Love and Shame, Your Day is My Night, The Place Beyond the Pines

Posted in Art, China, Crime, Cultural Mining, documentary, Drama, Linked Stories, Movies, Secrets, Suspicion, Uncategorized by CulturalMining.com on April 14, 2013

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.

Film festivals continue in Toronto. Cinefranco is on through the weekend, with two new ones starting today. The Toronto Jewish Film Festival is bringing comedies, dramas, documentaries and musicals from around the world. Images is a festival of art, moving images and sound –projected on movie and video screens in theatres and art galleries. This week I’m looking at three films, all from the US, that are both clandestine and intensely intimate and personal. Two films at Images: one’s about a long-distance sexual relationship, the other about people who share the same bed… just not at the same time. And the third movie is about how family rivalries can carry on over generations.

LoveShame_Hers1Suitcase of Love and Shame

Dir: Jane Gillooly

It’s the 1960s in middle-America. A married man and a single woman are having a secret, sexual affair. They meet in hotels, a hospital, a planetarium, and record their sexual encounters and fantasies. He promises her he’ll leave his wife so they can be together – but someone else may be listening in. Sounds like a Hollywood movie, but it’s not.

This highly unusual film uses a suitcase of reel-to-reel tapes from the 60’s that someone bought on eBay. It’s the story of two nameless, faceless people who recorded their affair on two tape-recorders, words they LoveandShame-Postcardnotext-5x5.5-300dpi-938x1024believed would only be heard by the two of them.

(Here’s a clip: on podcast)

The audio is accompanied by simple, images of period artifacts – tape boxes, matchbooks – and filmed “still lifes” of suburban homes, dogs, cars. The sexually-charged, explicit dialogue is paired with simple, non-sexual but private-seeming visuals. As a viewer, you’re an audio-voyeur, hearing things you’re not supposed to know about. Jane Gillooly has made a haunting, very intimate film, out of material from long before the days of youtube.

Your_Day_Is_My_Night_Two_Men_sing-800x450Your Day is My Night

Dir: Lynne Sachs

This movie is about Chinese immigrants, documented and otherwise, living in close quarters in Manhattan’s Chinatown. By close quarters, I mean so close that people actually share their beds – half of the tenants work day shifts, half at night. It’s a very diverse crowd, speaking mutually unintelligible dialects. They each tell their own stories. Some do it in casual conversations. Others in a grand manner: like a classic Chinese storyteller, enunciating each word.

Your_Day_Is_My_Night_Tsui_Face2-800x450This sort of dwelling is not unique to New York. I remember spending time at the notorious Chunking Mansions, an apartment and flophouse high-rise in Kowloon, which had people sleeping in beds so close that the next stranger’s bed was just a curtain away. But I’ve never seen anything quite like this.

I’d call it a scripted documentary.

There’s a wedding singer, a poorly paid worker, a grandmother, a masseur. They each have their say, either in the kitchen, on one of the mattresses they sleep on, or outside on the streets of New York Chinatown. They talk about lost ancestors, about fear of the subway, about Ai Weiwei, about sweet potato varieties.

This is an art piece – so it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s staged. But the content seems real enough, as do the people – identified by name. And the stories are fascinating.

Gosling Place Beyond Pines circus cageThe Place Beyond the Pines

Dir Derek Cianfrance

This is another unusually structured movie, made of three sequential parts. The first part is about Luke (Ryan Gosling).

Luke is a travelling carnie who is in Schenectady, NY for the annual fair there. He’s a bleach-blond, tattooed, motorcycle stunt rider, a darling of the pre-teen set. He’s just passing through when he discovers last year’s fling with Romina (Eva Mendes) brought her a bouncing baby boy named Jason. He’s a father! Romina has a home and a boyfriend now, but Luke wants to be with his son and support him. So he quits his job with the circus, stays in town, and turns to robbing banks on his motorcycle to raise the necessary cash. He ends up in a shootout with a rookie cop, Avery (Bradley Cooper). Like Luke, Avery also has a one-year old boy, named A.J.

Place Beyond Pines Bradley Cooper Evidence RoomThe second part is about Avery, who is forced either to confront the corrupt local police force or to join in.

And the third part, is about the two grown-up sons, now 16-year-olds, who are brought together for the first time, as discover how their fathers once crossed paths.

Fortunately, this movie starts with an amazing scene which has Luke on his cycle entering a spinning metal circus globe and zooming around and around inside it – like a human hotwheels car driver. Cool. Unfortunately, it’s downhill from there. That’s the happiest scene in the movie. There are chases and shootouts and love and loss, but the whole movie has a fatalistic feel. Society, class, fatal decisions and Place Beyond the Pines Emory Cohen Dane De Haancircumstance try to push us all in certain predetermined directions It’s up to us to make the right decisions.

Visually it’s a very nice movie, and the acting is good, but I found the story rather pat. Cianfrance’s last film, Blue Valentine, was all sex – this one is mainly violence. I enjoyed it, but the blatant story manipulation left me with a meh feeling.

Your Day is My Night is playing on the 19th and Suitcase of Love and Shame is playing tonight at 9 pm, both at Images; go to imagesfestival.com for more information; and The Place Beyond the Pines also opens tonight. Check your local listings.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com .

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