Saturday, July 21, 2012

Grab Bag: Children of Men, Topkapi, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Children of Men, by Alfonso Cuaron, 2006

OK, everyone! You can all rest easy. I have finally seen Children of Men. Alfonso Cuaron's dystopian masterpiece about a man (Clive Owen) who must find a way to save the first child to be born in eighteen years is every bit as breathtaking as I'd hoped. What I love most about Cuaron's work (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, among others) is his complete commitment to the believability of the worlds he creates. Even his most fantastical worlds are always jammed with small details, often down to the most mundane things, which contribute to making the movie feel utterly real. The war scenes in Children of Men almost feel like a documentary. As the first movie ever to make me cry with the line "Pull my finger", what choice do I but to name Children of Men one of the best movies of the last decade?

Topkapi, by Jules Dassin, 1964

This is one of those cool-as-hell 60's heist movies like The Italian Job or The Thomas Crown Affair, where a bunch of likeable crooks get together to steal something very valuable for the thrill of it all. It's funny, really smartly plotted, and the heist itself is a hoot to watch them pull off. Peter Ustinov won a best supporting actor Oscar for his role as a small time crook brought in as a patsy but later recruited as a full partner in the heist. I'm sure this is one of the movies Steven Soderbergh had in mind when he made Ocean's 11, and there's a wire acrobatics scene that I'm certain inspired the one in Mission: Impossible. Topkapi is definitely worth checking out.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
, by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010

I'll stand by those last two movies, but Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is definitely one of those films that falls into the "Not For Everyone" category. Winner of the 2010 Cannes Palme d'Or award, Uncle Boonmee is the story of a terminally ill man in the last few days of his life, looking back at his past lives, and spending time with his family, including the ghost of his wife, and his son who went missing years before and has now returned as a human-ape hybrid creature. See? Not for everyone.

I can't say I loved it, but I found it strange and fascinating and inscrutable, and I would be interested in watching it again to see if I could decipher it a little more. The highlight for me was the scene at the dinner table where Boonmee's entire family is reunited for the first time in 19 years. The movie is rich with Thai, (or rather a specific region of Thailand) folklore and spirituality, with strong themes of death, change, and rebirth at the forefront. Again, I must stress, this movie is probably not for everyone, but if you ever wanted to see a romance between a woman and a catfish, this movie might be the one for you.


All three of these movies are worth your time, but Children of Men is essential viewing. I can't believe it took me six years to get around to it. Don't be like me!

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