I'm hoping to capture in this web-based journal many of the cultural events that I enjoy.
Friday, December 29, 2006
Film Night at the Museum (Shawn Levy, 2006)
I took two friends, ages twelve and almost thirteen, to the theatre today; they wanted to see Eragon, which seems to be an adventure story ala Lord of the Rings but which I found poor reviews of. Instead, we went to another film they wanted to see, Night at the Museum. It turned out to be a film that I liked much more than I had expected to - it was fun to see the animation and special effects of a museum coming to life at night, and to see such great actors as Dick Van Dyke (Cecil), Mickey Rooney (Gus), and Bill Cobbs (Reginald) as the three retiring security guards.
Today we met a friend to see The Queen, a film about the English monarchy's insistence on privacy upon Princess Diana's death. The public is anxious to have a chance to share their grief and hear some words of consolation from their Queen but family strains and the divorce of Diana from Charles, Prince of Wales (Alex Jennings), as well as their historic sense of public decorum, keeps them from reacting to the unprecedented outpouring of grief. Newly elected Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) is portrayed as helping to alert the Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (well played by Helen Mirren) to the terrible disservice he sees the monarchy doing to its own position in public opinion in her silence.
It was a good film that was enjoyable to see. I can't judge its authenticity, but presumably is based on fact. The music, particularly the last piece, added to the film's pulse and tone.
As part of the Masters of French Film series at the NC Museum of Art, we saw the delightful 1958 film, Mon Oncle. It was my first exposure to Jacques Tati's work; he directs this film and also stars as the rather clueless uncle M. Hulot to a bored child. The child's father is head of a factory and the mother keeps their satirically portrayed ultra-modern home, with unusual fish fountain turned on whenever somebody to be impressed ventures in, rather antiseptic.
The opening credits below give a sense to the lighthearted spirit of the film. I also found another clip, in French, which shows children teasing passersby with the hapless uncle taking unfair blame.
Film Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles (Qian li zou dan qi; Yimou Zhang, 2005)
Tonight, my wife and I very much enjoyed seeing Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles at a Chapel Hill, NC theatre. It was a beautiful film of a Japanese man, Gou-ichi Takata (Ken Takakura) sadly estranged from his son, Ken-ichi. The daughter-in-law, Rie Takata played by Shinobu Terajima, ever hoping to bring the family together, calls to tell the father about Ken-ichi's sudden hospitalization with liver cancer. Takata-san rushes back to Tokyo, but the son won't see him, even though he has made a long journey to the hospital from a remote fishing village.
Trying to reconcile a non-communicative relationship, the father visits rural China to attempt to complete the filming that the son had begun of a Chinese opera, "Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles". The film is the sometimes-funny, often poignant, and always scenic story of Takata-san's journey - a lead actor imprisoned, unable to perform as he weeps for his son whom he has never met; a Chinese guide who speaks only broken Japanese; villagers who roll out an amazingly long and warm welcome mat (literally covering what seems to be the main street with a linear banquet that goes as far as one can see) to introduce Takata-san to the actor's son; the actor's son who may not be ready to meet his unknown father; and Rie and her cell phone updates about Ken-ichi.
It's a beautiful film with just-enough sparse dialogue, spectacular mountain scenery, lovable and realistic characters, and a soul that speaks to family relations. You can visit both the film's website and its imdb entry for more information and images, including English language trailers.