The papal conclave is a fascinating process because of its spiritual implications. According to Catholic dogma, the pope is infallible when he acts in any official capacity. What does that say about the cardinals who elect him? Do they temporarily have the power to grant infallibility? And what about the ones who vote for the wrong guy? Perhaps God denies them the power and/or wisdom to decide St. Peter’s successor. These are the thoughts I had during the opening of We Have a Pope, which begins with a conclave. Director Nanni Moretti addresses these questions in an oblique way since his film is not a grave religious drama, but a gentle human comedy.
There is a reason many romantic comedies conform to a tried-and-true formula, and it has little to do with the expectations of the audience. Most romantic comedies end with an affirmation of a relationship, whether it’s a marriage or a declaration of love, because of what comes afterward. By dwelling on the couple longer, there is a risk of reaching the ennui ofThe Graduate’s long, final bus ride. Formula tweaks are what make The Five-Year Engagement, the new romantic comedy by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, unintentionally gloomy. By favoring realism, it sometimes has more in common with Ingmar Bergman’s work than it does with Nora Ephron’s.
Cut is the damnedest thing: a visceral allegory whose point is obscure to everyone but the filmmaker. Iranian director Amir Naderi literally lists his influences with on-screen title cards. The technique is bold and may impress cinephiles who like to name-drop, even if its self-appointed “cinematic purity” will probably hurt its chances for any wide distribution.
I hate those goddamn Sarah McLachlan ads. When those cloying ballads start and there is footage of those dogs, I do not feel pity for them. Instead, I resent the shamelessness of the ad. That being said, I understand why they do it. The reaction to suffering animals is often stronger than the reaction to suffering people. As a corollary to this, filming a murdered dog is a surefire way to galvanize sympathy for the owner and scorn for the killer. I know this because I watched two dead dog movies in one day.
Movie fatigue can be a serious problem. By watching too many movies in a day, the ability to appreciate and think about them is lost. Scenes and characters blend together, becoming a murky impression instead of anything specific. I cap my consumption at three a day – not counting short films – and still I detect similar patterns. That’s the case with Resolution and First Winter, which are both about young people who are stuck in a house in the woods. The former in a slow-burning thriller, the best film I’ve seen at the festival (so far), and the latter is ultimately less gripping.
The Lady opens with a scene of tranquility, one where a father gives his daughter a primer on Burma’s history. Without advance knowledge of who the father and daughter are, we already know tragedy will befall them. Once they part, the camera lingers on the father a little too long, so there is little surprise when he’s shot in cold blood. Director Luc Besson is no stranger to violence – he’s directed and produced some of the best action films of the past two decades – so what’s remarkable about the sequence is the father’s calm. He faces his assassin without fear. The daughter, Aung San Suu Kyi, shares his admirable resolve, which will come to inspire her countrymen. According to Besson’s version, regrettably, her courage does not her justify her personal sacrifices. I don’t think this is intentional.