Surprisingly, it was a rather spectacular summer for the cinema. After a two-year lull in quality cinema, things have picked up in 2002. First, both Monsoon Wedding and Kissing Jessica Stein hit the mark in the spring, and then the summer whopped out these five important, very aesthetic films.
5. Me Without You: Tracing the friendship span of two girls from childhood into adult years, this British film follows them from their shagadelic 1970’s styled childhood and sexually abandoned 80’s new wave teen years into their mildly matured adult years.
The friendship plays the centerpiece of the film and displays all the aspects of tight-knit female bonds -from the jealousy, to the dependency, to the love. In the climatic scene, Michelle William’s character explains why she wants to eradicate the friendship, particularly because “you make me hate myself.” This long confession to her friend might be one of the most honest speeches about female bonds made in recent film.
4. Lovely and Amazing: Although Catherine Keener basically plays the same character she has played in so many films, and Brenda Blethyn tries so hard to cover her British accent that you can’t help noticing, Lovely and Amazing still reveals the trouble two sisters have in ridding their psyches of values instilled by their insecure mother. Most importantly, all of the characters deal with issues of physical image that are seemingly passed down from mother to daughter. Genetic or not?
In one scene, Keener explains to her much younger, adopted sister why she is lucky to dodge the genetics fastenings of the family. “You don’t have to be like mom. Me, though, God, I can’t get rid of it.” While not exactly an amazing film, it definitely qualifies as being lovely.
3. Sunshine State: Sunshine State, a follow-up to John Sayles’ highly acclaimed Lone Star, finds Sayles in the same territory he has focused much of his work on for years. Like in City of Hope and Lone Star, this film’s characters deal with change in their community, and the tensions that run among various races.
In all of John Sayles’ movies, characters usually pair off, take long walks, and explain their various lives and situations to another character, who, in turn, explains about his/her own conflicted life.
These conversations almost take the form of cathartic lifesavers for the characters they involve. Most of the time they continue to drown, but this release of inner turmoil helps them stay afloat that much longer.
This is especially the case For Edie Falco’s character, who feels herself drowning under the weight of salvaging her dad’s boring motel business. Her conversation with a real estate prospector becomes nothing less than vital. As he leaves in the end, she finds herself back in the rut of everyday life. The last image is her face underwater, and this time the drowning is quite literal.
2. Insomnia: Memento fans beware: Christopher Nolan chose a much less innovative way to follow up his smash novice film. Quality cinema fans take note: Christopher Nolan improves upon Memento, creating a intricately paced second feature that finds Al Pacino, Robin Williams, and Hillary Swank all in top form. Nolan steadily balances the beauty of the Alaskan scenery with a tight, taut thriller story, complete with psychological investigation.
1. The Piano Teacher: One quarter of the way through The Piano Teacher, Isabelle Hubert’s character (the piano teacher of the title – very stubborn and authoritative) does something so sexually shocking yet realistic that I gagged (for the first time ever watching a movie). The most shocking aspects of this film are not the actual events on screen, but the realism that glows within them. A Cannes winner from last year, The Piano Teacher qualifies as one of the best foreign films to come out in quite some time.
Patrick Berkley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.