Sunday, December 16, 2018


I'm still recovering from my trip to California and whatever I came down with on my return. Up until today, my brain has been too exhausted to function much beyond the capacity to watch movies on TV. So that's mostly what I've been doing (along with "lots of fluids" "rest" etc.). Usually it's an old movie, but two more recent ones I watched were ROMA and THE DEATH OF STALIN, filmic recreations of historic moments.
I'm still too fried to write much, but all the positive things you've heard about Alfonso Cuaron's evocation of the world of his childhood in early 1970s Mexico are true. ROMA is a movingly brilliant film with a stillness at its center despite the domestic and national dramas unfolding throughout it. And that stillness can be attributed to Cuaron's directorial (and scriptwriter's) restraint (starting with the choice of black and white film) at the heart of which is his casting of non-actress Yalitza Apacano, who as the domestic servant Cleo is the star of the film, and whose soulful presence elevates what might have been an otherwise mundane tale to great art.

I missed THE DEATH OF STALIN when it came out last year, though friends kept recommending it. Now I see why they did. I just couldn't see how this cast playing those historic figures would be anything more than bad farce. But I was wrong. The casting is perfect because it is so unexpectedly bizarre, skinny little Steve Buscemi playing the rotund Kruschev? Let alone the others. But Buscemi so owns the character of Kruschev as seen through director (and co-screenwriter) Armando Iannuci's eyes, that I bought his "essence-of" characterization immediately. Not an easy film, but a satisfying work of art.

What both movies have in common is their adherence to historic realities no matter how quietly or bizarrely they are portrayed, and the unavoidable connection between the personal and the political, at whatever level we experience them.

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