April 27th, 2020

I am a fan of the body of work that Willem Dafoe has put together over his career.  I think he shows a great deal of flexibility in the roles that he portrays.  He is another in a long line of actors who embodies the people he is portraying (living or fictional).   I recently saw him in The Lighthouse, which I reviewed just last week.  He has been around a long time, and at the age of 65yo, he is showing no signs of stopping.   He has played Jesus of Nazareth in the controversial (at the time) Scorsese film The Last Temptation of Christ.   He also played the unfortunate Sgt. Elias in Platoon.   He has been nominated four times for an Oscar including in the performance of the film At Eternity’s Gate that I have been meaning to see.   I actually ended up renting this from the Cineplex website.   It was a deal.   All that preamble about Willem Dafoe was to say that his performance in this is excellent.  This time he plays Vincent Van Gogh, the famous Dutch born painter who’s fame and recognition only came to pass after he passed away.   Van Gogh died at his own hand (which was the prevailing thought) when he was 38yo.  Young.  Too young.  Dafoe plays the tortured soul well.  But he is far too old to portray the artist.  I would have thought that a younger actor could be found.  Despite the age, it is still a well told and performed story.  This movie has an alternate idea on how Vincent met his untimely end.   It also brings forth the idea of a ledger which was given to Vincent and was later returned to the person filled with his sketches.   This ledger was only discovered in 2016.   Remarkable and not without controversy.   The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam denies its authenticity.  The film focuses on the time Van Gogh spent in Arles France after deciding to leave Paris, along with fellow artist Paul Gaugin (played by Oscar Isaac, who is also very good).    You see the loneliness of Van Gigh and his desire for love, friendship and acceptance.  He and Gaugin were friends but as they have a falling out, he suffers as Gaugin leaves.  Later Van Gogh readily acknowledges that despite his art not being well accepted, this is how he sees the world.   He is looking to have people see the world through his eyes.  He loves nature, and he paints nature because for him it is perfect.   This film is filmed interestingly too.  Plenty of tight facial shots and filters (like a yellow hue) which reflects Vincent’s focus on sunlight.   It reminds me a little of Terrence Malick, but I hesitate to mention this director in the same breath as Malick.   It was just an impression.   I am glad that I sought this out, and it brought forward some new ideas about the life of Vincent Van Gogh.   Sadly his younger brother Theo didn’t live much longer than Vincent did, and was dead within a year.   The brothers were so very close.   For a man who the people of Arles France didn’t want in their town near the end, he has left a more memorable lasting worldwide impact than any of them likely.

Article on the Van Gogh ledger:

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/nov/15/newly-discovered-van-gogh-drawings-labelled-imitations-museum

Friday night I noted that the Spanish film Pain and Glory was on Crave.  Starring the Academy nominated Antonio Banderas as an aging director looking back upon his life.   The film is at the beginning focused on the director, who has been unable to work as a director because of constant ailments (primarily back pain).   He is asked about attending the reissuance in theatres of a film made many years before.   He is asked too about bringing the principal actor who he has spoken to in 32 years, because he didn’t take direct well and his vision.   They meet.   They begin to chat more and interact.  All the while the past of this director is shown with his mother (played by Penelope Cruz) and his father and their struggles.  He was a precocious boy, who sang beautifully, and wrote and read well.   Mom always wanted the best for him.   Layers of his life come to light and you as viewer see more and more.  It takes some unexpected turns, as life can do.   Much like Vincent who feels that he can only be a painter and was meant to be a painter, this man was meant to be a director.  When he isn’t, then he is lost with no purpose.   As he reconnects, and better understands his life, he learns about himself.    This is a satisfying story well told and well acted.   It was nominated for Best Foreign Film.    Justifiably so.   As the director for Parasite Boon Joon Ho would say (I paraphrase) “some of the best films have subtitles”.

I finished Season 2 of Westworld.  This is a series where one has to pay attention.  The story jumps around a lot, between the situations and the characters.   It has some heavy hitters with Ed Harris, and Sir Anthony Hopkins.  Evan Rachel Wood plays Dolores Abernathy as a robot character in a scripted story who seeks freedom.   Thandie Newton plays another robot character, looking to find a protect a daughter in her story that she swore to save.   I do think that the most interesting character is Bernard, played by Jeffrey Wright, who is a go-between with the human outside world and the robots.   Roles flip back and forth.  Hunter becomes hunted.  Slave is made master, or at the least in a position to better control their destiny.  The series underscores the dangers of artificial intelligence (A.I.) and playing God.   It is a significant investment in time.   I am hearing that season 3 is better than season 2.   Not sure that I recommend to readers to spend that time, but maybe I can view Season 3 and see whether this is in fact the case.

And finally, from the serious and sublime to the mindless and stupid.  If you liked twenty-something relationship train wreck Love is Blind, then NetFlix’s Too Hot to Handle may be right up your alley.   In it, we have model-like twenty-somethings who are uber-sexual, and think to a person they are “at that and a bag of chips”.  They enter to a month long stay at a tropical paradise, and then find out that the $100,000 prize has money deducted for kissing, sexual touching or masturbation.   This from a group who collectively measure themselves with suntan lotion bottles and brag of having sex every day with different people (the days of AIDS have long since left and are forgotten).   Some readily admit to “not being that bright” while others just plainly show it (“I don’t even know where Australia is” from a Florida blonde).   Vancouver model Francesca shows herself not only to be vindictive, but also so confident in herself and her ability to get and keep anybody, that she just screams out to have a lesson in humility.   There is a vague interest in teaching some valuable relationship lessons to these young people, but they fall in most cases on deaf ears.    There is plenty of eye candy for male and female viewers with bikinis and body builder bodies in various forms of undress.   This is mind candy in the truest sense of the word where you can shut off your mind and picture the beaches in Mexico.   In this last week of April, thoughts of a beach, any beach is a welcome escape.

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