Woman Walks Ahead: This movie was released back in 2017 and didn’t have much critical acclaim nor was it well received. It stars Jessica Chastain, a personal favourite, as well as Sam Rockwell, Cirian Hinds and Michael Greyeyes as Sitting Bull. Set in the 1890s, it is a story of a woman from New York City, who once widowed decides to venture into the West and try to use her dormant painting skills on some native Indians. In this case, she had the ambition to paint the notorious Sitting Bull, of General Custer fame. Off she goes into the wild, wild west. On her train ride she meets briefly the Sam Rockwell character who is assigned from the army. They do not get along, and this continues throughout. It seems that the locals do not want her in the small town. She is bound and determined to have an audience with Sitting Bull himself. The story moves on with a familiar refrain from Dances With Wolves. There is a political bent, where a vote is to be taken about how lands currently in the hands of the Sioux are to be addressed. This is a relevant story for Canada presently as we deal with the latest revelations about children’s bodies being dug up at various residential schools run by the church but funded by the Federal government. Neither the US nor Canada can hold their head’s high as to how we have treated the Native Indian populations. They are a black mark on our history, but a history reflective of the times where there were powerful nations looking to take over other nations. See a movie like The Mission, and how the Spanish treated the native peoples in Central and South America. It isn’t very Christian, even while looking to spread the word of God. I think that this didn’t deserve the nasty reception it had when first released. It was okay. I think the portrayal of Sitting Bull was well done, from an unknown actor to me. Jessica Chastain is more than a step up from the actual Catherine Weldon in looks, and I cannot comment on the historical accuracy of some of the claims in the movie. But in a time when I have watched some rather awful shows and movies, I didn’t hate this one. In fact I learned a little about the process (fair or otherwise) undertaken by a invading army of white people.
Another Round: Just recently released on Crave. It stars Mads Mikkelsen, in a Dutch movie from 2020. Mads you will recognize as Le Chiffre in Casino Royale (Bond) as well as the father in Star Wars: Rogue One. He plays Martin, a middle aged, married high school teacher with two kids. Life has become pretty ordinary. He teaches, but he is mailing in the classes, and he asks his wife whether he is “boring”. His wife who has been working nights doesn’t know how to respond. On the 40th birthday of a colleague, he heads out and meets for a small party of four teachers. He is the History teacher, the others teach Gym, Music and Psychology. The friends talk about a study which suggest that humans were born with .05% less alcohol in their system than they need, and it encourages people to drink daily to counteract the imbalance. They are skeptical but ultimately, Martin tries just to change up the existing pattern in his life. He is in a rut and wants to stir things up. The alcohol loosens him up, he is more relaxed and more engaging with his class. The colleagues find out about it at school, and decide they should all take this on as a research project, and they are going to write about it. The experiment commences with predictable results early on. Query whether just doing something new, anything, would improve the in-class teaching better for these men? They write about it. They decide to increase the amount of alcohol. Things move ahead. Predictably things change as the amount of alcohol increases. Things happen, and then other things happen. It goes in a few different directions, which were in some cases a surprise to me. By exploring a mid-life crisis, or at the very least an evaluation of where we are in our lives as we have finished our exciting twenties and “settled down”, it is interesting to see each individual reacts. It is trite to say that we are all unique, but in this instance there are those who likely should not explore the idea of expanding their alcohol tolerance. As one thinks back on the artists regarded as monumental, like a Mozart, or Hemingway, Van Hogh or Churchill or others we see that many had a well known relationship to alcohol or other outside stimulants (legal and illegal, as we we absynthe referred to). Of course the message is one of moderation, in much in life, but the greater message is one of staying true to yourself, and pushing yourself to get out of perceived ruts. I have always maintained that I don’t need alcohol to have fun. Others weren’t convinced and at an early age choose to partake. Life is full of choices. Although this film has subtitles, is is every bit engaging as English speaking films. It won the Best Foreign Film Oscar. I hesitate to add that as it stands on its own as an interesting story – one basically unknown to me. But this is a worthwhile investment in time. Enjoy. I did.