In the Cut is not a new film, but many of you won’t have seen it, and some who saw it when it opened in 2003, amid critical abuse, should think of seeing it again. Then it may become new, beautiful and very disturbing. So, in the wake of the annual hysteria over our current movies, let me recall an “old” masterpiece, all the more resonant in that it was largely missed by the people whose business it is to guide us in what to see. Frannie lives in New York where she teaches English at a run-down college.
You may recollect that at the Academy Awards show last year, the hosting job went to Anne Hathaway and James Franco. She was 29 and he was 33, and there was a vague hope that they were young and hot enough to pull in the junior crowd for the television marathon. It didn’t work: Franco seemed bored, while Hathaway was trying too hard. There was no chemistry between them, and very little fun. So this year the host was going to be Eddie Murphy, but he backed off when the producer’s job was withdrawn from Eddie’s chum, Brett Ratner, on account of anti-gay remarks.
Since first seeing The Artist, I believed it was going to win Best Picture. It’s “different” without being challenging or difficult or worrying. The Artist could have been designed by a computer to appeal to anyone who has a sense of nostalgia for movie history. (And 54 percent of Academy voters are over sixty). It is also a light, entertaining picture in which froth passes for energy, and pat ironies are made to seem intelligent. I enjoyed it, until the moment I guessed how close it was to getting Best Picture.
Last Friday, the New York Times ran a double-page-spread ad for the new HBO series Luck. It featured quotes like “Sumptuous,” “Addictive,” “Compelling,” “Brilliant,” “Astonishing,” “Breathtaking.” (You know the sort of thing, you could write it yourself.) But after three episodes of Luck, I’m still hedging my bets and crossing my fingers—or just waiting to hear a line clearly. The show has plenty of credentials and promise.
The Iranian film A Separation, written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, seems to me the best film of 2011. It is one of the Academy Award nominees for Best Foreign Picture, but by any sense of justice in any nation (let alone the self-assessed greatest in the world) it would have been nominated for Best Picture before anything else. The ways in which the characters in A Separation struggle for truth and honor, while yielding sometimes to compromise and falsehood, is not foreign to us. Few other films made last year give such a striking sense of, “Look—isn’t this life?
In a recent article published in Sight & Sound just days after the death of Theo Angelopoulos, the director is quoted: “The only place I really feel at home is in a car next to a driver. I don’t drive myself, but I find the simple act of passing through landscapes very moving. The way I look at the world on my various travels is what essentially defines my filmmaking.” Sometimes artists die in what might be incidents from their own work.
It was in 1985 that the German film director Wim Wenders first saw the Pina Bausch dance company. He later admitted that he had had to be dragged to the event by a girlfriend. Though a lover of many types of music, Wenders was one of those who believed he simply didn’t get ballet or modern dance. But after a few moments of the performance, he was on the edge of his seat, so moved he was crying. He felt his life had been altered. Pina Bausch had been born in Dusseldorf in 1940 (that made her five years older than Wenders).
In The Iron Lady, a figure named Margaret Thatcher orders the sinking of the Argentinean battleship, the Belgrano. She “wins” the war of the Falkland Islands, just as she had won leadership of the Conservative party in Great Britain and had become the nation’s first female prime minister. As such, she imposed austerity cuts; she beat down the trade union movement; she gutted many parts of her country, especially the manufacturing north; and she restored a version of prosperity in the financial services industry that was lifted on the wave of the Internet.
On Thursday January 5th, I was trying to read the Seth Schiesel column on the front of the Arts section of the New York Times. After a few paragraphs, it said, “Continued on Page 5,” and my fingers made the natural leafing gestures to get me to five (no matter that I am used to Schiesel having large and merited front-page display). But “page 5” turned out to be “C3B” and a full-page ad for The Descendants.
“The Artist is a silent film!” … until the end, when tap dance and a few words give way to our applause. The whole thing is so damn clever and charming, it might just sneak off with Best Picture. Something will, and this film is unexpected, a crowd-pleaser, and promoted by the Weinstein brothers—a pattern that has worked before. Never mind if it’s not exactly a “best film.” Though The Artist borrows its storyline from A Star is Born, it drops that film’s sad ending.