Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hope nourishes.

It always feels great watching a string of powerfully good (in an aesthetic and moral sense) films. Still Life washed over me like the Yangtze, giving this alligator a much needed washing.

Before and after Still Life, I caught two screwball comedies, My Man Godfrey and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Both good for the heart and good for the belly (those belly laughs were probably the most exercise I'd gotten in a month). Watching classic comedies like these only leaves me more disgusted by the wave of raunch that Smith and Apatow and others are hurling at us like so much raw emesis.

Most importantly, I just finished watching Eric Rohmer's swan song, The Romance of Astrea and Celadon.

In the context of a cineplex full of raunch and a citizenry fed with filth, viewing The Romance of Astrea and Celadon is like trying to eat an expertly prepared gourmet meal after years of Big Macs and fries at McDonald's. Or tackling Rogue's Chipotle Ale (dang, that's good stuff) when all you're used to is Bud Light.

The audiences I have in mind will either
a) never hear of the movie (most likely)
b) hear of it and decide not to see it (too bad)
c) see it and condemn it (as a natural reaction to being condemned)
d) repent and believe (unlikely)

This movie's flavor assaults my taste buds with something so strange and new, but feeling so right. I celebrate its succulence and recognize hints of spices that I must know. This meal, so new, feels old and foundational, like maybe all other meals have been derivative and degradations.

I feel like the bad food critic who neglects writing his review in favor of lingering longer with the aftertaste of such an exotically familiar offering. When it does come time to write, there are no easy words to use to describe such an (in both the archaic and modern sense) original feast.

Then there are others, cinephiles, those who seek challenges, who will disagree with Rohmer's audacious pedagogical attempts to teach us pure love, but will hopefully still have the honesty to admit that Rohmer is true to his moral vision to the very end.

There are some who think that Rohmer fails in his moralizing and in his period staging, which is okay, as long as they don't condescend to calling the movie 'silly' or 'bad.' There are many stylistic choices that are jarring to modern audiences, but all is staged appropriately, as if an old film director in the 21st century had somehow traveled through time with his recording equipment, making a film about the 5th century in the 17th century, firmly grounded in the concerns of the 21st century.

Astrea and Celadon also engages in an interesting conversation with Still Life. Astrea and Celadon is about two persons, engaged in pure love, becoming one inseparable person. Still Life, on the other hand, is about two separate couples who have been cleaved apart, leaving behind each individual as a separate half instead of as a separate whole; impurity reigns and heartache is natural (though at least one character fights this). Astrea and Celadon and Still Life both hold up a mirror to our current paradigm of casual sexuality, shaming us all to whatever degree we participate in it.

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