The natural beauty of a regal wilderness and the charm of an old culture are captivating, but the film, inspired by a Tom Bissell story, “Expensive Trips Nowhere,” turns on the kind of tale of challenged love that anyone could see himself or herself in.
Miller is a useful fiction in Arbitrage, a film that shows what happens when a man’s sense of his own power begins to lose touch with reality: a great business deal fails, the contradictions in his private life become obvious, and his social position is threatened.
The film was inspired by Walter Wager’s novel Viper Three, a book that did not have an explicit political theme; and it was adapted by Ed Huebach and Ronald M. Cohen, giving the director Robert Aldrich the kind of material with social resonance that he wanted to deal with. That political vision attracted other participants.
Brian and Janet do get married; and their wedding dance is a howl of fun—and the comments that Mike makes as a toast confirm the ceremony as a communal ritual, and Gabby’s ribald comments are amusing, sisterly, useful. It is all a sweet interlude.
It can be hard to feel intimate with characters that are always in song supported by an orchestra, but the actors give compelling performances that draw the viewer closer even as some of the music pushes one away.
One takes a survey of the past and present at different times, trying to ascertain merit: and here, I consider Adam’s Rib, An American in Paris, Antony and Cleopatra, Argo, Bully, The Cabin in the Woods, A Clockwork Orange, The Dark Knight Rises, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, East of Eden, Farewell My Queen, Fur, Garden State, Killer Joe, King Creole, Liberal Arts, Midnight in Paris, Notorious, Our Beloved Month of August, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Portrait of a Lady, Rosewood, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, The Shawshank Redemption, Silent Souls, Sparkle, Splendor in the Grass, and more.
In Richard Linklater’s Bernie, the people who lived in Carthage, Texas, and knew Bernie Tiede and his friend and patron Marjorie Nugent, are presented, their testimony that of witnesses, full of fact, gossip, insight, and wit. Genuine observation is mixed with criticism and delusion.
In Gary Ross’s beautiful, funny, imaginative and intelligent film Pleasantville, a shy bookish brother who loves old television programs, especially the one set in the mythical town of Pleasantville, and his more indulgently sensual, pretty, popular sister—she chews gum, smokes cigarettes, and makes out with boys—argue over the television remote control on the weekend their divorced mother has taken a trip to be with her young boyfriend.
In Modern Times, Charlie Chaplin, a master of gesture, merriment, and pathos, a brilliant performer who became a storyteller, is the little fellow; and the little fellow’s work in a factory is attendant to automation, and he tightens screws on items on a moving assembly line, the repetition of the work rattling his nerves.
The community is both admirable and frightening. Does the observer accept their standards, or impose one’s own standards, on what he (or she) sees? The film Beasts of the Southern Wild may be the most persuasive portrait of sublime horror: a film that can inspire admiration for exile, loss, and madness is dangerous.