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Archive for May 23rd, 2017

 © 2017 by James Clark

     Ten (2002) begins with a mother and her pre-adolescent son moving along the streets of Tehran in her car. Although a vicious, lacerating dispute takes place, which has an effect similar to stunning seasickness, we should, for the sake of the lucidity to be found in that stifling cabin cruiser (always seen from the inside) and the subsequent episodes of patrolling those roads, stand back, for a bit, from the opening emotional blood-letting and let ourselves be delighted by Corky, the LA cabby, and her fare, Victoria, the Hollywood talent scout, in the first episode of Jim Jarmusch’s Night on Earth (1991). The foul-mouth boy is a sort of talent scout, scouting the prospect of inducing his open-road mother to play the part of a stay-at-home-mom in a story made to garner acclaim from those demanding dutiful piety. The philosophical driver, like Corky, runs over the crock that rigid matrimony (like rigid fame) constitutes; and she lives to drive another day, and many other days.

Whereas Victoria sees Corky’s point and wishes her well on her rocky road, Amin, the Tehran passenger—like the Idi Amin—discloses a vein of resentment toward interpersonal complication which, though aberrant, is also intrinsic. As such, Ten comprises a multi-faceted dialogue on the subject which could be termed, “How far do you want to investigate the phenomenon of love?” The first episode, labelled “10,” as affixed to the driver’s other drives which the film provides over a quite short period counting down to “1,” could be seen as a vividly dramatic study of the fallout of a divorce. (We learn, from the two major battles along that kinetic way, that the divorce occurred seven years ago, she has remarried, but her first husband—whom we see on several occasions, but always in a white jeep [evoking a UN bureaucratic Peace-Keeper, devoutly rule-driven, obsessed with an antiquated utopian end of strife]—an avid porn connoisseur, is less than able to contribute to putting together a serious support for his son; but that he has, in occasional contacts, become a factor nevertheless in inculcating Amin to a dogmatic primitiveness [linked to unpaid “activist” causes] which the driver had overcome. During the verbal brawl, she insists. “You’re like your father. He shut me away, destroyed me. He wanted me only for himself.” [At which point the clever primitive gives her a dagger-like sideways glance and commands, “Not so loud! Not so loud or I won’t listen to you…”] The skirmish turns to her demand, “I’ll say what I have to say” and his “I don’t want to listen” and cupping his ears.) However, as we look closely at the negotiations in the sanctuary of her smoothly-running vehicle, we realize that though Amin, true to his name, is a vicious, implacable thug, his mother (never named and thereby approximating an anonymity at the heart of her actions) is caught up in making an effort, an effort which has been repeated many times, to enlighten her son about the paradox of caring for a flesh-and-blood loved-one while belonging to something more. Episode 10, therefore, shows her (penultimate) folly in supposing a creature of Amin’s age and pathology would ever attain to anything resembling effective reflection. (more…)

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”Everywhere….in every town….in every street….we pass, unknowing, human souls made great through love and adversity.”

 

One of Allan’s greatest gifts was sharing his passion for films long forgotten or never fully appreciated. In keeping with that theme, my review highlights a film never before posted to this site. Certainly not made for cynical audiences, Borzage represents a style of filmmaking that has mostly fallen out of favor. Here we have a director who pulls together themes of love and hardship, complete with expressive use of atmosphere: streets, apartments, rooftops filmed with scintillating panache. Then, throw all this together with heavy doses of melodramatic plot twists that are simply too crazy to believe. Melodrama, in the hands of Sirk or Fassbinder, tends to be something that modern audiences have welcomed. Their use of color and symbolism adds a layer of subversive commentary that Borzage lacks. But, Borzage excels at a certain kind of irony-free, old-fashioned story-telling that to my mind is worth championing for its propellant emotional energy.

 

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Although 7th Heaven gets most of the attention, and Lucky Star is a hidden gem, Street Angel is my favorite Borzage film and is a romantic masterpiece of the highest order, provided you’re willing to suspend disbelief. It is the story of Angela (Janet Gaynor), who in need of some money to purchase medicine for her mother, attempts to prostitute herself on the street. She winds up getting arrested for robbery and sentenced to a year in a work house. She runs off before being imprisoned, escaping to find her mother dead at home. She avoids the cops and runs off to join the circus, where she meets a painter named Gino. They strike up an awkward friendship but soon bond and fall in love. Their blossoming love and impending marriage is threatened when the police find her again. She is taken to prison while Gino is unaware. He thinks she is lost forever, and things get really interesting when she is released from prison a year later. (more…)

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