Sunday, November 02, 2008

Le Tourbillion

I named this blog after the song Jeanne Moreau's character, Catherine, sings in Jules et Jim. This film did not make me love cinema. Jules et Jim made me realize that I had always loved cinema, and moreover, that cinema was a thing you could love, beyond distraction and beyond entertainment. It gave me a new way to see, and a new way to interpret. So with out further ado, I present a clip of Catherine singing "Le Tourbillion".

Rachel Getting Married

Kym (Anne Hathaway) and Rachel (Rosmarie DeWitt)

Rachel Getting Married, directed by Jonathan Demme, is a truthful and poignant film. Kym returns home from rehab to attend the wedding her older sister, Rachel. The film revolves around the resentment and pain that complicates the joy of Rachel and Sidney’s union, and Kym’s profound isolation amidst the celebration. This quiet family drama, from the director of Silence of the Lambs, impressively maneuvers through a veritable minefield of sentimentality without detonating any explosions. That is to say that Rachel Getting Married is emotional and heart wrenching without clichés or pandering.

Rachel Getting Married does traverse a well-worn territory. It reminded me of Margo at the Wedding (see Tourbillion post from 1/14/08) and The Family Stone, the 2005 Christmas movie starring Diane Keaton, Sarah Jessica Parker an Luc Wilson. The Family Stone is a perfect example of a film that embraces sentimentality in order to seasonally market a movie and drive the plot. Rachel Getting Married and The Family Stone share several similarities; they center around a festive occasion and a family reunion of sorts, the characters deal with death, each other and the introduction of new people into their world. I enjoyed both movies and both made me cry. Sentimentality is not a deal breaker; good films can be sentimental. However, the film that avoids sentimentality while grappling with issues that lend themselves to sentimentality is the certainly defter than its counter part. (I say “deft” because it is the most precise word: skillful, clever, and dexterous. I include this definition not because I underestimate the intelligence of my dear reader, but because definitions are sometimes like an collapsed balloon in the middle of a paragraph, and in order to flesh out the full meaning of a sentence I feel I must inflate the balloon.)

Rachel Getting Married is filmed in a sort of documentary style and relies heavily on close-ups. The camera often moves as if it is handheld and evokes the style of a home movie. At first I thought this was a contrived authenticity, but as the story progressed, I became more involved with the characters and got used to the cinematographic style. The writer, Jenny Lumet, does a good job of eliminating needless exhibition, but a poor job of developing the character of Sydney, Rachael’s fiancé, who has very little dialogue, even though he appears in many scenes.

How Demme went from Silence of the Lambs to Rachel Getting Married is beyond me. I think it had something to do with the Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen documentaries he made in-between, but however he did it, I am glad he got there. To close, I will turn to the oft-quoted line of Tolstoy, “All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." If you believe this to be true, then you will agree that we can and should continue to tell stories of all these unhappy families because we run no risk of repeating ourselves. Demme’s story is one for the collection.