Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Insomniac Movie Reviews

Last night I batted about with Herman Hesse, Philip Larkin and John Updike while I couldn't sleep. I've been an insomniac since I was fourteen years old. Fourteen is about the age of the narrator in Herman Heese's 1913 short story The Cyclone (I started last night's ritual of solitude with this particular story). The young man is walking about his hometown, revisiting the sites of his boyhood's imaginary jaunts. Suddenely, these places hold nothing for him:

"But I could discover nothing new. I saw only the strange impoverishment that threatened me from all sides. In some mysterious way trusted pleasures and thoughts that had become dear to mme were paling and fading. My profession count not make up for what I was reluctantly leaving behind, for all the lost joys of boyhood; it held no great appeal for me and I was to abandon it before long. It meant no more to me than a way into the world, which I felt sure would offer me new satisfactions. But what would they be?"

Is such dyspepsia the root of my insomnia? Maybe...hell, I don't know.

But to look on the brighter side - one of the few benefits of insomnia is the ability to catch up on independent films as presented on the Sundance Film Channel!

Two films I'd like The Shelf to highlight:

(1) La Fille Coupee en Deax (Girl Cut in Two) (French - directed by Claude Chabrol) - Gabrielle, a young budding television personality, falls in love with an older married man who happens to be a renowned author. Her obsession only brings heartbreak though, when he is unable to leave his wife.

All the while, she is pursued by an erratic young man, Paul. Paul is consumed by a borderline disturbing devotion to Gabrielle. He is also heir to a vast fortune while controlled by a cold calculating mother.

Although Gabrielle aligns herself with the younger Paul her heart still belongs to the older man, Charles. Paul's imbalance worsens as he is increasingly unable to contain his raging obsession with the ghost of Charles and Gabrielle's former affair.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know - a bit of a soap opera. Perfect case in point, though - you can make anything in French and I'll be drawn to it like a horny exchange student to a smarmy local.

(2) Garage - (Irish - directed by Lenny Abrahamson) Although the Irish speak English, I was grateful that this film came with subtitles. Garage is set in a rural isolated Ireland that the Celtic Tiger ignored and the rest of us over-romanticise.

Main character Josie leads a sparse life, tending a petrol-station set seemingly in the middle of nowhere. He has a harmless awkwardness about him and you ache as you watch him, time and time again, desperately seeking some sense of social connectivity with others.

His modestly romantic overtures towards a local girl are chillingly rebuffed. His mates at the pub are cruel to him and enormously unlikeable.

A brief spate of companionship comes from David, a fifteen year-old boy brought to work at the garage by Josie's boss. Josie briefly develops a big-brother relationship with David and the exchange between the two, however sparse, is immeasurably tender. But this soon falls to ruin when Josie, seeking some gesture of macho camaraderie, shows David a pornographic video.

David's parents complain and then Josie is in a heap of trouble. Despite the stupid, antisocial nature of what Josie had done, you can't help but to feel sorry for him. Josie is devastated by what transpires and his already marginalized existence seems to be headed towards an end even worse that the anonymous lonely world that greeted us at the start of the film.

Actor Pat Shortt brilliantly delivers Josie to us. I was slayed in the way Shortt could, wordlessly, bring you Josie's obliviousness and devastation.

This film's stark realism and its tangible humanity reminded me in a way of Slingblade.

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