Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
Post Reply
Message
Author
User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#201 Post by knives » Thu Jan 07, 2016 10:08 am

Trying an accent would have been ridiculous, historically speaking, anyway sinceby most opinions crusades era English accents were very different from the modern sort.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#202 Post by domino harvey » Thu Jan 07, 2016 2:13 pm

Mel Brooks exploited these claims in his take on the mythos (which I remembered better than the obvious inspiration despite not having seen either since their theatrical release)

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#203 Post by domino harvey » Tue Aug 23, 2016 12:20 am

Recent viewings:

Don Verdean (Jared Hess 2015) Despite having a well-known comic cast including Sam Rockwell, Will Forte, and Danny McBride, this was unceremoniously dumped by Lionsgate direct to VOD at the end of last year and appears to have gone mostly unnoticed, which is a real shame because Hess’ usual crutches and quirks materialize into an effective and often hilarious examination of organized religion and the hunt for artifacts and relics to bolster belief. Rockwell is his usual dependable self here as the titular character, a well-regarded Christian archaeologist who hunts for artifacts because he legitimately believes in their ability to convert non-believers. It’s this admirable conviction that leads him astray when he decides to forge an artifact in a surprisingly dark and blasphemous fashion and the complications inevitably stack up. The cast is uniformly strong, even actors who don’t do much for me normally are well utilized here, with special praise reserved for two: Leslie Bibb, as a prostitute-turned-preacher’s wife who performs a spot-on song about the subservience of women in a “Christian relationship” that is so close to the real Evangelical attitude that it is scarcely satire; and Jemaine Clement, who I’ve never really found funny until his great turn here as the opportunistic Israeli who blackmails Rockwell into coming to the states and proceeds to impose his own will on the already over-complicated aftermath of the artifact fakery. Clement has some wonderfully inspired offhand line readings and the film’s best scene finds him hitting on Amy Ryan’s true believer by claiming that since he grew up in the same town as Jesus, he has a lot in common with “her guy.” One of the funniest films of the past year, and highly recommended.

Flatliners (Joel Schumacher 1990) A thoroughly unlikable collection of egotistical med students decide to kill themselves in order to experience the afterlife, which totally makes sense. However, once they’re brought back to life (in dramatic fashion, naturally), it turns out they’ve brought the physical manifestations of their past transgressions with them. So, that bully that Kieffer Sutherland threw rocks at is now going to show up in his bedroom and hit him with a hockey stick. And so on. Yes, the film is ridiculous, and filmed with the same brazen stylizations that worked so well in the Lost Boys but are already stale and useless here. There are few things sadder than a silly film that doesn’t know it’s silly.

I Love You, I Love You Not (Billy Hopkins 1997) This tale of lonely “outsider” Claire Danes and her Auschwitz survivor grandma Jeanne Moreau is a disaster of roving tone and amateur-hour construction. Danes’ character is a ludicrous joke dreamed up by a thirteen year old suburbanite— she’s different because she reads books and is upset by hearing stories of the Holocaust. No one understands her!!! The film equates the horrors of the Holocaust to the melodramatic coming of age standbys of teenagedom, and while it may feel that serious for a kid living through heartache and alienation complexes, for an audience of age watching it is something closer to second-hand embarrassment and head-shaking.

Just Like Heaven (Mark Waters 2005) Pleasant romantic comedy with two obvious and weighty inspirations in the Ghost and Mrs Muir and Ghost, wherein Mark Ruffalo encounters a highly unrealistic, only in the movies scenario in which he finds a great and affordable apartment in San Francisco. Also Reese Witherspoon’s spirit is haunting up the place in a typically chipper, Type A fashion. Love ensues. Of course this film cheats where the other two superior films did not in that (and I doubt this qualifies as a spoiler given that you don’t cast these two stars and put them in a romantic comedy only to not let them get together in the end) Witherspoon is not actually dead, and the metaphorical readings of “death” and “not living” come out to play. The ending to the Ghost and Mrs Muir is one of the purest romantic moments in film history, but the eventual pairing here is more along the lines of, “Ah, there it is.” It’s a shame the film isn’t funnier, but it’s sweet enough to painlessly sit through on a date night (preferably with someone who’s actually there in the flesh).

Keeping the Faith (Edward Norton 2000) Despite being such a bright star in Dharma and Greg, Jenna Elfman’s film career primarily consisted of her appearing in negligible roles in negligible films (Was she stuck on the Scientology B-team or something?), but she’s surprisingly the only component part of Edward Norton’s messy and endless directorial debut that works. For such a self-consciously serious actor, Norton’s film is so breezy and lightweight that it feels like the world’s longest sitcom (Let me reiterate— the film is 130 minutes long. No good breezy romantic comedy is 130 minutes long), and the movie is stuffed with bit parts for New York scene actors (and one Oscar-winning director) who are no doubt old friends of Norton’s, not all of which are ready for primetime. The biggest problem with the film is that Norton falls victim to the same fate that befalls most actors-turned-directors: he lets his casts improvise and show-off (a lot of nothing), and since he’s directing himself, he allows himself to go untethered as well. The film is good-natured and low stakes enough to make it all watchable, but it’s so empty-headed and meandering when it could have been a smarter pic with a rewrite, thirty minutes shaved off, and a different director (or cast). So, I guess what I’m saying is, this movie could be good if it was not this movie.

the Keys of the Kingdom (John M Stahl 1944) Gregory Peck earned his first Oscar nom for his work here, only his second picture, and I’m not sure why, as he’s terrible (even by Gregory Peck standards), with obvious cue-dependent line readings and neophyte screen presence. Apparently Peck’s on-screen persona of Christ Among Us was started early, as his unbearably good Catholic priest is forced to endure hardship after hardship, both before and during his lifelong missionary work in China. Lots of questionable Asian depictions here— the film may feign to be more progressive than something like the Good Earth, but that film is everything good that this film isn’t.

the Restless Ones (Dick Ross 1965) This Billy Graham Ministries-funded look at the juvenile delinquent problem of the era surprises on several fronts, especially in how it manages to depict teenagers who act like and come across as convincingly realistic teens, though the focus is really more on the parents of the protagonist who find Christ and the patience and understanding to deal with their kid, in that order. Their Anthony Perkins-looking kid is falling in with a bad crowd, namely a young Kim Darby (!) who shamelessly hits on the lad with one of the best pickup lines I can remember: “Do you like my perfume? It’s called Bare Shoulders.” As a fan of witnessing films, this is the best one I’ve ever seen, though I must emphasize that they are usually so artless and hamfisted that this is less of a competitive distinction than it seems. The conversions here seem legitimate and properly weighed, especially the extraordinary hesitancy and trepidation the parents exhibit as they gradually warm to the idea, capped with a surprisingly moving prayer and supplication shot in one continuous take. Recommended, for those perceptive to the pleasures of a film like this.

While the Restless Ones is on the whole generally accurate in its teen insights and has some things of note to say about those darn crazy kids, I did have a good chuckle at how the set designer chose to convey some of the interests of Darby’s character by just pinning the plain text to the wall above her bed!

Image

Satan Never Sleeps (Leo McCarey 1962) McCarey’s still at it with his histrionic anti-Communist hardlining in this astonishingly misguided tale of William Holden and Clifton Webb’s Catholic missionaries in China facing off against the People’s regime. The film is frequently structured and filmed as a comedy, though no film has ever been less funny, and the pacing and overall filmmaking is so torpid that there are long passages of the film where it is wholly unclear whether McCarey is filming the comedic or dramatic parts of the story. The last third of the film is also an incredible exhibition of rape apology, because the film wasn’t already bad enough by that point.

the Spiral Road (Robert Mulligan 1962) Rock Hudson’s atheist doctor is trapped in the jungle amongst savages for two and a half hours, finds Christ. Wish I’d found something, anything to ease the pain of sitting through this one. I have to question the neutrality of the Wikipedia summary though:
His ordeal comes to change his perceptions and agree more with Jansen on one's need to believe in the sinful nature of humans and to maintain saving faith through the completed redemptive spiritual work of our LORD Jesus Christ.

User avatar
swo17
Bloodthirsty Butcher
Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:25 am
Location: SLC, UT

Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#204 Post by swo17 » Tue Aug 23, 2016 12:57 am

domino harvey wrote:Don Verdean (Jared Hess 2015)
Finally an excuse to mention that
SpoilerShow
they filmed the holy grail scene toward the end at my father-in-law's antiques warehouse. (You can actually see my wife and her dad and brother for a moment in that scene in the background.) Between filming, I got to meet Jemaine Clement and Sam Rockwell and his dad (who plays the antiques dealer). Nice guys. Jemaine kept checking out my wife though every time he walked past her, and she liked it. 8-[

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#205 Post by domino harvey » Tue Aug 23, 2016 12:59 am

Everything inside that spoiler box is awesome

User avatar
swo17
Bloodthirsty Butcher
Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:25 am
Location: SLC, UT

Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#206 Post by swo17 » Tue Aug 23, 2016 1:15 am

One more thing:
SpoilerShow
For some reason Gentlemen Broncos is my brother-in-law's absolute favorite movie and he is the one that fielded the call from Jared Hess that they wanted to film there. (He was referred there by Jennifer Coolidge, who's been a customer several times.) The whole day of filming was like my brother-in-law's own personal Make-a-Wish dream come true.

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#207 Post by knives » Tue Aug 23, 2016 1:29 am

Which I guess places this thread in the real world though maybe that would work out better if The Astronaut Farmer was the film under consideration.

User avatar
colinr0380
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
Location: Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, UK

Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#208 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Nov 20, 2016 8:15 am

The Ways of Man (2014) (aka Tots els camins de Déu, or All The Ways of God) (Gemma Ferraté, 2014)

This is a rather strange Spanish film. Called The Ways of Man in its UK DVD title (though its original Spanish and international title translates as All The Ways of God, which is a slight but important distinction!), it is a (slight, perhaps the only way that it was considered marketable) gay interest title which is an interpretation of the Bible quote which opens the film about the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, with Judas being unable to return his thirty pieces of silver and running off to hang himself. Though the film features two characters in contemporary clothing (sweatshirt hoodies and trousers) and it really feels like a piece that is more influenced by Gus Van Sant’s films more than anything else. Particularly Gerry, but also Last Days in the sense that it is dealing with the abstracted ‘ascendance’ of a ‘famous figure’. Or Paranoid Park’s post-guilt malaise. Or My Own Private Idaho in its camp fire confession and final image. Or even weirdly anticipates Sea of Trees, in that it involves a tormented character stumbling around a forest to commit suicide!

After a white-room set prologue in which the two main characters face each other before one moves close to kiss the other (presumably the moment of Biblical betrayal), the film itself begins with the apparent Judas figure stumbling across a beach to some rocks and trying to throw himself into the sea, but he thinks twice, collects his thirty pieces of silver from the beach where he threw them and wanders off into the forest. On waking he finds that he is being watched by another figure which despite the lack of any explicit narrative connections makes me think that this is a kind of guardian angel figure who is also standing for a tormenting conscience on the Judas figure. The Judas figure wanders off but the guardian angel figure follows and seems content to do so despite there being no conversation between the characters and him getting beaten up and told to go away at one point!

There’s a section where the guardian angel climbs a tree and cannot get down, with the Judas figure walking away and leaving him up there, ignoring his cries for help, before eventually coming back to make an imperfect soft landing spot. That felt really close to the central scene on the rock in Gerry, similarly playing with character’s sympathies and responsibilities for the situation they got themselves into.

And then there’s the final section of the Judas figure being led to a river by the guardian angel figure (who is pretty bad at fishing but gets tips from Judas!) before a lyrical nude waterfall bathing scene. Then we get to the darker images of impending death with the hanged boar and campfire confessional and absolution.

It’s a difficult piece to really recommend as everything is so low key that, like Gerry, it can really easily be seen as just a couple of guys wandering through a landscape for an hour and a quarter! Even the religious aspects are most blatant in the title and the opening Bible quote that frame the action. Though arguably even that is too much of a push towards one interpretation, if necessary to allow the audience to build up their own narrative from those ‘clues’. I’m curious as to whether the characters wearing contemporary clothing while wandering through an ‘any time’ beach, forest and river waterfall location is meant to suggest a kind of universality to the story, that it’s a Biblical story structure but it could easily apply to anyone who has betrayed a loved one and then wanders the wilderness with a personification of the guilt? Or it could just be simply because it was cheaper than buying a Biblical robe costume!

I like Gerry a little better, if that works as a comparison. By being rather devoid of context Van Sant’s film kind of attains a form of universality of characters in landscape, even if that seems to have been similarly frustrating to viewers! The Ways of Man feels like it has that influence in its setting but fuses it with the Last Days idea of working with a figure that you ‘know’ is moving towards an inevitable end and almost wilfully refusing to show them in their prime but instead at that time of limbo where they are waiting for the inevitable to happen.

It is also kind of awkwardly placed as a ‘gay interest’ title. Yes guys get nude in it for a moment but really its only placed in that category because of the opening Biblical betrayal kiss and the way that the film is about two guys either gazing or following each other through a forest! And if you see the whole thing as a metaphor for guilt then its really more about Judas being tormented, before coming to terms to, his betrayal of his friend.
SpoilerShow
I suppose though that it also has that classic gay cinema cliché of ending with a death too. But like Gerry inevitably only one guy gets out of the landscape alive at the end! Or rather is left holding Judas in your classic Pietà pose!
I thought it was well worth watching, but the viewer has to really be OK with the whole low key nature of the film. By the way the trailer on the disc weirdly features more dialogue from the campfire scene than occurs in the film itself (The "Look at the stars" part and a more elaborated discussion about life being like a holiday and death the return to the mundane. Meaning that I think the trailer features more dialogue than occurs in the entire film!). Perhaps it was cut out because it underlines the whole message too much?

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#209 Post by domino harvey » Fri Jan 27, 2017 2:14 pm

Inferno (Ron Howard 2016) I’ve had surprisingly good mileage with Howard and Tom Hanks’ other Dan Brown adaptations (see elsewhere in this thread for their defenses), but the record stops here. This movie borders on incoherent, especially during the first act— this is the first of the three films to not receive a director’s cut, but based on the deleted scenes not much else that was filmed would have fixed the significant pacing and narrative issues of the film.

It’s really too bad, because the basic premise here is a sound one: Ben Foster’s Ted-talking billionaire is so concerned about overpopulation that he plans to unleash a new plague projected to wipe out half the Earth's population in order to herald in a new Renaissance. It’s up to Hanks and plucky doctor Felicity Jones to stop it by midnight (like the last film, this one unfolds over one 24-hour period, though by my estimation it should have taken them a couple days based on some of the locale changes we see). But oh brother, if the previous films succeeded in spite of their ridiculousness, this one drowns in the depths of its stupidity. Based on how little the board at-large enjoyed the installments of this series that were actually good, I imagine few if any of you will ever see this, but I’ll go ahead and spoiler tag the rest just in casies:
SpoilerShow
It was obvious to me within minutes of her appearance that all of Jones’ actions were duplicitous, with the dumb screenwriter CYAs becoming stark red flags to anyone paying attention. So there was no twist or recontextualization of the narrative here, in stark contrast to the clever upending of the last thirty minutes of Angels and Demons, which kept its secrets far better clouded and executed.

I haven’t read the book and never will, but I understand a lot of fans of the novel stayed away from this one because they were upset it changed the ending. Looking at the Wikipedia summary, my reaction is mixed: On the one hand, the book’s ending sounds utterly vile, nihilistic, and, if I understand the responses of some of the characters to it, borders on inhuman. On the other hand, a film about a race to stop the plague where it turns out the hunt was all for show and the plague was already released weeks prior is devilishly bold and brash in a way that count down the clock thrillers like this rarely are. I don’t think a big Hollywood mindless adventure can really support a pro-forced sterilization resolution, though, and it would be unrealistic to expect otherwise. The only problem is that by changing the ending, the motivations for and actions of Foster and Jones make no sense. And the ending that we do get is an endless supply of cliches and hoary action movie tropes as the virus is contained and then the terrorists keep almost unlocking the box. Like, for ten minutes straight.

Poor Felicity Jones: three high profile movies in 2016 and she violently dies an agonizing death in all of them!
These films have always had a garish bordering on atrocious visual style, but this one somehow tops the gross hyper-diffused early 00s cinematography of the first film by introducing disorienting and obnoxious visual touches meant to relays Hanks’ wooziness and confusion after being shot. These scenes come off like if someone made a version of the Diving Bell and the Butterfly for audiences they hated.

Hanks phones this one in and collects an easy paycheck. Jones is a fine actress but is wasted by the film in a rotten role. As ever, Irrfan Khan is the best thing on the screen. While his character and organization make less sense than anything ever has, Khan has such a winning screen presence that it hardly matters. Why is Hollywood not trying to make Khan happen? He’s more interesting than almost anyone else they keep trying to foist on us.

User avatar
bottled spider
Joined: Thu Nov 26, 2009 2:59 am

Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#210 Post by bottled spider » Mon Apr 22, 2019 4:00 pm

The End of the Affair Dmytryk, 1955
The End of the Affair Jordan, 1999
I had read the novel some years ago, and remembered finding it a page turner, thinking it clever, and being quite stirred by its religion, without remembering anything specific about the content. I watched both of these about three weeks ago, and not being satisfied with either, decided to revisit the novel, which I've just finished. Still a page turner.

One thing puzzles me. The Dymtryk partially refreshed my memory of the novel, but when I re-read it, some of what rang a bell in the adaptation turns out not to be in the novel at all. Might the screenwriter Lenore Coffee have borrowed from The Heart of the Matter? Neither IMDb nor Wikipedia indicate that was the case, but I'm not sure why else some of the scenes in the Dmytryk seemed familiar. (It's been even longer since I last read Heart of the Matter). If it's just déjà vu, and everything in the Dmytryk that isn't in Greene is original to Lenore Coffee, then suddenly I'm interested in this Lenore Coffee. Any fans out there?

Another thing that struck me: the novel was published in 1951, and first adapted in 1955, a rather fast turnaround.

User avatar
Feego
Joined: Thu Aug 16, 2007 7:30 pm
Location: Texas

Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#211 Post by Feego » Mon Apr 22, 2019 6:18 pm

bottled spider wrote:
Mon Apr 22, 2019 4:00 pm
Another thing that struck me: the novel was published in 1951, and first adapted in 1955, a rather fast turnaround.
This was actually not as unusual as it may seem, especially for an author as noted as Greene. His own Ministry of Fear was published in 1943 and adapted to film in 1944. Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath was published in 1939 and adapted to film in 1940. Movie execs were likely on the prowl for popular authors' next works even prior to publication.

User avatar
tarpilot
Joined: Thu Jan 20, 2011 10:48 am

Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#212 Post by tarpilot » Mon Apr 22, 2019 6:42 pm

Yeah, that's always seemed kind of the norm then to me. Off the top of my head, Rebecca, Night of the Hunter, and The Best of Everything were all less than two years from page to screen.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#213 Post by domino harvey » Mon Apr 22, 2019 6:52 pm

One need only peruse this list of 40s bestsellers to see in fact most popular books received speedy adaptations, which makes sense as Hollywood is all about making money

User avatar
bottled spider
Joined: Thu Nov 26, 2009 2:59 am

Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#214 Post by bottled spider » Mon Apr 22, 2019 7:13 pm

Wow, had no idea such rapid adaptation was typical. It barely seems feasible.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#215 Post by domino harvey » Mon Apr 22, 2019 7:17 pm

Hollywood production times were incredibly quick, a benefit of the integrated studio system. So really the longest part was often waiting for the script to be finished

User avatar
Michael Kerpan
Spelling Bee Champeen
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 1:20 pm
Location: New England
Contact:

Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#216 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Apr 22, 2019 7:24 pm

The same was true in Japan. ImaI's Aoi Sanmyaku (Blue Mountains) came out the same year as Ishizaka's novel. Similarly, the last part of Kawabata's Sound of the Mountain appeared in 1954, and Naruse's film was released later that year. The last part of Tanizaki's Makioka Sisters came out in 1948 and the first movie version was made in early 1950 (sort of slow, comparatively).

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#217 Post by knives » Mon Apr 22, 2019 8:13 pm

If I recall there's even been one or two times, maybe with Stephen King, where a film adaptation premiered before the book.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Proj

#218 Post by domino harvey » Sat Jun 01, 2019 4:38 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Mon Jul 13, 2015 2:46 am
Agnes of God (Norman Jewison 1985) Meg Tilly's young nun is being investigated for the murder of her newborn baby and court-appointed psychiatrist Jane Fonda tries to figure out who the father was and if Tilly is guilty of the crime. The film is pretty rote for most of the running time, with Fonda's role as the skeptical lapsed Catholic particularly useless, but then the last ten minutes reveal something far more interesting at play
SpoilerShow
Just when it looks like the film is preparing to wrap a bow on everything by revealing via hypnosis who Tilly slept with, she spontaneously (and gorily) exhibits stigmata and the film posits that Tilly was in fact raped by God and she killed the baby out of anger at the Lord for her lack of consent. It's a perverse but fascinating take on the Virgin Mary ethos: "What if Jesus was aborted" moved from Pro Life protest to actual occurrence! But then the film pretty much just ends, and the lingering questions don't give the film a sense of ambiguity but one of being left unfinished.

If for some strange reason you've unspoiled this without having seen the film, you might not want to bother seeing this now, because a lot of the enjoyment of this audacious (and bloody) moment comes from its unexpected bravura-- it's a bit like recommending a great Twilight Zone episode by telling you the ending. The film did kind of remind me of a more self-serious and outwardly respectable version of the anthology horror films which were all the rage in the 80s, only sold as prestige cinema (which, Oscar noms aside, when it works best, this film is not).
Recommended on the strength of what's in the spoiler box. Between her justly Oscar nommed turn here and her even better presence in the Girl in a Swing, Tilly has really cemented herself for me this round as an actress of note who hadn't been on my radar outside of her role as the qt gf in the Big Chill.
Agnes of God is getting a Blu-ray release from Infinity (don't know this company) in the UK in a few weeks, if anyone needs a cheap title to add to an upcoming order. Once again, if any movie ever existed that justified sitting through 90% middling material for a completely insane and unforgettable finale, it's this one

User avatar
therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#219 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Oct 26, 2020 10:08 am

Frailty: I’ve been revisiting a lot of childhood favorites lately and this joins the club of films I love that has evolved as even more impressive with age, in this case because the script tweaks conceptions of faith to challenge the audience’s comfortability with content.
SpoilerShow
Not only is the twist great that everything unbelievable has been true and God did in fact task Paxton to kill demons, but the greater revelation is that Fenton has been the murderer through the lens that Adam hasn’t been killing people, and his crimes have been inherently positive acts that have gone completely unnoticed.

So this isn’t a case where some special people know what they’re doing is God’s handiwork while the rest of the world questions their sanity, as we’ve ourselves experienced through our judgments on cults in the media in real life, but instead we’ve been seeing the narrative through a demon’s eyes of suspicion and doubt in Adam’s empathy taking the perspective of younger Fenton. This God is therefore not the punishing God from the Bible (except in ‘not sparing the father as he did Abraham’ and the killing of the sheriff to keep things quiet) and instead is an all-loving God: he’s not having any people killed, just demons in human form, he protects these human angels and spares good people, etc.

We as the audience need to part with our conception of God as morally compromised for prompting a mission that appears to be justified murder, because it isn’t even considered such within the logic of the film. Nobody is looking for Adam’s “victims” because they didn’t exist in the public’s eyes, and thus the world operates not like it does now where we cast condescending suspicion on religious extremists, but where God’s world is in harmony, at least among the actual humans. Paxton sells this so well and the film is a massive risk job beyond the faith subtext, because we need to bend our schemas to watch what looks like murder and classify it as God’s love saving us all. This isn’t even ‘justice’ as there’s no justification necessary to anyone seeing things differently, except for demons, and the audience, who have taken the demons' position by force without even knowing it.
Paxton's performance really sells the film and elevates the process to greatness, embodying an undeniably loving father and good man in essence, which makes his juxtaposition of action to intent as unsettling to witness as the contrast of redefining what appears to be killing as its moral, freeing, spiritually-congruent opposite in context.

User avatar
therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#220 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Dec 25, 2020 8:17 pm

The Pachyderminator wrote:
Fri Dec 25, 2020 12:18 am
If you're talking about Jeannette (Kimstim's only Dumont release, I think?), I agree. It somehow combines the moral outlook and didacticism of a medieval mystery play with a pointed, searching modernist exploration of doubt in the face of evil. At the same time, the presentation combines a Bressonian simplicity and directness with a humorous eclecticism that acknowledges the absurdity of the whole situation without undercutting the ideas and emotions on display. The highlight of the film, Joan's counseling session/debate with Madame Gervais, combines all these wildly disparate elements into an unforgettable whole. There may not be anything in the back half of the film that quite measures up to this sequence, but ultimately it comes out as one of a handful of truly great cinematic professions of conflicted religious faith that the past decade has produced.
Great thoughts, and uh, wow, this film is really something else... I loved the jarring contrasts: innocent childlike amateur singing over intense heavy-metal instrumentals, loose stumbling playful choreography whilst discussing serious subject matter.. but the film addresses the impenetrable space of truth-searching through emotional expression in the only honest way: by spilling those feelings as the only tangible truths. Jeannette's observation of joy reminds her of the suffering that exists as the painful ying to that serenity's yang, and as she searches for God's place in all of it, we are left with the suggestion that a person's empathy and unique perspective to approach spiritual observations from novel angles itself can be a form of God.

The film wisely uses the musical genre, rooted in expressing what we cannot normally, to hysterically communicate a fusion of confusion and self-actualized devotion and love, but cannot achieve the catharsis that characters in musicals often do in their numbers- because there are no answers achieved here beyond one's own gut-instinct and personalized authentic relationship with God to trust in that moment; though these truths are as impermanent as one's faith, which is anything but static, as philosophies clash, emotions flood allegiances, and shifts in attention to corporeal vs spiritual issues mirror scattered spaces on the spectrums of trust/mistrust and peace/fear. The safe space of a musical number that provides one self-containment for their own affirmations is instead used to proclaim a perception that rhetorically questions what cannot respond, making it both an inverted anti-musical and perhaps the most honest musical out there, producing realistic returns via artificiality, validating claustrophobic suffering with spirited declarations of possible outlets for the soul.

The value of suffering and the inquiries about where the soul can find what it needs in life vs in death are all begging for layered self-dissection. This film does just that, even if by presenting the least digestible material in the most digestible genre, in a manner that is gratingly esoteric to demonstrate in formalist terms how inherently inaccessible another's schema of faith is; as inaccessible as God to prove it right or wrong in any objective, or permanent, sense. The film is about this ongoing mystifying spiritual development, one that is all too familiar theoretically but Dumont refuses to grant us familiarity with Jeannette's specific struggle- a necessary surrogate entry point for films like this, though admirably bold and thematically significant to treat with audience-deprivation. The film is also about suffering and how to wield one's agency, cognitive powers, and faith to process optimal responses to suffering. Where is the "right" line to hold- Increased consciousness that drives us mad, driving towards tangible solutions with action, or a detached blind trust in God, and acceptance by humbly departing from God-like control in action? Are we accomplices and cowards by not acting, or are we self-aggrandizing for making our roles into the utmost importance, as the main actor on the stage of life instead of a supporting player? Important and relevant questions, and exhibited in a fashion as convoluted and uncomfortable as the questions themselves are to ask ourselves without any hope for clarity (I also agree that the Madame Gervais conversation ignites a raw meditation on these ideas, putting forth unsettling paradoxes that reinforce torment with professions of false love and true love, suffering as life's language but also invalidating many interventions to quiet said suffering from man, prompting an uneasy position of sitting in uncertainty- is this humility a coward's way out, or is persisting with action to try to save others doing God's work with vanity?). All we know is that these questions incite fear, heap burdens, and are integral to the meaning of life itself to contemplate.

User avatar
therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#221 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Feb 04, 2021 1:30 am

The Act of the Heart, Paul Almond's follow-up to the incredible Isabel (and apparently the second part of a loose trilogy with then-wife Geneviève Bujold, though sadly the third film doesn't appear to exist even on backchannels) isn't as good as the previous masterpiece, but is nonetheless a similarly compelling and enigmatic meditation on impenetrable psychology, this time rooted more explicitly in faith (and, this is not a spoiler for either film, but a terrific companion piece to this year's Saint Maud- though folks who have seen both will discern some uncanny similarities!) The film understands and respects its subject without spoonfeeding us information because that would be too specific for the dense layers existing below the surface of anyone's insight here. Take the scene where Sutherland offers some ironic advice against joining a convent, where it isn't treated as hypocrisy nor is it explained in dialogue- because how could it be? Or how Bujold's conflict between cloistered purity and her newfound attraction threatens to unearth suppressed complexity without the tools to handle anything except her simplistic defensive lifestyle that also mirrors as a saving grace. Her speech to a young child is eerily dispassionate and yet relatably despondent, reflecting an inner trauma that she lives with to this day, and as she hears other tales of pain from friends, the unsettling reactions we read in her body language are from the same ilk as Isabel's quiet haunting mystery of the unsaid, precisely because, like that film, the unsaid is also not fully understood by our protagonist.

The physical performance of Bujold will be overlooked, but I loved examining every movement she made, from subtle shifts toward expected sexually-charged femininity committed with equal parts naturalist ignorance and self-conscious shame (and without drawing attention to any extreme on this spectrum because they don't exist in transparent form), to hysterical convulsions and apathetic numbness like symptoms of an exorcism found in real-life examples of psychological confusion. The film is another thrilling slow-burn, and instead of inserting disturbing flashes of anti-signifiers in visualizations like Isabel's stylistic intrusions, Almond uses sprawling prayers and esoteric discussions on how to authentically practice and process faith to accentuate these existential crises magnetized by the clash between monastic isolation and social desire. The end is also a doozy and, in case there was any doubt, makes absolutely clear the humbly aloof position to her inner crisis that Almond is assuming for himself, Bujold, and us.

User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#222 Post by domino harvey » Fri Mar 12, 2021 4:40 pm

Tragically, in Twilight Time's inexplicable last minute run of Philip Dunne ("Who?", you are surely asking yourself) movies from their Fox licenses, they either stopped before they got to it or failed to license his incredible Lisa (1962), also known as the Inspector, a gobsmacking epic melodrama in miniature focused on displaced Auschwitz survivor Dolores Hart's journey to Palestine. The reveals about what happened to Hart in the camps retains their shock to this day and accumulatively her fate is one of the most eyebrow-raising examples of the loosening of the Code this side of Sunday in New York-- whatever you may guess happened to her in the camps, it's more graphic and daring than you think, and the film has an intelligent way of exploiting the drama of it without it feeling invasive. Indeed, the violating nature of those who want to use her drives much of the dramatics in the back end, always colored by the fact that our ostensible protagonist, Stephen Boyd (perfectly cast for once in a role that can only work with someone so bland and in over their head), is also using her to assuage his own guilt for past acts. The film is a series of pleasures and surprises: characters with uncertain loyalties; the refreshingly obtuse interplay between Boyd and Hart; how Hart tries to navigate a romantic role she literally can't fill; the lack of traditional sentimentality in the proceedings. This is hokum that walks the line between Serious Art and (Would-Be) Weepy Entertainment far more successfully than many other better known awards bait films of the era, and always with a certain distancing and discomfort. Had TT managed to bother with it, Lisa could have been a major rediscovery, especially for those audience members whose views on Hollywood melodramas start and stop with a certain four letter word. But alas, all we have now is a 'Scope AVI copy retrieved from the Fox Movie Channel. Better than nothing, but still!

User avatar
therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#223 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Mar 12, 2021 4:58 pm

I wasn't as enamored with the film as you but I really liked it, and was particularly floored by Dolores Hart's recounting of her traumas. It's one of the most excruciatingly concentrated scenes of acute experience that I've seen conveyed in the medium, admirably showing rather than telling how trauma is an ongoing condition, not something that 'happened'. It's shot and performed in a manner that resigns any need for a flashback or shared dynamic interplay to extract an emotional response due to this mature understanding of mental health, allowing Hart's experience we are watching to be the one that matters most and encapsulates the significance of her broken character in the present instead of the past. It's also on YT for free, for those interested.

User avatar
therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: Films of Faith List Discussion + Suggestions (Genre Project)

#224 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Mar 14, 2021 9:41 pm

El Club is a fascinating rhetorical question of a film from Pablo Larraín. The basic narrative structure is familiar, a chamber drama where the introduction of a challenging variable disrupts the lives of four priests who are sheltered by the church in an isolated and regimented, but liberal and merciful, existence. Larraín prompts us to wonder about more than the limits of rehabilitation, but its curriculum; whether Christian forgiveness, or the removal from external harm, is enough to deserve to start anew; or whether- and to what degree- discomfort must be issued as a consequence to earn repentance; or perhaps the very notion of "earning" anything is moot and reform should be ongoing and agitating for eternity, keeping one in a sober state of self-reflection. The film has a lot to say about complacency as a privilege, the philosophies behind supporting it or fighting it, and how or why either pole fits with the principles of the church. It's a profound morality tale that dares to hold humanistic and spiritual leniency in one hand and a fervent sense of responsibility to empower accountability and assign dignity in the other. This is the last Larraín feature I’ve seen, and after Ema’s groundbreaking third-eye perspective blossoming into the artificial rigidity of moral social space, this film is a welcome precedent in occupying grey space with both sensitivity and aggression.

El Club is especially relevant now in the era of cancel culture, and should interest most anyone, regardless of which side they come down in these arguments. Are the priests more than just their crimes of humanity, and if so, is their dignity contingent on their ability to recognize and confront their behavior? Is the new director's function to help them rehabilitate, ruin their lives, neither, both? Is he acting as a vessel of God, an agent of justice to uphold objective ethical codes, or is he operating from his own subjective emotional core. Can any of us avoid the latter? Do we even want to be someone who can do that, and risk the resignation of our identity and values? And, as one of the interviews posits: Is one person’s assessment of self-delusion another’s conscious contact with God? The final act's utilitarian/self-preservation ambiguity certainly speaks to that, as does the intent of the subsequent return to Jesus' ethos put into practice, which is simultaneously affirming and deeply unsettling in context.

Outside of the spiritual and philosophical disturbances put forth, this is an exceptional meditation on the effects of trauma, the drive to protect others and oneself, clemency as self-given or externally-granted, and whether emotions' impact on Christian principles are validated. Oh and for anyone interested, the only bad Larraín film is his first, and he has improved with each subsequent work since (well, No is better than Neruda and arguably this, but otherwise pretty much).

Post Reply