Dilettante's Diary

Apr 2/14

Home
Who Do I Think I Am?
Index: Movies
Index: Writing
Index: Theatre
Index: Music
Index: Exhibitions
Artists' Blogs
Index: TV, Radio and Misc
Restaurants
JUNE 16, 2017
Mar 21/17
Feb 26/17
Feb 9/17
Jan 30/17
Dec 19/16
Dec 11/16
Nov 20/16
Sept 17/2016
Aug 21/16
July 17/16
June 29/16
June 2/16
Apr 23/16
Feb 28/16
Feb 1/16
Jan 27/16
Winter Reading 2016
Dec 15/15
Nov 19/15
Fall Reading 2015
Oct 29/15
Sept 16/15
Sept 4/15
July 29, 2015
July 1, 2015
June 7/15
Summer Reading 2015
May 19/15
Apr 30/15
Apr 19/15
Spring Reading 2015
March 23/15
March 11/15
Winter Reading 2015
Feb 20/15
Feb 8/15
Jan 29/15
Jan 20/15
Highs 'N Lows of 2014
Dec 19/14
Dec 2/14
Nov 10/14
Oct 29/14
Fall Reading 2014
Sept 17/14
Summer Reading 2014
Aug 22/14
Aug 8/14
July 11/14
June 16/14
May 28/14
Apr 30/14
Apr 16/14
Apr 2/14
March 21, 2014
March 13/14
Feb 11/14
Sept 23/13
Favourite Works: 2004-2013
Two Novels by BARBARA PYM
Sabbath's Theater by PHILIP ROTH
July 18/13
Summer Reading 2013
June 19/13
May 30/13
Spring Reading 2013
May 10/13
Apr 18/13
Mar 29/13
March 14, 2013
The Artist Project 2013
Feb 25/13
Winter Reading 2013
Feb 7/13
Jan 22/13
Jan 12/13
A Toast to 2012
Dec 19/12
Dec 16/12
Dec 4/12
Fall Reading 2012
Nov 17/12
Nov 6/12
Art Toronto 2012
Oct 23/12
Oct 4/12
Sept 28/12
Summer Reading 2012
Aug 26/12
Aug 8/12
Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition 2012
July 14/12
June 28/12
MIMC
May 27/12
May 20/12
May 4/12
La Traviata: Met's Live HD Version
Apr 21/12
Apr 6/12
Mar 22/12
Mar 9/12
The Artist Project 2012
Academy Awards Show 2012
Feb 26/12
Feb 11/12
Jan 23/12
Jan 15/12
Jan 7/12
Dec 20/11
Dec 12/11
Nov 27/11
Nov 18/11
Nov 7/11
Art Toronto 2011
Oct 22/11
Oct 17/11
Sept 30, 2011
Summer Reading 2011
Aug 11/11
July 28, 2011
July 19/11
TOAE 2011
June 25/11
June 20/11
June 2/11
May 14/11
Apr 29/11
Toronto Art Expo 2011
Apr 11/11
March 24/11
The Artist Project 2011
March 11/11
Feb 23/11
Feb 7/11
Jan 21/11
HIGHS 'N LOWS OF 2010
Jan 17/11
Dec 21/10
Dec 6/10
Nov 11/10
Fall Reading 2010
Oct 22/10
Summer Reading 2010
Aug 9/10
Aug 2/10
TOAE 2010
July 16/10
The Shack
June 27/10
June 3/10
May 5/10
April 17/10
Mar 28/10
Mar 17/10
The Artist Project 2010
Toronto Art Expo 2010
Feb 22/10
Feb 3/10
Notables of '09
Jan 11/10
Dec 31/09
Dec 17/09
How Fiction Works
Nov 24/09
Sex for Saints
Nov 11/09
Housekeeping
Oct 22/09
Oct 6/09
Sept 18/09
Aug 23/09
July 31/09
July 17/09
Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition 2009
Toronto Fringe 2009
Zen Wrapped In Karma Dipped In Chocolate
June 28/09
June 6/09
Myriad Mysteries 2009
May 10/09
CBC Radio -- "The New Two"
April 14/09
March 24/09
Toronto Art Expo '09
March 1/09
The Jesus Sayings
Feb 8/09
Jan 26/09
Jan 10/09
Stand-outs of 2008
Dec 24/08
Dec 4/08
Nov 16/08
Oct 27/08
Oct 16/08
Sept 26/08
Sept 5/08
July 21/08
Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition 08
July 5/08
June 23/08
June 4/08
May 18/08
May 4/08
April 16/08
March 26/08
Head to Head
Feb 26/08
Feb 13/08
Jan 30/08
Jan 17/08
Notables of 2007
Dec 30/07
Dec 8/07
Nov 22/07
Oct 25/07
Oct 4/07
Sept 18/07
Aug 29/07
Aug 8/07
Summer Mysteries '07
July 20/07
June 28/07
June 8/07
May 21/07
May 2/07
April 14/07
March 23/07
Toronto Art Expo 2007
March 8/07
Feb 16/07
Feb 2/07
Jan 24/07
Notables of 2006
Dec 27/06
December 11/06
November 28/06
Nov 8/06
October 14/06
Sept 22/06
Ring Psycho (Wagner on CBC Radio)
Sept 6/06
August 12/06
July 18/06
June 27/06
June 9/06
May 23/06
Me In Manhattan
May 2/06
April 12/06
March 17/06
March 9/06
Feb 16/06
Feb 1/06
Jan 11/06
Dec 31/05
Dec 12/05
Nov 25/05
Nov 4/05
Oct 24/05
Sept 7/05
Sept 16/05
Sept 1/05
Aug 10/05
July 21/05
Me and the Jays
July 10/05
June 15/05
May 18/05
April 27/05
April 18/05
April 8/05
March 21/05
Feb 28/05
Feb 21/05
Feb 4/05
Jan 28/05
Jan 19/05
Jan 5/05
About Me
Dec 20/04
Dec 5/04
MOVIES
BOOKS
RE-READINGS
MYSTERIES/CRIME books
VIDEOS and DVDs
PLAYS
OTHER STUFF: Art Exhibitions, Concerts, etc.

The date that appears above is the date of the most recent reviews. As new reviews are added, the date will change accordingly. The new reviews will appear towards the top of the page and the older ones will move further down. When the page is closed, the items will be archived according to the final date on the page.

Reviewed here: Frances Ha, The Hunt and Museum Hours (DVDs)

Frances Ha (DVD) written by Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig; directed by Noah Baumbach; starring Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Michael Esper, Adam Driver, Michael Zegen, Charlotte d’Ambroise, Grace Gummer

When this movie came out, a lot of the comment had to do with the fact that director Noah Baumbach and co-writer, his girlfriend, Greta Gerwig, had created something really special for her. It’s true. Frances Ha is a hopeful young dancer in New York. (A bit klutzy for a dancer, to my mind, but never mind.) She bounces from one living arrangement to another, a different roommate, a different apartment every few months. Through it all, her strongest relationship is with a girlfriend Sophie (Mickey Sumner). They keep saying that they love each other. They like to say: "We’re the same person but with different hair." They often sleep together but apparently there’s no sex involved. I could almost get that relationship but it would be lying to say I could identify with any of the movie’s population of artsy, aggressive twenty-somethings who are so blatant about sex and are given to making comments like: "This apartment is too aware of itself." The competitive, edgy vibes flying around these rather desperate people made watching this presumed comedy somewhat anxiety-producing.

The black-and-white filming and the occasional burst of jaunty music feel as though they’re meant to remind you of the screwball comedies of yesteryear, in which attractive and perky young women got into all kinds of mischief. There’s some of that feel here but, at the same time, it’s oh-so-different. Frances is clearly not a girl who’s going to end up with a Hollywood contract and a gorgeous husband. She is, as one acquaintance puts it, the kind of person who "can’t get her shit together." Frances’ situation kept making me think of Amanda Wingfield’s lament: "Things have a way of turning out so badly." But Frances’ response is nothing like Amanda’s dramatizing self-pity. If there’s one thing distinctive about Frances, it’s that she tries not to let you see that she’s struggling. Not that she’s some irrepressible, Pollyanna-ish optimist. It’s just that she seems to have made a conscious decision that the best way to deal with what life dumps on her is to adapt, to improvise, to forge ahead. That strange last name of hers, as given in the title of the movie, turns out to be a little joke on her tendency not to take herself too seriously.

 

The Hunt (DVD) written by Tobias Lindholm and Thomas Vinterberg; directed by Thomas Vinterberg; starring Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Susse Wold, Annika Wedderkopp, Alexandra Rapaport

Lucas works in a kindergarten in a small Danish town. He’s not exactly a teacher, more like a teacher’s helper. He gets along great with the kids. But one little girl who had a crush on him resents the fact that he doesn't seem to return her adoration. On a whim, she tells the school’s director that Lucas sexually assaulted her. Lucas’s life begins to turn to a nightmare. Everybody in town turns against him. Eventually, the little girl retracts her story but that only convinces people that she’s trying to repress the memory of the supposed incident.

As I recall, critics were much impressed with this movie when it came out, especially with the performance of Mads Mikkelsen in the role of the accused. To me, it seems that his great reputation in Danish cinema must be based on his ability to hold a blank stare and to refuse to show any emotion, no matter what the provocation. His is not one of those faces in which the movie camera finds much. Some of the townspeople are far more interesting to watch: for instance, his pal Theo (Thomas Bo Larsen), who happens to be the father of the accuser, and the school principal Grethe (Susse Wold). But the big problem with the movie is that it’s a hopeless contest. There’s nothing poor Lucas can do. Nobody can take on a five-year-old liar. (The eerily convincing Annika Wedderkopp.) There’s no dramatic struggle. All we can do is watch Lucas twist in the wind. It’s a hopeless and depressing spectacle.

 

Museum Hours (DVD) written and directed by Jem Cohen; starring Bobby Sommer, Mary Margaret O’Hara, Ela Piplits

This is one of those offerings that lets you know you’re definitely watching a "film," nothing so crass as a "movie." The pace is glacial, there’s virtually no plot, there’s lots of art, both of the cinematic kind and of the hanging-on-the-wall category. The latter, thanks to the fact that the events take place mostly in Vienna’s Kuntshistorisches Museum. A museum guard, Johann (Bobby Sommer), strikes up a friendly acquaintance with Anne (Mary Margaret O’Hara), who is in Vienna to visit a cousin who’s dying. Anne doesn’t have much money, so she spends a lot of time in the museum. She and Johann look at paintings together, they go to coffee shops, they take in some of the low-rent tourist attractions.

What is the point of it all, if any? I think it may be a kind of rebuttal to our typical expectations of a movie. Filmmaker Jem Cohen is, perhaps, trying to show us that he can create something for us to watch without much need of story or dramatic development. He’s simply showing that lots of life is about chance encounters that don’t have very amazing consequences. Stuff happens, that’s all. Both Johann and Anne happen to let slip remarks that give us little glimpses into potentially intriguing aspects of their personal lives, but director Cohen seems to be saying: sorry, folks, we’re not going there! There’s one moment when it might be expected that Johann and Anne would make a more intimate and meaningful connection but the moment passes without either of them saying anything.

Part way through, what little action there is stops for a ten-minute lecture on Pieter Bruegel the Elder (given by Ela Piplits). Oddly, such a pause doesn’t ruin things; in fact, it’s one of the most interesting parts of the film. I think that may be because the lecture is discreetly echoing what may be the point of the movie. Bruegel’s paintings were all about ordinary life, ordinary people enjoying simple, earthy pleasures. Even the Vienna we see in Museum Hours is nothing like the elegant one of picture postcards. Instead, we get mostly railroad stations, traffic, pigeons – all in grey, monotonous light that’s often occluded with fog. The long, slow shots have a contemplative quality. (Although there are far too many lingering looks at flea market junk for my taste.) Maybe you would succumb to the spell of this film if you were immersed in its atmosphere in a theatre. Watching it on DVD, I couldn’t resist reaching for the fast-forward button frequently.

You can respond to: patrick@dilettantesdiary.com