Sunday, 18 February 2018

L'Enfance Nue | Maurice Pialat, 1968

A young boy, Francois, is passed around foster homes. His mother, never shown on screen, doesn’t want him, but doesn’t want to let go of him either. There’s no permanence to his life, no security. He’s, in their words, treated fairly by his foster family. His foster sister sleeps in a newly-decorated room on her own. “Whatever she dreams at night she can see in the day.” He sleeps in a fold up bed on the landing. He drops the family cat from the top of a staircase to impress a group of kids but tries to nurse it back to health in secret. He steals. “He’s not like other children. You can’t tell what’s on his mind”. He buys his foster mother a gift to say goodbye. “Take him away.” They do.

A new home with new walls. Thick, garish paint forces colour into the rooms but nothing sits well together. A blue wall and a yellow door, floral wallpaper and yellow tiles. Forced life. He now lives with an old lady and her husband, married too late in life to have children of their own so they foster instead. They’re kind and strict and fair. But they know there can be no longevity to this relationship, and Francois is doomed to move on again. He tries to make friends with boys at school by doing what they do: smoking, fighting, throwing bricks from bridges onto roads. They tolerate him. He’s the slowest runner, the fall guy, quickly abandoned by the herd. Invisible and alone, he tries too hard to make people see him: kicking holes in doors, causing a car accident, killing the family cat. But seeing isn’t the same as loving. He’s a yellow door in a blue room. You always know where the exit is because it’s the one thing that doesn’t fit.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

In August last year, I decided to write about every film Clint Eastwood has directed. This project lasted just one night before I abandoned it, but in that night I wrote briefly, as I do, about three films, all serendipitously beginning with the letter "B". Maybe this is something I'll return to.

Breezy | 1973

A romance complicated by nothing and everything. A teenager with flared-jeans and a guitar, a middle-aged businessman with an empty house and an unused fireplace. Preconceptions evaporate, love blossoms. He gives her an ocean and they’re dwarfed by the waves; she’s drained by the day and he carries her to bed. Their love moves with the tide, back and forth, vast and tempestuous. Sometimes he’s too old, sometimes she’s too young. Tennis and hitchhiking, a vodka martini and a Shirley Temple, an age gap, a black cloud. But he lit the fire for her. There was no warmth until she arrived. She makes his house a home.

Bird | 1988

A tragic life remembered from a hospital bed, an extraordinary artistry rendered in fragments and destroyed by addiction, a lack of balance, a spirit drained. Charlie Parker is already the virtuoso, the myth, the man in decline. The physicality of jazz embodied by a man for whom failure is both unendurable and inevitable. His family is in ruins, his old haunts have been turned into strip clubs, jazz makes way for rock and roll. He’s never on time but people won’t wait for him anymore. His art doesn’t sell. It’s over. The end of a scene. The end of Bird.

The Bridges of Madison County | 1995

An all-consuming love-affair embalmed by letters, diaries, photographs; souvenirs locked away and found again years later by adult children who never knew. A nostalgic reverence, a memory so beautiful because it almost made it but never did. A bridge between eras. A time before and a time after, and a brief window in which they’re together, unsustainably in love. He stands in the rain waiting for her. She finds shelter in her husband’s truck. A film of objects and (in)actions that shape their world, imbued with the ghost of lost love. And then a shared cremation: two lovers together again, under the bridge, forever free.