thoughts on music, design and literature

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Art As A Mirror?

There's a school of thought that believes the following:

The purpose of art is to shed light on the human condition.

Lately I've been watching some great movies that seem to do just that. This is all part of my indie/foreign cinema-of-substance kick of the past year: I've been passing up all those movies that, at the end of the day, add nothing to my appreciation of life and beauty, in favor of those that do. (In other words, I didn't see a single movie this summer.) And so for this post, I'm going to recommend two great movies.

On Monday I saw this beauty:

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is a doozy of a film. I saw it with a mixed group of men and women, and it was amazingly polarizing in the way that the events of the film were viewed by different sexes. The characters were very well-written; complex and multi-faceted--and the performances behind them reminded me that outside of American mainstream cinema, filmmakers actually give their audiences credit for being able to appreciate subtext. And there's something about 1986 Romania that's just *naturally* expressionistic....patches of snow on the ground, dogs roaming freely on the streets, the sharp contrast of a flock of birds against the sky....the camera did a great job of lingering over the coldness of their world, without resorting to deliberately staged Murnau-esque long shadows, or any other overly self-conscious scenery.

And tonight, I saw The Savages:

Aside from the obnoxious score, it was a great blend of the comic and the tragic (Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman as a spin on Salinger's uber-siblings, Franny and Zooey). On the comic side, it was great seeing these two self-involved intellectuals/artists cope with basic human issues of mortality, without being able to hide behind the walls of their own art (because all artists have an innate ability to use their art as a defense mechanism). (And it was also funny watching Philip Seymour Hoffman play tennis.)

The tragic side hit close to home, though, as I've had elderly family members suffer through dementia and ultimately death. The world of nursing homes and assisted living facilities troubles me on a very visceral level...the sights, sounds and smells of slow death...

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