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A film reviewer once memorably recommended viewers eschew the tissue boxes and take a bed sheet to see the movie he was discussing at the time. You know what he meant.
There are some movies that express a deeply felt belief, recover a long lost memory, dredge up past tears, or shock us into sudden empathy. Movies that move us.
Now understand, I am the tight-lipped femme who stares down stand-up comedians, daring them to PROVE their hubric claims to wit. I dig my heels in at clumsy symbols (like the sledgehammer christ-allusions in Amistad), obvious devices, and trigger phrases and keywords aimed directly at the subconscious (I wonder if you can imagine ...)
So what about movies that set out to not just entertain, but to emotionally (or ethically) move us?|
One True Thing with Meryl Streep is your classic greeting card company / telephone company movie. A maternity hymnal, and Ode to Pure Self-sacrificing Motherhood. Gawd!
As I called for Insulin to counteract the sugar-drenched get-the-women-back-to-kitch-and-kinder sookfest, I was more miffed than moved.
One True Thing is a tear-jerker, yes, in the tradition of Doris Day, post World War II romantic comedies that aimed arrogantly and without apology at getting women out of the workforce and back into men's houses as unpaid housekeepers and sex workers. Yeah, getting knocked up is a really respect-able profession.
On the other hand I'm willing t copy to having a serious case of sniffles watching Bette Davis fade to black in Dark Victory, but nothing compared to a minor movie with Desi Arnaz Jnr -- She Lives.
I found that movie, as one does, during an all-night study session, started sniffling about 20 minutes in (the correct point in the traditional movie story arc), and sobbed and hiccuped my way through to the corny-but-got-to-me-anyway ending "I'll never break anything again as long as I live."
Unpretentious, without agenda, She Lives has a beginning, a middle and an end. My criteria for a satisfying film/story is having a beginning, a middle, an end and a point.
The point doesn't have to be a message (see films such as Radiance, Soylent Green. The point can be to communicate, to share common experiences and help people process them (see Saving Private Ryan, to express the other sides of emotions, to open to viewers new flavours of emotions for them to experience.
Sometimes a film sneaks up and catches us unawares. The Mighty quickly established that it is peopled with children and adults who are coping with violence, death and grief. Well written, well acted, and an example of what Sharon Stone, producer, considers a tale worth telling, it was moving me along quite nicely when suddenly grief, empathy and admiration washed over me like a tsunami -- great sobs, water pouring from the tear ducts and gulping breaths shuddering the frame.
That movie moved me. Emotionally it gave me an experience that shocked and surprised. Spiritually it moved me with a deep communication that did not overwhelm the story line.
The Mighty could move some viewers to tell stories equally well, even deeply personal tales. It could inspire some to learn or improve their basic literacy or numeracy skills. It could open viewers to look at the old stories, to evaluate old values, to notice the heroism and quiet courage in everyday homes and everyday lives. (The real heros, not sporty do-wellers).
Movies are most powerful when they don't have a single strident message / point of view. When the point is not the message of a zealot- evangelist or self-interested propaganda, but an invitation to experience something and to move (on) with new insights, ideas and challenges.
See, it's not about beating viewers over the head and heart with polemic, vitriolic self-righteousness, it's not the education by corporal punishment and mind-numbing repetitions and black-and-white claims, it's offering entertaining experiences that leave us in a place that we haven't quite been before -- the most powerful learning process.
Melbourne, Australia. January, 2005
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Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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Filed: Mar-2005 Last updated: 15-Dec-2008 Last tested: 01-06-2005 Last Compiled: 10-Aug-2014
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