The Film Gang

Force Majeure

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Listen to the review by Dennis Morton above / read it below.

‘Force majeure’ is a phrase I’d never heard of. So, I looked it up. In general, it’s a legal term – in contract law. It refers to a major event, unforeseen by the parties to an agreement. A ‘force majeure’ can render a contract void should one of the parties successfully claim it as a reason for not being able to fulfill the terms of an agreement.
It turns out to be a perfect title for Swedish director, Ruben Ostlund’s latest film.

Force Majeure is a study of human behavior in the aftermath of a perceived mortal threat. The idea for the film came from an incident in the lives of friends of the director – a married couple who were vacationing in Latin America. One day, from seemingly nowhere, gunmen appeared and began shooting. The husband bolted for cover, leaving his wife unprotected. They both survived, but when they returned to Sweden, if the wife had consumed a glass or two of wine, she told the story over and over, simply couldn’t get it out of her mind.

In Ostlund’s film, we closely observe five days in the life of a Swedish family on a skiing vacation in the French Alps. Ostensibly, the purpose of the vacation is to provide the father, a successful businessman named Tomas, some down time to spend with his family. The locale is a bit upscale and the mountain-scape exceedingly gorgeous. Tomas, his wife Ebba, and their preteen children, Vera and Harry, are more than passable skiers. Watching the family zig zag down the slopes is a minor, but enjoyable part of the film.

Day One goes fine. The family skis. The food is good. And Ebba meets an unnamed woman, about her own age, who is vacationing solo – having left her hubby and kids back home. Ebba is astonished to learn that her new acquaintance is an eager practitioner of free love. And, she is eloquent in defense of her life-style.

Day Two begins just as fine as Day One. After a morning on the slopes, the family has lunch on the balcony of their hotel, overlooking the unspeakable majesty of the snow covered mountains. Lunch is momentarily interrupted by the sound of an explosion. Tomas tells Ebba not to be concerned. The purpose of the explosion, he explains, is to precipitate a ‘controlled avalanche’, one that will prevent a spontaneous, and potentially dangerous, real avalanche. What happens next is at the core of the film, and I shall remain mum about it.

But the aftermath of the event consumes the emotional lives of every member of the family for the duration of their vacation. We are treated to ruminations about the psychological consequences of society’s expectation of heroism. Significant and articulate ponderings of gender roles, cowardice, and the intuition of children are explored. And, perhaps the biggest subject that director Ostlund takes on is the torturous path to forgiveness.

For me, one of the things that makes Force Majeure such an intelligent and powerful film is that it doesn’t really end after the credits have rolled. I left the theater wondering how I might react if confronted with a ‘force majeure’. And, it’s not that I want to find out, but, I haven’t stopped wondering. This film ‘has legs’, and it’s following me. I highly recommend it.

Dear White People

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Pride

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Any movie that opens with Pete Seeger’s version of Solidarity Forever would have my immediate attention, and I’m very happy to say that throughout the new British release, Pride, my attention never flagged. In fact, I grew ever more rapt as the movie rolled on.

The film opens in the summer of 1984, in London. A gay pride parade is about to commence. One of the leaders of the march, Mark, a young fellow in his twenties, has just coldly flipped off an importunate lover. Mark’s attention is focused, instead, on a news show on the telly. He, and we, learn that a national coal miners’ strike is now in its fourth month, and that 20,000 jobs are in limbo for the interim. Margaret Thatcher defends her government’s reactionary stance to the strike and tells the country the following: I can’t change my style. I’m here to be a good firm leader.

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The Skeleton Twins

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Land Ho!

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Get On Up

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Listen to the review above, by David H. Anthony.

Chef

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Listen to the review by David H. Anthony above, or read it below.
 

 
The work of Jon Favreau has already made an impact on American popular film. He has been executive producer for the Iron Man franchise as well as for The Avengers and the quirky Cowboys and Aliens. Chef, his latest endeavor, is distinct from its predecessors; while categorized as a comedy it nonetheless addresses several very serious matters, the most central of which revolve around parenting, more specifically fathering.

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Belle

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Race, bigotry, class, slavery, miscegenation, women as property …. these are a handful of the issues that the film Belle grapples with while disguised as what some are calling ‘a costume drama’.

The film opens in 1769 as John Lindsay, an officer in the British Royal Navy, arrives at an unnamed site to claim his daughter. Her mother, a former West Indian slave, and Lindsay’s lover, has recently died.

Lindsay’s intention is to convince his uncle, Lord Mansfield, who also happens to be the Chief Justice of Britain’s highest court, to care for his daughter while he, Lindsay, is away at sea.

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13 Sins

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In a recent conversation with a friend, I mentioned that I’d just watched 13 Sins. I gave him a rundown of the movie, and he said – sounds a lot like The Magic Christian.
So, I looked up a précis of The Magic Christian, which was released in 1969, and sure enough, the over arching theme seems to be similar.

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Two Films: The Girls in the Band & Particle Fever

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Listen to David H. Anthony’s review, above.

  
The Girls in the Band
This has been quite a fertile post-Oscar film season, illustrated by two well-paced documentary films to be screened locally for short stints of one week each. The first is The Girls in the Band, by Judy Chaikin. The Girls in the Band begins with a shot of the famous photo called A Great Day in Harlem, in which the principal living legends of the jazz tradition assemble for a historic photo in front of a Harlem Brownstone. The shot was taken by Art Kane, a freelance photographer, for Esquire magazine in 1958. It was so important that it later became the basis of a 1994 film.

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