Short Takes: Recent Viewings

Grandma (2015) Paul Weitz

Grandma_for-oldiesStrained relationships, the kind we all face at one time or another in life with both family and friends, is at the heart of this small comedy/drama. It centers around the quirky and crotchety Ellie (Lily Tomlin), an aging poet who has not been able to write since her lesbian lover of more than thirty years passed away. Into her life comes her grandchild, young and pregnant. She wants to have an abortion but has no money.

The characters are well drawn and nicely performed though Lily Tomlin’s performance is a real standout. She’s just wonderful. Some jokes went over the head of the folks I saw the film with, particularly the one when they arrive at the abortion client and Tomlin quips about The Bad Seed who socked her in the face, No one else in the audience got the joke but me who busted out laughing amongst an audience of quietness.

Camille Claudel 1915 (2013) Bruno Dumont

camilleExcellent performance by Juliette Binoche highlights this intriguing understated film focusing on the later years of the French sculptress during the time, the last 30 years of her life, she was confined to an asylum by her family. While paranoid and high strung the question arises does she really belong in this institution where all the other patients are severely mentally handicapped. Bored, deprived of her art and her freedom she leads a life of desperate loneliness and emptiness. An excellent companion piece to the 1988 film Camille Claudel which starred Isabelle Adjani as the sculptress. Definitely, not a film for the action comic crowd.

Keith Richards: Under the Influence (2015) Morgan Neville

KeithWhile there are some scenes and discussions about the Rolling Stones, how could there not be, including the infamous Hollywood Palace episode with Dean Martin making a snide face after the group performed Let’s Spend the Night Together, this documentary avoids the been there, seen it all before pit. It focuses on Keith’s evolving music background, the roots. From Muddy Waters to Buddy Guy to Hank Williams to Chuck Berry and Elvis. Keith looks like he was having a good time making the film, though the topic of death pops up more than once. Directed by Morgan Neville who made the excellent 20 Feet From Stardom, this is a well done look at one of rock and rolls true legends.

With Friends Like Harry… (2000) Dominik Moll

With_a_Friend_Like_Harry_2000_DVDRip_XviD_iNT-TxxZ_avi_0003You need to watch out for who your friends are. Michel (Lauret Lucas) runs into an  ‘old friend’ from high school, Harry (Sergi Lopez). They are in a gas station men’s room along a  highway when they first reunite. Michel and his wife are on their way to their summer home. Harry quickly ingrates himself, and his girlfriend, into their lives. In high school Harry thought Michel was a gifted writer and is distressed to hear that he stopped writing. He encourages Michel to start writing once again. Michel explains life, marriage, kids have change his priorities. Harry continues to pursue his encouraging that Michel start writing again. to some disastrous results. French Hitchcockian thriller that builds slowly. One needs some patience but you will be rewarded in the end.

Hannie Caulder (1972) Burt Kennedy

hannieUneven western that could, and should, have been better. Whoever made the decision to make the three killer/rapists (Ernest Borgnine, Jack Elam and Strother Martin) comical at times deflates the somber mood. The title character (Raquel Welch) is raped, her rancher husband murdered and their ranch set on fire as the film opens. Hannie plans to seek her revenge with the help of bounty hunter Robert Culp. She learns to shoot and just like Clint Eastwood get her targets. Raquel Welch is surprisingly good in the lead role.

One comment on “Short Takes: Recent Viewings

  1. Sam Juliano says:

    Another terrific roundup John! I may like GRANDMA a bit less but still well enough and appreciate your great capsule. I have a very high regard for CAMILLE CLAUDEL. Must see the Keith Richard documentary.

    Liked by 1 person

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