5 Great Films I saw in November

A very slow month for viewings, my computer has been out of operation for a while (using the family one), and my TV/DVD outlet is not working. I’ve seen about half the films I’d have liked to, and most were theatrical viewings. Still, unlike recent months, I’ve seen some of the strongest films of the year in November and even in a stronger month, at least a few might have been worth mentioning. As usual, these are only first time viewings and are presented in alphabetical order (more or less).


Un conte de Noël (2008)


Let the Right One In (2008)


My Darling Clementine (1946)


Le Plaisir (1952)


State Fair (1945)

6 responses to “5 Great Films I saw in November

  1. The young lady behind him is too impressed to care. She’s puzzled, wondering what HE is doing, but she’s also very much enamoured with his helicopter actions.

  2. I had to make myself not really read your post on “Let the Right One In” since I don’t want to ‘give away’ anything too much. Gothic originality is too sweet and too infrequent for me to want to ruin any surprises!

    “The Sweet Hereafter” was one of my big disappointments in 90s cinema, as I may have mentioned sometime before. Your passion for the film makes me vaguely determined to give it another shot someday, but for me it came across as unreal and manipulated.

    The other day I spent hours over a discount-shelf copy of Zadie Smith’s “On Beauty”, which I had vaguely wanted to read. I ended up “skim-reading” it to the end, and though there were a few funny vignettes, I thought it was hopeless. She had some funny things to drop on academe, but they all fell out arbitrarily, in the wrong place. Her central character seemed to float annoyingly free of all the comic/vain/ridiculous attributes given him, because she never worked those traits in dramatically– it’s like her protagonist is a voodoo doll that she occasionally pushes a pin into.

    I guess I felt something like that about “The Sweet Hereafter”– the whole idyllic glow of that shot of his young self with his wife and daughter seemed contrived (if visually striking)– something that belonged to another story, different people. Instead of being caught up in the suspense, and the emotional turmoil, of his recollections about driving her off with the possibility of having to inflict a tracheotomy, I felt like it was a grotesquerie thrown in to make his turmoil with the off-screen daughter seem “important.” The whole project felt to me like an exercise in post-Pinterian theatre, cold, badly “intellectual” and throwing out ‘shocking’ content without making it believable, dramatic or felt. Some images had a disjointed resonance by themselves, but the film they were a part of seemed, to me, schismatic and pretentious.

    . . . Well, that’s my rant of the day! Is Mia Kershner hot in “Exotica”? [there’s a transition!] That was something I always wanted to see but never got the chance. Someday, perhaps, and maybe I’ll love it too . . .

    btw, I’m going to dissent on your take on Grant in “North by Northwest”. Love him in that!! Do you really think Hitchcock is trying to humiliate him? I think he’s a triumph of civilization in that, ever unflappable in the most ridiculous situations. The drunk-driving escape chase, for instance, is I think a delirious set-piece worthy of the shower scene in “Psycho”: its obvious ‘incorrectness’ in behavior (don’t try this at home kids!) somehow makes it all the more giddy a release, and watching Grant mime the sober man’s wielding of the drunk man’s wheel is just perfect! As, indeed, is the whole film!

  3. Well advised, I tried to avoid revealing spoilers, but I’m a purist and generally believe/practise knowing and seeing as little about a film as possible before taking the plunge. I don’t like to be tainted by the opinions of others as much as possible :p

    Fair enough, my mother who I watched part of it with this time actually agrees with you on most of your points, at least mirror in part your critisisms. There is a sense of contrivance, and though I disagree that the recollection is out of place/shocking, I think, in form, it’s meant to mirror the fable it’s referencing. Egoyan took many liberties with the original text, and I think he focused his structure/themes around the story of the pied piper, which is not present in the novel. The only thing I might agree with you on is the erhaps, “intellectual” coldness … or even hole, in the idea that the town is somehow being punished. I think the pied piper is an interesting analogy, and I can only assume Egoyan goes all out with it, therefore, I’m assuming that the children are taken away out of anger or as a punishment to the people. Though I don’t think I would be entirely satisfied if they spelt out why, especially if it was grand moralising, I think it’s left perhaps a little too undefined. Which, for me, is as close to pretention as a film can get. I obviously love the film, but it’s the big glaring “thing” that doesn’t quite sit with me.

    I think as far as Canadian culture goes, Egoyan’s film is a masterwork in exploring central themes and motifs that have pervaded our artistic contribution since the beginning. Considering how prosperous and fortunate a nation we are, I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that our arts, literature, painting and cinema reflect a great sadness and hopelessness. Perhaps it’s a throwback to the days when survival was a serious issue because of our often unforgiving and harsh climate, or the lack of any distinct identity. Pre-1960, there is a big emphasis on physical survival, while most Canadian arts, post that date (The Sweet Hereafter included) lean towards survival of the soul. I think Egoyan brings both together beautifully, creating something of a modern day fable for adults.

    Mia Kershner is hot in Exotica. She is obviously very young, I didn’t even recknonize her the first time I saw the film. Very thin, she still has that teenage baby fat in her face, and looks even younger than she is. Exotica is a little tricky to find in my experience, but I heartily recommend it. I hope you enjoy it, though in terms of structure and even theme, it isn’t that much different than The Sweet Hereafter. I think there is still a greater chance you will enjoy it.

    I think Hitchcock was, and though Grant manages to overcome it in nearly every situation, I stand that it’s among the few roles where Grant does not come across as charming or even particularly likeable. It’s essentially a caricature of his persona, and he comes across as rather whiny and even swarmy. It’s still most people on a good day, which is a tribute to Grant’s smoothness, but it’s enough to grate on me. I have a difficult time explaining it exactly, because it’s more of a gut reaction to certain ticks, phrases and actions that should not be out of the ordinary but feel perverse and unlikeable under the circomstances. It’s all around not one of my favourite Hitchcock films, I’ve even seen it recently and was quite bored throughout a large part of the middle section. Grant though, stars in my favourite Hitch’ film, Notorious. So perhaps I’m matching him up against something I shouldn’t.

  4. It’s interesting that you prefer Grant in “Notorious”, where Devlin is such a tormented and brooding man, over “North by Northwest” where he is, for the most part (as I see it!) breezy and engaging. Though he has his dark, “Othello”-like Night of the Soul when he comes back to Eve Kendall after he’s realized (believes) she set him up to be killed, for me a powerful moment of emotional torment that resolves beautifully in the film’s finale, where he in effect performs the role of Orpheus (more successfully!) to her Eurydice. –I’m sorry you haven’t enjoyed it, but perhaps one day! . . . But have you seen “Suspicion”? I’d be curious as to how you react to Grant’s very ambiguous presence there!!

    Perhaps I’ll catch Exotica someday. I only know Mia Kershner from “Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina”, Bernard Rose’s odd adaptation that I curiously enjoyed when I saw it (though it’s almost a Ken Russell-level debasement) where she played Sophie (?) the virtuous love of Levin. Then she had a cameo in “Not another Teen Movie” [did you comment on this someplace?] which I thought was hideous– but the only moment I remember “enjoying” was when she sashayed onscreeen and said some horribly vulgar thing that I can’t even remember, but I believed tossed up several perversions in one sentence. So I was intrigued by the contrast! [if also feeling a bit “say it ain’t so!” as I am wont to do when a star changes “image’ a little too abruptly). But then, since she apparently played some kind of stripper in the Egoyan film I should have known to expect this!

    I see that you liked the Kiera Knightley film . . . Ha! Yeah, I’ll have my reservations about that too!

    But really, you speak very powerfully for “The Sweet Hereafter”. I almost feel guilty if I’ve egged you towards thinking doubtfully about it, but if your mother has beat me to it, I’ll forgive myself this time! LOL

  5. If it makes you feel any better, my FAVOURITE Grant role/film is The Awful Truth. No brooding. I’ve never thought of it like the Orpheus myth, but you are very much right. Even thinking of it that way makes that final little scene where Alexander goes back into the house all the more powerful.

    I’ve never seen Suspicion, at least not in it’s entirity.

    I haven’t seen either film unfortunately, I’ve only seen the Garbo Anna Karenina, which isn’t particularly good. She does play a stripper in Exotica though! Exotica is a strip-club :p

    I actually LOVE Keira Knightley, so I have a bias. I even half like her in the Pirates films, except the first because she’s useless.

    Don’t feel guilty, I like it 😀

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