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Scenes From A Marriage (#110 of 6)

Ivo van Hove on Directing Scenes from a Marriage and Angels in America

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Ivo van Hove on Directing Scenes from a Marriage and Angels in America
Ivo van Hove on Directing Scenes from a Marriage and Angels in America

Theater director Ivo van Hove has made a habit of breaching borders. Born in Belgium, he currently runs the internationally renowned Toneelgroep Amsterdam in the Netherlands and also brings his work to New York with welcome regularity. More significantly, van Hove makes an art of erasing the barrier not only between actor and audience, but also between one scene and another.

During the presidential 2012 election, his epochal production Roman Tragedies, which played at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, ran for nearly six hours without any breaks. Van Hove edited Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, and Anthony and Cleopatra to focus both the text and the theatrical experience on the relationship between politicians and the public. Audiences were encouraged to come and go where and when they pleased—even up onto the stage. The production became an exhilarating and indelible exercise in democracy, mounted by one of the reigning auteurs in global theater.

Cannes Film Festival 2014: Winter Sleep, Wild Tales, and Amour Fou Reviews

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Cannes Film Festival 2014: <em>Winter Sleep</em>, <em>Wild Tales</em>, and <em>Amour Fou</em> Reviews
Cannes Film Festival 2014: <em>Winter Sleep</em>, <em>Wild Tales</em>, and <em>Amour Fou</em> Reviews

With his latest, Winter Sleep, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s characteristic obsession with his country’s variegated topography takes him to Cappadocia, a remote stretch of the Anatolian countryside whose strange mound-like formations provide the backdrop for an intimate tale of marital take-and-no-give that’s been stretched (for no apparent reason other than indulgence) to over three hours. Much like the lead character, a charismatic former actor who now runs the Hotel Othello, Ceylan’s film doesn’t know when to let an argument rest. The obvious analogue here would be Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage; the key difference lies in Winter Sleep’s absolute refusal to let anything be at emotional stake. The husband expounds, his wife or sister rebuts, and then he uses his considerable rhetorical acumen to put them in their place. A subplot dealing with a dispute between the hotelier and his tenant farmers seems left over from an earlier film. And in case there were any doubt as to the fatuousness of Ceylan’s approach here, look no further than an excruciatingly protracted scene involving an envelope stuffed with money and a crackling fireplace telegraphs its inevitable conclusion from the start. Perhaps such inexorability is Ceylan’s true theme. If so, he still has to answer for taking nearly forever to get there.

What’s Happened to Us? Jeanine Basinger’s I Do and I Don’t: A History of Marriage in the Movies

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What’s Happened to Us?: Jeanine Basinger’s I Do and I Don’t: A History of Marriage in the Movies
What’s Happened to Us?: Jeanine Basinger’s I Do and I Don’t: A History of Marriage in the Movies

The cover of Jeanine Basinger’s I Do and I Don’t: A History of Marriage in the Movies features Carole Lombard and Jimmy Stewart in a still from Made for Each Other (1939) and, boy, is it gorgeous. Each star with their ambiguous facial expressions, sensual proximity, and debonair dress, the image speaks to an embodiment of classical Hollywood and its underlying ethos of subtle subversion masquerading as affirmation. In fact, much of Basinger’s new book consistently functions in this manner, as one cannot help but be enveloped by the 139 stills and illustrations that so vividly render the period, almost to the extent that Basinger’s prose becomes secondary. Although Basinger claims that her aim—defining historical parameters for explicating depictions of marriage in the cinema—must necessarily revolve around content, the physiological qualities of this particular period of Hollywood cinema holds more resonance than the narratives proper. Discounting a romanticized view of the period runs the risk of stripping away its seductive nature and its ability to transform the domestic; after all, isn’t this a primary motivation for watching a film about two human beings in love? To have the resonance of daily human contact and interaction transcended through cinematic time and space?

If this initially seems a roundabout way to discuss Basinger’s book, it’s because her treatment of the subject is too straightforward for more provocative taste. Rather than historicizing with a revisionist eye, Basinger takes a more traditional historical approach, placing film after film within different or overlapping taxonomies. Much like fellow film historian David Bordwell, her writing is strong, the vision clear, but the parade through periods and themes of filmmaking is more soporific than enlivening, since the categorizations read as matter of fact, instead of being motivated by reaching audacious ends.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Diego Costa’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Diego Costa’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Diego Costa’s Top 10 Films of All Time

I can identify two elements common to the films that ended up on this list. They are either about feminine suffering and/or about the impossibility of language to ever quite translate feeling. The criteria which I came up with for this impossible, unfair, and incredibly fun assignment involved remembering the films that led me to think “This is one of the best films ever made” at the time I first saw them, and which, upon a re-screening, several years later, remained just as remarkable—perhaps for different reasons. Also part of the criteria was my (failed) attempt at not repeating directors, and making a conscious effort to go against a cinematic “affirmative action” that would try to represent different periods of time, countries, and genres. It’s also mind-boggling to notice how half of the list includes films made in the mid 1970s. But the list escapes traditional logic. It’s the warping, re-signifying logic of affect and memory that architected this list, which turns out to be nothing short of this cinephile’s symptom.

Playing Off Bergman Adrian Tomine’s Scenes from an Impending Marriage

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Playing Off Bergman: Adrian Tomine’s Scenes from an Impending Marriage
Playing Off Bergman: Adrian Tomine’s Scenes from an Impending Marriage

Given its Tiffany Blue cover and petite size, Adrian Tomine’s Scenes from an Impending Marriage seems less like a book about someone getting married than an inexpensive gift for someone getting married.

This is a short—54 tiny, square-shaped pages—collection of comics about what it’s like to be engaged to be married for a pair of liberal, PC, urban-dwelling yuppies. As such, we get vignettes and anecdotes about consumer guilt, respecting ethnic difference, getting in shape, passive aggression, and self-consciousness. All these themes and their accompanying minor epiphanies occur along the common route of how one gets ready for a wedding: selecting guests, finding a venue, designing invitations, hiring a D.J., registering for gifts, etc.

Most of the comics are two or three pages long and involve the bride and groom to be talking to each other, pondering nuptial necessities, and picking out marital must-haves. They’re drawn in Tomine’s black-and-white, clean-line style, a couple of scenes paying visual tribute to Peanuts and The Family Circus.

New York Film Festival 2010: Tuesday, After Christmas

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New York Film Festival 2010: <em>Tuesday, After Christmas</em>
New York Film Festival 2010: <em>Tuesday, After Christmas</em>

I was around six when my parents began divorcing, a two-year bickering lurch of which I most remember hiding under a bed. I was old enough to understand what was happening, but too young to get that it wasn’t my fault. Worst of all, I had no images with which to identify. I struggled to find a model for how divorced couples and their kids behaved, but came up empty. It seemed a subject that people not only didn’t discuss, but avoided.

The gift my parents’ breakup gave me was that it made me a moviegoer. The VCR became a way to deal with my troubles. I gravitated in particular toward stories about couples, with love lost and found: the church reunion in Sunrise, the spaghetti dinner and card game at the heart of The Apartment. Nights of Cabiria showed a woman who kept getting hurt in relationships, and I watched it over and over to try to understand how my parents had hurt each other.