House Logo
Explore categories +

Martin Sheen (#110 of 3)

Summer of ‘88: Da

Comments Comments (...)

Summer of ‘88: <em>Da</em>
Summer of ‘88: <em>Da</em>

If you dream of a monosyllabic title for your hit play, you can’t get any more evocative than Hugh Leonard when he gave his the simple name of Da. Not only is it short, not only does it spell out the theme of filial sentiment in a single flap of the tongue, it damn near makes sense visually. The two bulky letters face each other, different in size and stature, forever at odds and yet inseparable. Like father. Like son. Duh.

For a brief moment in the late ’80s and early ’90s, it seemed Ireland could have done no wrong in terms of movies that were unashamedly local and universal at the same time. The same feat would be repeated by Iran in the mid-’90s and by Romania in the new millennium, but the string of Irish films of note—starting out with The Dead, Eat the Peach, and Da, and culminating with the golden era bookended by Jim Sheridan’s My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father—has been hugely inspiring in terms of attracting global audiences to local themes. (In fact, one of the best films of the entire surge was John Irvin’s Widows’ Peak, based on a script by no other than Leonard.)

I have a special fondness for Da: Leonard’s play is one of several I translated into my native Polish, and it’s also the only one of those to be published. Naturally, I spent a long time with Leonard’s words. As I ploughed through the text, I wondered how the whole thing would work on the stage, given its complex time structure. This I’ve yet to discover; the movie, however, still works very well.

The Conversations: Terrence Malick Part I

Comments Comments (...)

The Conversations: Terrence Malick Part I
The Conversations: Terrence Malick Part I

“Think of a tree, how it grows round its roots. If a branch breaks off, it don’t stop but keeps reaching toward the light.”

Jason Bellamy: Terrence Malick’s next film, due soon in theaters, is called The Tree of Life, and coincidentally or not it is set up by the final shot of Malick’s previous film, The New World. In both the theatrical and extended cuts of that 2005 film, Malick closes with a shot at the base of a tree: gazing up the side of its mighty trunk as it stretches heavenward. It’s a quintessentially Malickian shot, both in terms of the camera’s intimacy to its subject and in the way that it presents nature with a spiritual awe, as if the tree’s branches are the flying buttresses of a grand cathedral. But the reason I mention that shot is so I can begin this discussion by acknowledging its roots. We’ve been regular contributors to The House Next Door for almost two-and-a-half years now, and, as loyal House readers know, Terrence Malick’s The New World is the seed from which this blog sprouted. What began in Janurary 2006 as Matt Zoller Seitz’s attempt to find enough cyber real estate in which to freely explore his passion for The New World—a rather Malickian quest, if you think about it—became something much bigger, until now here we are: writing about the filmmaker without whom this blog and thus this series might not exist.

I make that acknowledgement en route to this one: By the very nature of its origins, The House Next Door has always been something of an unofficial Terrence Malick fan club—nay, house of worship. Many of us first gathered at this site because of this subject matter. (Any immediate kinship many of us felt with Matt was inspired by a shared religious experience with The New World, not to mention the holy awakening of seeing serious criticism posted to the Web by amateur means.) I make this observation in the interest of full disclosure—less an acknowledgement of the House’s origins, which so many of its readers know already, than an indication of my awareness of it—in the hopes that by doing so I can convince the Malick nonbelievers that they are welcome here. Because, see, Malick is one of those filmmakers who seems to inspire two reactions: genuflecting reverence and head-scratching ennui. Is there room between the two? Or are total immersion and deference to Malick’s filmmaking elemental to its effect? In Part I of this discussion, we will look at Malick’s first four films, Badlands (1973), Days of Heaven (1978), The Thin Red Line (1998) and The New World (the theatrical cut), and what I hope we begin to uncover is why Malick’s filmmaking inspires such divergent reactions.

I am, admittedly, a singer in Malick’s choir. His films don’t move me equally, but when they do move me I’m profoundly affected. You come into this conversation having just watched most of Malick’s films for the first time. So let me ask a question that will cause the Malick agnostics to roll their eyes and the Malick believers to raise their hands to the sky like Pocahontas in The New World: Did Malick’s filmmaking inspire you with a unique sense of awe, or do you feel like you’re on the outside looking in, or something else?

Oliver Stone: Natural Born Filmmaker, Part 1

Comments Comments (...)

Oliver Stone: Natural Born Filmmaker, Part 1
Oliver Stone: Natural Born Filmmaker, Part 1

Veteran. Agitator. Provocateur. Bully. Conspiracy nut. Patriot. These are just some of the labels used over the years to describe Oliver Stone. (Subtle isn’t one of them.) He has spent his filmmaking career charting the currents that propelled America in the post-war era: war, greed, sensationalism, sex, drugs, and rock & roll. Like Jean-Luc Godard, Stone embraces myth then cuts it up to reveal a truth at its heart. Whether it’s the dark side of the counterculture (The Doors), the moment America entered the media age of paranoia and punditry (JFK), the ambition—and folly—that comes with being the leader of the most powerful country in the world (Nixon), or the corporatization of America (Wall Street, Any Given Sunday), Stone has used film to chronicle the dreams, fears, and disillusionments that marked the last half of the 20th century as the most creative—and destructive—in U.S. history. (Is it really a surprise that Stone’s latest movie is about the defining moment of the 21st century?)