Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Out of Africa (1985)
Why this film transcends most "romantic" films
The reason why Out of Africa is one of my favorite films is because it portrays the yearnings that lie behind what we frequently call "romance" to build a story that contains more wisdom and points to something more transcendent than other films that fall into that category. Most unabashedly "romantic" movies portray the lovers' love as the be-all-end-all of everything, but not Out of Africa, to its credit. I think of the beginning when Karen describes (and then we later see) how Denys showed her a glimpse of the world "through God's eyes, and then, I thought, 'Yes, . . . I see.'"
Though there is the theme of Denys Finch-Hatton's inability or unwillingness to make lasting human connections for fear of losing his independence (even the man he considered his best friend says, "I didn't think I knew you well enough"), the film is obviously more about Karen Blixen. It's about her having to adjust to the ultimate dashing of the best-laid plans and about learning that she doesn't ultimately possess or own the things in life that bring her joy. Watching her cope in the midst of that process makes her, to me, one of the most appealing female film characters that I've seen (much to the credit of the wonderful Meryl Streep). By the end of the movie there's a very poignant admixture of the grief of loss and the peace of letting go that moves me every time and that I don't fully understand.
It was John Barry's music that first aroused my interest in this film, and to me it's interesting how his sensibilities seem well-suited to films that portray themes of recapturing something lost or holding onto something you can't. In addition to Out of Africa, some of "his" other films that might seem eclectic at first but all contain this thematic vein would be Mary,Queen of Scots, Somewhere In Time, Raise the Titanic, Peggy Sue Got Married, and Dances With Wolves.
Donnie Darko (2001)
Gets at some core issues
If you liked American Beauty, Magnolia, and Vanilla Sky, you would probably enjoy the similarly-themed Donnie Darko. The main strengths of the film lie in its stylish direction, haunting images, and effective soundtrack (both the original score and 80's pop tunes). Though the sci-fi musings about time travel provoke some thought, the final resonance of the film lies in Jake Gyllenhal's performance as a young man who wants to know what we all want to know - namely, that we are not ultimately alone in a universe bereft of meaning. Mary McDonnell (as his mother) and Katharine Ross (as his therapist) turn in fine supporting performances as people desiring to help Donnie through his inner struggle. I must commend my high-school classmate Richard Kelly on a job well done. He seems to have developed sympathetic insight into the core issues common to us all. As I recall Richard in the memory banks of my own 80's suburban Virginia childhood, such sympathy was not readily apparent to me then.
The Green Mile (1999)
Fell short if intended to be a Christ allegory
WARNING - THIS REVIEW CONTAINS PLOT SPOILERS
Though this film had its poignant and powerful moments (as well as serving as an indictment of the death penalty), such moments failed to add up to a coherent whole for me, especially if Stephen King and Frank Darabont were intending to make a symbolic parallel (as it seemed they were) between John Coffey and the other "J.C." - Jesus Christ. Whatever their intentions, it was clear that the Coffey character was functioning more as a symbol of innocence in a fallen world than as a "normal" flesh- and-blood human being.
However, the film did not really succeed as a redemption story in that the sympathetic "good" characters surrounding Coffey remain sympathetic and good, while the unsympathetic "bad guys" (i.e. Percy and Wild Bill) remain unsympathetic, or at least "unredeemed", as far as what is shown to the viewer. I suppose one could see Delacroix as a redeemed man, although he's already redeemed when the viewer is introduced to him. Also, if Coffey is intended to be a Christ-figure, one of the most confusing plot developments (if I am interpreting it correctly) arises when Coffey employs one "bad guy" (Percy) as an instrument to kill another "bad guy" (Wild Bill) because Coffey had gotten a glimpse into the evil in Wild Bill's heart. Therefore, one cannot truly see Coffey's death (though presumably undeserved) as a loving substitutionary sacrifice by an innocent one for a guilty one, in that Coffey had already exacted his own judgment on Wild Bill - the "guilty one" in the film who "deserved" to die. Such a storyline is not consistent with the biblical story of Christ, in which the innocent Christ bore the judgment that all human beings equally deserve, as no human being can claim to be "less evil" or "better" than another human being, since all are equally in need of the divine grace and forgiveness offered in Christ.
As I said, this film has its moving moments, but if filmmakers are attempting to go for pretty obvious Christ-symbolism, they would do well to check their story for consistency with the original.
Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967)
Overly cerebral, but worth a watch
Interesting psychological drama that must have been provocative for its time, and seeing Brando and Taylor together make it worth a watch. However, the main failing of the film is presenting its characters primarily as subjects for the viewer's detached psychological evaluation rather than trying to elicit compassion for them as fellow human beings. This is partly the fault of the script and direction, but it isn't helped by a musical score that fails to convey anything except a general sense of weirdness and suspense. Taylor's character is feisty but superficial, and Brando and Julie Harris probably succeed the most at eliciting some degree of compassion for their characters. Also, the film is marred by its ending, which I thought was supposed to come across as tragic and disturbing, but it may provoke unintentional laughter from the viewer owing to the hammy way that it is filmed. However, in terms of its thematic content (repression, superficial social conformity, alienation), this film could in some ways be seen as a forerunner to such recent films as The Ice Storm, American Beauty, and The Talented Mr. Ripley.