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Recent Movies: Sleeping Giant; The Little Prince; Green Room; Old Movies: Jeanne Dielman; Books by Rebecca Rosen

May 22, 2016

Recent Movies

Sleeping Giant

During the summer in a resort area on the northern Ontario shore of Lake Superior, three boys in their early teens hang out together. They include Adam, a quiet boy from a well-off family; Riley a tough boy who lives in a modest home with his grandmother; and Nate, Riley’s equally tough cousin who is staying with Riley and their grandmother during the summer.

Knowing that this was yet another boys-coming-of-age movies, my first reaction was “Good God, not ANOTHER one”! But there are some films in this category that stand out among the (seemingly) thousands of others. “Sleeping Giant” is one of them. For one thing, Adam does not go along with the hyper-macho talk of the other boys or the milder macho talk coming from his father. There are more than a few hints that Adam might be gay.

The first half is rather difficult. Nate is so viciously mean-spirited and bullying that the viewer can feel dragged through an endurance test. This is partly because of the accuracy of the portrayal of teenaged bullies. While it is more than tempting to wish Nate harm due to his meanness, these feelings change in the second half when major dramatic turns take place.

Feelings come to the surface during a board-game. This sequence is powerful for many reasons. One is that it is so true-to-life with one character acting as an inconsistent rule enforcer.

The drama that follows is compelling and moving thus making the tough slogging of the first half well worth the experience. There are other fine characterizations as well including Adam’s father who is trying to be a father while also trying to appear “cool” to the teenagers.

RATING (out of four stars): * * *


The Little Prince

In a French suburb, a girl of maybe nine has a hyper-ambitious mother who has over-scheduled the girl’s life. Naturally, the girl connects with their eccentric, ostracized neighbour: a former pilot who tells her stories of the title character, taken from the novella by Antoine de St-Expury. This review is for the film’s English-language version.

The greatest delights in this film are the ways it mocks our modern world. It begins by focusing on a child whose childhood is being ripped away and compares her to an elderly man who refused to let his childhood spirit die. They are surrounded by drone people living in cloned modern homes. Brief scenes mocking office clones and uppity schools are a joy.

With so much going for the film, there’s almost a feeling of anti-climax by the end. There is certainly nothing wrong with it but the main story has less bite than the occasional satire that rightly criticizes the worst of modern times. But the overall message is worth it: despite the insane demands of our modern world, we can get through it if we stay connected to our childhood spirit and imagination.

RATING: * * *


Green Room

A hard-up band of punk rock musicians takes a gig in a white-supremacist venue in rural Oregon . After accidentally witnessing something they were not meant to see, their lives are changed forever.

“Green Room” succeeds as a suspenseful thriller. With one group of people pitted against another, the audience is left to wonder who will end up alive by the movie’s end. It also reminds one of other movies that made a part of rural America into hell-on-earth. “The Hateful Eight” and “Winter’s Bone” are two such movies that come to mind.

As there is minimal characterization, this film can have only so much impact. Also, little is done with the white supremacist element of the story. But there is still good entertainment value in the film – at least for those of us who don’t live in or near anywhere like the setting of this movie.

RATING: * * *


Great Old Movies Seen for the First Time

Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

Three consecutive days are covered in the life of the title character (played by Delphine Seyrig), a middle-aged widow who cares for her teenaged son in the morning and evening, and does various errands in the afternoon. One of those errands seems very surprising for someone whose routine is rather rigid.

There are various reasons to think this movie might not work. It’s over three hours; the camera is almost always on one character; she is mostly alone and even with others, there is rare conversation. With the exception of a shocking ending, most of the time is spent on the ordinary routines of life. Despite these challenges that would fail with other film-makers, this movie succeeds in a fascinating way mainly due to Seyrig and writer-director Chantal Akerman. By the end, one realizes the movie HAD to be so long to make its point.

The ending is so surprising that an initial reaction might be to reject its apparent absurdity. Yet, one cannot help but backtrack to find clues that may have lead to it.

Might it be that Jeanne was starting to find an unexpected pleasure in one of her errands and that threw her off her usual sense of being very organized?

This film succeeds in causing viewers to think well after the movie, a true sign of greatness. For those of us who are “loners” like Jeanne, we are forced to examine our lives. Living in this earthly plane, we are almost forced to have a routine to survive; but when does the routine become a problem?

“Jeanne Dielman” might also be considered ahead of its time in exposing mental illness, signs that are apparent as we often see the despair on Jeanne’s face as she stares into space.

At the and of the film, I said to a long-time cinephile friend sitting to next to me, “Now that was definitely an ART film.” Usually, I’m condescending whenever I say that. In this case, I meant it as a compliment.

RATING: * * * ½

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT: Directing by Chantal Akerman


Spiritual Books

“Spirited” and “Awaken the Spirit Within” both by Rebecca Rosen

In both of these books, Rosen (a spiritual medium) writes of her experiences of her God-given gift of communicating with souls who have passed on to the spirit world. Those souls who communicate with her include her own loved ones and those of her clients.

Such books could only be approached by those who already believe in spiritualism (like myself) or those who are somewhat curious and open-minded.

Rosen writes with the perspective that our loved ones are watching over us along with other spirit guides and angels. The purpose is to help us complete our life’s purpose as peacefully as possible – even during times that are anything but peaceful.

There are other concepts explored in these books. For example, before we are sent from the spirit world to this world, we make arrangements to choose certain situations in life including hardships. The intention is to work past the hardships to raise our souls to higher levels. We also lose our memories of the spirit world and past lives before being “sent down” to the current life. If we don’t finish all of our pre-arranged “assignments” during life, we can continue the work in spirit world or reincarnate and try again. This is especially true for suicide cases.

Speaking of suicides, this is especially personal for Rosen as she lost both her father and her paternal grandmother this way. Such spirits do not “go to hell” as some of us have been told; rather, they continue to work on spiritual lessons they missed in life.

As I have always been curious about life after death and other related issues, these books made me feel better for various reasons. One is the reassurance that our loved ones stay with us after they pass away and we do reunite with them after we ourselves leave this life.

Also, these books give the best explanation I know as to why bad things to people who don’t seem to deserve it. Even if I might have felt upset about some of the concepts explained, those concepts make far more sense to me than anything else I’ve learned in the past on this subject.

RATING (for both books): * * * 1/2

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