Happy Monday everyone and welcome to another edition of the LiC Watercooler, sort of an open thread to discuss what you’ve been watching lately. As always, I’ll kick things off.
The Secret of the Grain is a nominee for best foreign film and it arrives with many excellent reviews. It tells the story of Slimane, an aging Tunisian immigrant who dreams of quitting his backbreaking shipyard job to open his own couscous restaurant on a boat in the harbor. Unfortunately, mistakes in Slimane’s past haunt him and threaten to ruin all his plans.
I was really loving this one through most of its running time up until the final 15 or 20 minutes. Is it fair to turn on a film just because it didn’t end the way you wanted it to? Fair or not, I hated the ending and it ruined the film for me. I’ve given it some thought afterwards and I’ve warmed up to it a little bit – the ending is justified, clearly signaled and it makes sense, but I haven’t gotten over the initial disappointment.
Another best foreign film nominee surrounded by glowing critical praise is Carlos Reygadas’ Silent Light and it was even more disappointing. Though the story of a spiritual crisis in a family of Mennonites stemming from a husband’s infidelity is beautifully told with terrific cinematography and sound design, I found it impossible to identify with or relate to the characters. Because the Mennonites discourage divorce, the wife’s lot was an unfortunate one, but to an outsider unencumbered by religious strictures, her situation seems self-imposed and is therefore not very sympathetic. I hate to say something so beautiful and finely crafted is boring but it left me completely cold.While the technique and the glacial pace were mesmerizing, I was left wondering what the point of it all was.
Finally is Sangre de mi Sangre, a nominee for best first film and screenplay. Christopher Zalla’s story of an illegal Mexican immigrant making his way to New York to find his estranged father only to have his identity stolen by a traveling companion starts out as a promising thriller with shades of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. It’s good stuff for about 90 minutes but then it goes on for far too long and it becomes irritating. Worse, the bleak ending is pointless and unsatisfying. Who knows? Maybe I was just cranky from the earlier disappointments.
That’s the story from Los Angeles. What’s happening with you?