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Motifs in cinema 2013: Love and marriage

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beforemidnight1

“And so they lived happily ever after”.

Not.

They don’t make that kind of movies anymore, do they? If want to take your loved one to a movie date, you’re probably better off staying away from any movie that has to do with love, relationships or marriage. Because they’ll probably leave you questioning if becoming a couple is such a good idea in the first place

Judging from what came out in 2013 this view on love isn’t about to change anytime soon. You have to look hard to find a film that still believes in the “one true love” that will last a lifetime. The united theme of most movies about love and marriage these days is that depicture how it breaks down one way or another. The curve of love seems to be as inevitable as the fact that entropy increases over time. Falling in love puts the world into a neat and simple order. But as we progress through time, learning more about ourselves and about the world, children getting into the picture, it starts to get more complicated. Either we give up about the relationship or we give up about ourselves. Regardless which way we go, there’s a price to pay. Pain, confusion and chaos are looming over us.

gatsbyflowersA painful wake-up
In 2013 we were introduced to a couple of movie characters who still nourish a romantic view on love, interestingly enough both men. Gatsby in The Great Gatsby has a firm belief that he’s going to win back Daisy with a shower of flowers and Ellis in Mud refuses to realize that neither he, nor Mud, have met their soul mates. They have to travel a long and painful road before they see things as they are: that they didn’t have a relationship in the first place.

Other movie couples are slightly better off, such as Liberace and his young lover in Behind the Candelabra and the female couple in Blue is the Warmest Colour. While those relationships don’t end well, at least they have a few happy years to enjoy before they start their descent.

Unchallenged on the position as “darkest depicturing of a relationship” was The Broken Circle Breakdown. I cried myself through this film, and what made me saddest wasn’t the cancer disease that the daughter of the couple was fighting. It was what the disease made to them, how it tore them apart at a time in their lives when they needed each other more than ever. It reminded a little of Blue Valentine, but more riveting thanks to the bluegrass score accompanying them as they go deeper and deeper, entering circle after circle in their inferno.
brokencirclebreakdown
Brighter movies
Wasn’t there any movie at all that painted love in brighter colours? Well, I had to think hard about it but I came up with a few. One is About Time, where admittedly the father-son relationship is more important than the romance. But there is a romantic part as well and being a Richard Curtis movie, it doesn’t let you down.

Then there was Don Jon, not exactly romantic at first sight, being about a pretty miserable, appalling porn addict. But it gets better and it ends up being one of the more optimistic love movies from 2013.There is one that beats it though: Warm Bodies, which once for all proves that zombies can be just as romantic as vampires. How little did we know!

Two great movies about love and marriage that came out in 2013 remain. One of them is Her, but I’m not going to talk about it further in this post. Not because it doesn’t deserve a mentioning; it deals with the topic in a very interesting way and I fell in love with the movie on spot. But I watched it only the other day and so did many other people outside of the US market. In my book Her isn’t a 2013 movie. It’s one that I’ll save for next year’s motif post.

warm-bodiesBefore Midnight
The other movie is, of course, Before Midnight, THE movie about love and marriage of the year, hands down. What can I say that hasn’t been said before? I just feel privileged to be able to follow the ups and downs in Jessie’s and Celine’s relationship, reconnecting with them every nine years. If the conversation in the first movie was mostly flirty, it hit a deeper level in the second as they opened up about their current life situation and what had become of the dreams of their youth. But it’s in this third movie that it starts to get real. Not everyone who watched it appreciated this; I’ve seen some who felt genuinely sad to see them fighting the way they did, longing back for the earlier, more romantic days. I see it differently.  Love is about so much more than just plain romance. Romance serves as a starting point, but it can only hold your attention that long. It’s what happens over all those following years when the novelty has worn off that truly matters. Or as they put it so beautiful in The Deep Blue Sea, which I’ve already quoted in a previous post, but is so good that it deserves to be put out there again:

A lot of rubbish is talked about love. Do you know what real love is? It’s wiping someone’s arse or changing their sheets when they’ve wetted themselves – and then let them keep their dignity so you can both go on.”

I imagine that Jessie and Celine could be this for each other in the future. I hope we’ll be able to follow them to that point. But I don’t think we’ll ever leave the theatre after watching a Before-movie in the safe knowledge that they’ll live happily ever after. Those days are irrevocably over.

About Motifs in Cinema
This post is a part in a yearly event called “Motifs in Cinema”, organized by Andrew Kendall at Encore’s World of Film & TV.

Here’s how Andrew has described the idea:

Motifs in Cinema is a discourse across some film blogs, assessing the way in which various thematic elements have been used in the 2013 cinematic landscape. How does a common theme vary in use from a comedy to a drama? Are filmmakers working from a similar canvas when they assess the issue of death or the dynamics of revenge? Like most things, a film begins with an idea – Motifs in Cinema assesses how various themes emanating from a single idea change when utilised by varying artists.”

Don’t miss out the other posts in this blogathon, which includes thirteen different themes. All the posts are collected in a list over at Andrew’s place.

behindthe

The Velvet Café’s top list of 2013

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gravity2
Bloggers make their top lists of the year earlier and earlier. Publishing them in the beginning of December is not unusual. I insist on waiting until the year is over before I do anything about my list. However this year I’m a little later than usual, for no good reason. I’ve just been busy and haven’t come around to it.

I don’t expect anyone else to be particularly interested in my list at this point. But I don’t make it for you, I make it for me, because it gives me a sense of order and because I’ve found that those year lists are pretty useful as reference material. So here I go anyway. Late, but dedicated.

The rules
My rules are the following: movies that either had their first theatrical release in Sweden or were released directly for DVD can be taken into consideration. Screenings at film festivals don’t count, since they’re so limited and out of reach for most of us, including me.

If you wonder why I haven’t included a certain movie, chances are that I haven’t seen it yet. Here are some examples of movie which will be 2013 films as far as I am concerned, either I’ve seen them or not: Her, Only Lovers Left Alive, American Hustle, August: Osage County, Inside Llewy Davis.

Needless to say this was hard. Like super hard. And if you asked me tomorrow, the list would have shifted into a different shape. It’s mood relatd.

And now ladies and gentlemen – bring on the list!

Honorable mentions
First a few movies that didn’t make it into the actual list but which I want to give a nod:

blingring
The Bling Ring

I felt emotionally disconnected from Sofia Coppola’s movie, but it worked for me at an intellectual level.

Liv and Ingmar
This might be old news for Bergman experts, but to me this documentary put the relationship into a new light.

world war z
World War Z

The film is pale compared to the book it’s based on, with little more than the title in common. But I give it as much as that the mass scenes with zombies were awesome.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Another round of Battle Royale. It was enjoyable but I hope they’ll get do something different in part three. This was basically more of the same.

Foxfire
One of three movies this year about gangs with criminal girls. My initial sympathies for them faded pretty quickly.

Trance
OK, I admit that it was forgettable even if I dislike the word. But it was fun as long as it lasted

30-50

about time
About Time
It was a milk chocolate movie, for days when all you want to do is to hide under a blanket and comfort yourself with huge amounts of TV and sweets.

Anna Karenina
Oh, the dresses. The dresses!

Django-Unchained
Django Unchained

Five minutes was all it took for Django to win me over. Those five minutes didn’t just introduce the heroes – the bounty hunter Dr Schultz and his to-be partner Django, former slave. It also contained the main features of the movie I was about to see: a well balanced mix of drama, comedy and stylish, choreographed over-the-top violence.

Don Jon
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s debut as a director  holds a lot of promise and if he decides to go on with a career not only appearing in movies, but also making them, I’ll be in line to watch them.

desolation
The Hobbit: The desolation of Smaug

A little bit better than the first one, partly thanks to Tauriel, badd-ass elf woman.

Mood Indigo
The first half of the movie is just one long visual crazy party. It’s like having sparkling champagne straight into your veins

Mud
The gaze of a child gave it the shimmer of a fairy tale. Next time I’d love to see a female protagonist though.

Tom Cruise in Oblivion
Oblivion

Many claimed Oblivion was bad in different ways. I didn’t notice. I was too busy having fun watching it.

Only God Forgives
Only surface? Perhaps. But what a surface!

pacific rim
Pacific Rim

I didn’t have a good excuse. But I fell in love with it nevertheless.

Promised Land
Gus van Sant’s latest movie just disappeared. I wonder why. Could it be about politics?

philomena
Philomena

Judi Dench defies the natural laws. She only gets better the older she gets.

Ruby Sparks
From my review:
“Ruby Sparks is by no means a profound movie, but I thought it was pretty damned fun, and considering how picky I am with “fun”, that is high praise. But there’s more to it than just the light hearted comedy; it puts its finger on easy it is to get into a mode where we try to reconfigure our loved ones and how unwise such attempts can be.”

Rush
Rush

This was surprisingly enjoyable – even for someone who couldn’t care less about formula one.

Side Effects
This made me think of director such as Alfred Hitchcock. It’s got the ingredients: a conspiracy, a battle of wills, cunning plans that are so entertaining that you forgive them for being implausible and women who are as dangerous as they’re beautiful. Besides it’s got Jude Law, who keeps aging with grace and dignity. In the absence of James Stewart, he’s a perfect fit for the role.

Silver Linings Playbook
This film did for mental illness what 50/50 did for cancer: took a bit of the drama out of it with humour.

Spring Breakers
The party went on and on and I didn’t know what point it tried to make. But it was pretty.

tom at the farm
Tom at the Farm

Xavier Dolan, the Canadian wonder, made it again. He’s got talent you could die for.

Warm Bodies
Braiiins! I was charmed.

wadjda
Wadjda

A punk girl in Saudia Arabia and her drem of a cycle. Infuriating with a little rim of hope.

10-30

Beasts of the Southern Wild
The story of Hushpuppy – my hero!

Mitt_liv_med_Liberace
Behind the Candelabra

It was a shame that this was marketed as a TV movie.

Blue is the Warmest Color
This movie quickly got a reputation for its sexual content. But far more interesting than the sex scenes is to see how the relationship evolves and what a struggle it can be to overcome class differences.

Blue

Blue Jasmine
Cate Blanchett was magnificent. The movie as such was good too. Regardless of the debate about Woody Allen’s person.

Café de Flore
A delicious movie for everyone who loves the bittersweet. Strangely it never got any cinematic release in Sweden; it went straight for DVD.

Frankenweenie
A 3D movie in black and white? Not a hit with the big audience, it appears. I was alone in the theatre watching this, which didn’t make it less enjoyable. Oh, Sparky! Movie dog of the year!

Frances_Ha
Frances Ha

Some movies have a “soul”, if you get what I mean. Others don’t. Frances Ha has it. And it has New York City. And Greta Gerwig, who is wonderful.

Fruitvale Station
From my review:

“I was reminded of that behind every news headline you see about someone dying in a crime or violence related incident, there’s also a hidden story about the people involved. There are children who lose their parents, mothers who lose their sons, partners who lose their loved ones. And each one of them is a human being, not as different from me as I may think as I throw a glance at them from the other side of the platform at the subway station.”

the-great-gatsby-the-green-light-on-the-dock
The Great Gatsby

I thank Baz Luhrmann. God knows how many more years I would have waited to read the book if it wasn’t for the beautiful, sparkling and loving (and actually surprisingly faithful) introduction he made with his movie.

Hotell
I’ve seen it twice now. This is probably the funniest Swedish movie of 2013 – and at the same time it’s very gripping. Remake, anyone?

the-impossible1

The Impossible
You enter the theatre annoyed by an issue with your computer, and you leave it with tears and a new spark in your eyes, grateful of what you have. Grateful of your family, grateful of your health, grateful of living in security. Grateful of being one of the winners in the lottery of life.

The Master
From my review:

“ The Master is the kind of movie that begs you for revisits. I would happily come back again to it, to enjoy the cinematography, which is stunningly beautiful, even if you haven’t had the opportunity to see it in 70 mm format, to once again be captured by the score and – above all – the outstanding acting performances.”

lesmiserables

Les Miserables
From my review:

“Les Misérables is big, beautiful and shamelessly sentimental. I can understand that it’s not for everyone, but it is for me.

I left the theatre, satisfied as if I’d just had a delicious five-course dinner with the freedom song of the rebels ringing in my ears. This is a meal I’d be happy to eat again.”

Lore
A movie about nazi children that manages to not sort people into boxes. It stayed with me for a long time after watching it.

prisoners
Prisoners

From my review:

“When I left the theatre I felt exhausted and a bit bruised. It’s not just because the running time is long (over 2.5 hours); it’s also that there’s so much to take in as a viewer during those hours. I couldn’t have been more tired if I had been binge watching an entire season of a TV series.”

The Reunion (Återträffen)
This film about bullying really got me thinking about what took place at my high school so many years ago.

startrekintodarkness2
Star Trek Into Darkness

Beautiful lens flares and Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain. Perfect.

Stories We Tell
Sarah Polley took a trip into the family swamp of myths and lies and got us all thinking about the stories we tell.

The Way, Way Back
The Way Way Back

Growing up can be a pain, especially in the neighbourhood of jerks like Trent. But it gets better. But it gets better.

We are the Best!
I was a punk rocker in the early 80s, so basically this is a movie about me. How could I possibly not love it?

1-10
Captain Phillips, film of the week

10. Captain Phillips
Why Tom Hanks didn’t get an Oscar nomination for this is incomprehensible.

brokencircle

9. The Broken Circle Breakdown
Leave your inner cynic at home.

placebeyondthepines

8. The Place Beyond the Pines
A hard hitting, beautifully constructed drama in three acts. I bought each one of them.

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7.  Zero Dark Thirty
Opening in the very beginning of the year, this movie made such an impression that it lasted through the entire year to appear in the top 10. Not bad.

cloud atlas

6.  Cloud Atlas
It breaks my heart to think about how badly this movie made in the box office so I avoid thinking about that part. I’ve seen this movie twice now, and it only gets better. This was a bold and beautiful movie.

Still from the documentary The Act of Killing

5. The Act of Killing
If you’ve seen it, you know why I’m tempted to give up on the future of humanity. I can’t recall any documentary that is anywhere near as disturbing, as horrifying, as nauseating as this one was. The villains are unspeakably evil and make the bad guys in ordinary action movies seem like decent people in comparison.

12 years a slave

4. 12 Years a Slave
From my review:

“This is so much more than a monument over people’s suffering in the post, more than a history lesson about something that you “should know about”. It’s also a movie about the present, about the uglier features of the human nature. It points out mechanisms that are still in use if we open our eyes. And this is what makes it such a tough – and important – movie to watch, relevant not only to an American audience.”

beforemidnight
3. Before Midnight

With every conversation another layer is added. I want to grow old with the Before-movies.

Thehunt
2. The Hunt

This movie hit me like a punch in my guts when I watched it in the beginning of 2013.  I haven’t recovered completely yet. What’s most troubling about this film isn’t how the neighbours, family and friends treat xx when wrongly is accused of child molesting. It’s that I can’t rule out that I would do the same if I was in their situation.

gravity

1. Gravity
Am I a shallow person for loving Gravity slightly more than 12 Year a Slave? Maybe. But is my comfort blanket and biggest fear in equal measures. I neglect it, I ignore it, I forget about it at times. But it’s always present. Gravity reconnected me to space, and thus to myself. Besides it was a hell of a ride and I’ll never think of 3D the same way again. I don’t regret putting it as my number one. That’s how I felt about it, and there’s nothing I can do about it. My only regret is not watching it multiple times in a theatre when I had the chance.

My international 2013 list

Finally: here is another version of my top 10 list, where I’ve removed the films that are considered 2012 releases in most countries and included the ones that I’ve had the chance to see.

1. Gravity
2. The Hunt
3. Before Midnight
4. 12 Years a Slave
5. The Act of Killing
6. The Place Beyond the Pines
7. The Broken Circle Breakdown
8. Captain Phillips
9. Blue is the Warmest Colour
10. Prisoners

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This is Not a TV-movie

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Mitt_liv_med_Liberace

Every time I see Behind the Candelabra mentioned as a “TV-movie” I think of it as an insult.

To me this label means that it’s a second rate movie. TV-films are the ones that went wrong, the ones that were judged not to be good enough to go up in a theatre, so someone decided to dump it on TV instead. They look cheap. Nobody talks about them. They don’t get proper reviews and they don’t get the most prestigious awards. They don’t count.

I know that things have changed over the last few years. The best writers write for TV nowadays and we get series such as Breaking Bad, which beats most of what we get to see in theatres. But when it comes to a stand-alone “TV-movies”, I remain suspicious. I always expect them to feel cheap. You probably know what I mean.

Behind the Candelabra carries this unfortunate label in IMDb, since it for reasons which I cannot understand only was screened on TV in US. In Europe we were more fortunate and got the chance to see it on the big screen that it deserved.

For my own part I suppose that I shouldn’t complain. After all I watched it properly, in a theatre big enough make this lavish, glamorous and glittering film look at its best.

Never heard of Liberace
Coming this far in the review writing I’m asking myself: does everyone here know the story of this film or do I need to make a short summary? Have the people who hang in the café for drinks and food for thought even heard of the pianist named Liberace?

Judging from how he’s presented in the movie, as a super star among the super stars, you would think we’d all be familiar with his name. But if I go to myself, I hadn’t heard about the guy before. I don’t know if this is a sign of that his fame hadn’t reached Sweden, or if I’ve been living under a rock and missed out something that everyone else knows about.

In any case you’re as ignorant as me, you don’t need to worry. This film is just as enjoyable anyway. I can even imagine it’s an advantage to be clueless about the real Liberace. Then you won’t run the danger of falling into the trap of comparing the movie against reality, which always is a risk with biopics.

The point of this film is not to make a documentary-like portray of a real person. This doesn’t rely on the gossip value. It’s simply a good story about the rise and fall of a love relationship between two men, a story that would be worth telling even if it was entirely made up.

IMDb puts it in the genres “biography”, “drama” and “romance”, but I would like to add “thriller” or possibly even “horror”, since it goes in to a pretty creepy territory when Liberace suggests his younger lover to do certain things that won’t be revealed here, but which are rather shocking.

Too much is wonderful
“Too Much of a Good Thing Is Wonderful” is the tagline of the film, which I think is spot on in describing it. There’s an abundance of flair, of costumes, of feathers and glitter and Jacuzzis and champagne. In this way it fits well into the decadence theme that trended in movies in 2013, starting with Behind the Candelabra, followed by The Great Gatsby and Spring Breakers, finishing with The Wolf of Wall Street which obviously topped everything.

Michael Douglas didn’t get any Academy Award for his Liberace performace. I don’t think he even was eligible, because of the TV-movie label. But he’s got plenty of other, less significant, awards, and he deserves each one of them. I’ve heard interviews with him where he sounded happy and proud of his appearance in this film, and he has every right to be so. Here he plays the whole register, not only on the piano, but as a person, altering between being a tender, sympathetic, vulnerable older lover to being a creepy, possessive, narcissistic lying jerk.

“I want to be everything to you, Scott. I want to be father, brother, lover, best friend.”, Liberace says to his partner.

Michael Douglas manages to be all of this, in a believable way. He doesn’t feel like the cartoonish figure he could have been. He’s alive.

And I still can’t grasp why this is a TV-movie. It’s a shame.

Behind the Candelabra (Steven Soderbergh, US 2013) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

January 16, 2014 at 1:00 am