February 10, 2005

For The Love Of Mike, Don't Hurt The Children

Cinecultist would like you to believe that our absence is because one can't blog from beneath the duvet, which is where we've been since watching Nobody Knows and Born Into Brothels recently. The children! The sweet, little children! So abused, so much hope dashed by this brutal world. Ok, that's it. We're going back. It's cozy under there and no will be abandoned by their selfish parents or forced into prostitution. See you in March.

Ha ha. Actually, the new Day Job sometimes makes it difficult to get around to cataloguing our viewings. Fed Ex tape recorders to A-List celebs' manager's assistants, answer the phone to discover a knighted pop legend on the other end, transcribe a brief interview wherein an awesome indie actress remembers your first name and BAM! Before you know it, the day is gone with no blogging done. Plus in this shoddy post-Oscar nom movie season, we've turned to our other love and have been on a bit of a music binge which will only be continuing this weekend. [If you care, the sched. Ted Leo & acoustic Sufjan Stevens with the hipsterlettes* last night at Webster Hall. Swedish cutie Jens Lekman on Saturday, All Rattle and Dust on Sunday and then Kaiser Chiefs on Monday. Whew.]

But getting back to the films. We won't lie to you, these aren't really happy movies. This is cinema to slit your wrists to. But both Nobody Knows and Born Into Brothels will uplift, even as they try your faith in the goodness of humanity as only painful movies can. Despite being the documentary, and thus supposedly more "real," Brothels has a bit more hope built in as it's part of a traveling group of photographs made by the children in the film, all of which are for sale as a benefit to fund Calcutta red light district kids' educations. Nominated in the Best Documentary category for this year's Academy Awards, Brothels follows a small group of young photography students whose parents live and work in the red light district. Their teacher encourages them to capture their world even as she's teaching them to see it through the studied lens of the camera and some of their work is aesthetically breath-taking. Though of course the really compelling parts are when these charming children talk to the documentarian's camera about their heart-wrenching life experiences. Yet, these children don't seek the viewers pity, in fact the joy they find in the mundane details of their lives is utterly inspiring. The depressing part comes when we realize how quickly this joie de vivre will be snuffed by their inescapable circumstances.

Nobody Knows is a work of fiction which perhaps gives director Kore-eda Hirokazu more leeway to be emotionally brutal. Based on real-life events, the film follows four siblings abandoned by their mother in Tokyo and it won numerous prizes at last year's Cannes, including an acting award for the eldest boy. Similar to the working style of Mike Leigh, Kore-eda works without a set script during shooting and often with non or unexperienced actors who he follows with the camera relentlessly, seeking an unassuming, naturalistic performance. This movie is not for the faint of heart or those who cry when a poignant detergent commercial comes on television. The mother in this film is so childish and negligent, we wanted to leap through the screen to throttle her. This kind of parental evil reminds CC of the Flowers In The Attic books, only not gothic or incestuous. At fifteen, that kind of injustice seemed romantic but over a decade later, it just sucks out every ounce of energy we might have mustered to go to the movies in the first place. Hence, the crawl under the covers and don't come out until spring impulse we mentioned. While this movie-going experience may not be pleasurable per-se, we have to respect the filmmaker's ability to make us feel so deeply for these children. It won't be everyone's cup of tea but it's powerful nonetheless.

* Baby hipsters. Hipsters so little that when CC started being a hipster, these little ones were still slow dancing at junior high sock hops. These kids make us think we should hide the beer. They make us feel old.

Posted by karen at February 10, 2005 11:05 PM