“Le Weekend” and “The Act of Killing” (Film Reviews)

Le Weekend (2013)

Director: Roger Michell
Screenplay: Hanif Kureishi
Cast: Lindsay Duncan, Jim Broadbent, Jeff Goldblum

The cast shines but it’s Hanif Kureishi’s savvy, wise script that is the real star of “Le Weekend “.  Kureishi is a gifted writer, his screenplays and novels always populated by believable, well-wrought characters, dignified and funny and oh-so flawed. He makes us care about them, identify with them, hurt with them. He and director Roger Michell collaborated on three previous projects (including “Venus” in 2006), and theirs appears to be a creative partnership between two very different individuals (Michell, clearly, the more commercially minded).

Actors as accomplished as Lindsay Duncan and Jim Broadbent must relish the opportunity to work with material that allows them to employ their talents with subtlety and to maximum effect. Both are at the top of their game in “Le Weekend”, delivering performances that are excruciatingly honest and compelling.

It’s their thirtieth anniversary and Meg (Duncan) and Nick (Broadbent) have returned to Paris, the site of their honeymoon, trying to recapture some of the passion that has, over the past three decades, gradually leached out of their relationship. There have been bumps in the road, including a fling Nick had with one of his students, and they’ve never been the same since their son (“a thirty-year-old pothead”, as Nick describes him), was finally convinced to move out on his own.  Their marriage is at the point where it must either be redefined…or abandoned outright. This weekend in the romantic city of their youth is their last shot at saving what remains (or beginning the process of divvying up the spoils).

Credit director Michell and his screenwriter for continuing to present us with intelligent, adult-oriented movies in an era when the marketplace, demographics and opening weekend gate receipts determine the type of films being made—their stubborn persistence is admirable, if quixotic.

“Le Weekend” is not over-wrought, bombastic, cartoonish or dull-witted; it is an intimate, richly detailed portrait of an older couple and the shared history that keeps them together, even as the growing distance between them denies them the affection and closeness required to maintain a love affair into old age.

ΩΩΩΩ  (Out of 5)

* * * * *

TheActofKillingThe Act of Killing (2012)

Producer(s): Errol Morris & Werner Herzog

Director: Joshua Oppenheimer

Cast: Various

Deservedly shortlisted for an Academy Award, “The Act of Killing” never makes it easy on viewers, plunging them into the murderous atmosphere of the Indonesian civil war, a bloodbath that brought a dictator (Suharto) to power and virtually annihilated any political opposition.

Joshua Oppenheimer’s brilliant documentary makes it clear that historically Indonesia is governed by a cabal of militarists, fascists and gangsters, who collude in order to preserve power, silence critics and prevent discussion of the horrific acts perpetrated during the 1965-66 conflict. Official history has been rewritten, distorted to the extent that it no longer conforms to anything approaching reality…but no one is allowed to say so, the killers still alive, still in positions of responsibility, still able to wreak their revenge.

In fact, the killers are so secure, so immune from prosecution, they are only too happy to describe their atrocities and, for Oppenheimer’s benefit, re-enact their crimes, demonstrating their techniques, while providing graphic details of their victims’ suffering.

It makes for difficult viewing, to say the least.

But Oppenheimer’s decision to encourage his subjects to employ their favorite film genres to illustrate their narratives is a smart ruse, transforming a “deleted” scene from one of the “Godfather” movies into a gruesome torture session. The individuals involved initially seem to relish the play-acting but soon, very soon, reality intrudes, old memories surfacing and a darker aspect emerges that is absolutely blood-curdling.

It is one of the many unforgettable images I shall retain from “The Act of Killing”.

Retain it, remember it…no matter how hard I might try to forget.

Mr. Oppenheimer, for the foreseeable future, “hath murdered sleep”.

ΩΩΩΩ

 

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About Cliff Burns

I'm a literary writer, specializing in slipstream/ alternative/surreal/science fiction. My influences include Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, Samuel Beckett, Jorge Luis Borges, David Cronenberg, Rene Magritte, any artist who defies convention and busts open genres, attacking the status quo.
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