High Museum of Art: Films

Anti-Action movies by Linda Dubler

Anti-Action Movies: Not exactly Zen,  but definitely not G.I. Joe

School has already started in Atlanta, where we’re slogging through another endless August.  But Labor Day, marking the unofficial end of summer, is in sight (though  it’ll be hot here until Halloween). In the spirit of celebrating the close of Action Movie season, (no more robots going mano-a-mano; no more things blowing up real good, at least for a while)  Eleanor Ringel Cater and I have been thinking about some sublime Anti-Action Movies — films that rely upon mood, conversation, acute observation and emotional complexity rather than sound and fury.

We’ve spared you the avant-garde’s really anti-action movies like Warhol’s Sleep and Michael Snow’s Wavelength. What follows is guaranteed to keep you awake and get you in shape for the “serious”  Oscar-contender fare coming soon to a theatre near you.

What are your favorite Labor Day weekend movies? Action? or Anti-action?

Linda’s Ten Anti-Action Movies to Watch

Nobody Knows

You know that unsettling  feeling when things are just  too quiet? That’s the mood left by this delicate Japanese film about children who are forced to fend for themselves after their flighty mother takes a hike.  And it’s based on a true story.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

“Life affirming” can be such an icky term. But drop the treacley associations and it gets at the radiant sensuality  of this film about a man whose body has failed him, but whose mind is still very much alive. Painter turned filmmaker Julian Schnabel directed.

To Be and To Have

One of my all-time favorite documentaries, To Be and To Have unfolds in a one-room school in rural France, where a middle-aged teacher in his last year on the job attends to students ranging from pre-schoolers to thirteen-year-olds.  It’s exquisitely observed, tender, and funny. The rather obscure English title refers to the essential verbs, to be (etre) and to have (avoir) whose conjugations are key to learning the French language.

Bombon The Dog

Bombon The Dog

Bombon The Dog (aka El  Perro)

A gentle Argentine comedy about an out-of-work mechanic (played by the guy who used to park the director’s car) who receives a large, pedigreed dog as thanks for helping a stranded motorist. Bombon, the handsome canine, is prime material for the show ring, and soon Coco, the film’s middle-aged hero, is making the scene with his new best friend.

The Door in the Floor

A great film that fell into the void, this bleakly funny marital drama,  based on a vignette from a John Irving novel, features fabulous performances by Jeff Bridges as a philandering writer of children’s books and Kim Bassinger as  his  smart, ripely beautiful, and grieving wife. A coming of age story is incidental to the complex emotional tenor of the movie.

Also, Laila’s Birthday (DVD release in December), Baran, Encounters at the End of the World, 28 Up and Diabolique.

Eleanor’s Ten Anti-Action Movies to Watch

Remains of the Day

The Remains of the Day

My Dinner with Andre

Writer-actor Wallace Shawn plays practical Mole to stage director Andre Gregory’s visionary Toad in this exquisite comedy of table manners that’s actually nothing more than a two-hour dinner chat about the Meaning of Life and other pertinent matters.

Raise the Red Lantern

Celebrated filmmaker Zhang Yimou’s ravishingly gorgeous study of gender politics in ’20s China. Manipulation, sexuality and power plays are the weapons of choice.

The Remains of the Day

Set mostly in the 1930s, this is a heartbreakingly deft and impeccably acted study of the road not taken–or rather, the life not lived. Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson are the very models of tortured restraint as servants in one of the statelier mansions of England.

Babette’s Feast

Babettes Feast

Babette's Feast

A delectable celebration of the transforming power of art, rendered in mouth-wateringly gastronomic terms. A French woman finds refuge in Denmark after fleeing the 1871 upheavals in Paris and, as a thank you to her dour Danish rescuers, fixes a banquet worthy of the gods.

Plus, Marty (I don’t know, Marty.Whadda’ you wanna do tonight?), Away From Her, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Savages, Notorious and just about anything by Eric Rohmer.

Share your picks and send us your comments.

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Heat and Dust is available in DVD from Netflix, and for rental from Movies Worth Seeing in Atlanta. You can also purchase the DVD from Amazon.

Comment by Linda Dubler

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