High Museum of Art: Films

In Honor of Snow and Ice by Linda Dubler

As we collectively emerge from the recent  deep freeze, let’s not lose those afghans, Snuggies and warm couch companions just yet. Here are a handful of snow films as chilly as any Hitchcock blonde.

McCabe and Mrs. Miller.

Robert Altman’s revisionist western is notable for all sorts of reasons, from its Leonard Cohen score to its brilliant pairing of Julie Christie as a savvy, opium-smoking madame and Warren Beatty as her smitten business partner, a gambler and a romantic fool.  The film ends in an extraordinary gun battle during a blinding snowstorm, a masterpiece of choreography and cinematography.

Nanook of the North

Enormously popular when it was first released in 1922, Robert Flaherty’s landmark documentary about an Inuit hunter and his family has been restored and released with a new score by Criterion. The film, which was financed by a French fur company and shot near Hudson Bay,  isn’t a pure work by any means–(Nanook’s wives and children were played by people who weren’t his wives and kids; a scene in which Nanook fights to land a harpooned seal was completely staged)–but as Ephraim Katz observed in The Film Encyclopedia, “What made Nanook so remarkable was not its validity as an anthropological study of an exotic ethnic group but its success in capturing the essence of primitive man’s struggle for survival against the hostile forces of nature.”

Noi the Albino

If you felt stir-crazy after being cooped up for a day or two in Atlanta, (where a recent glimpse outside revealed greenery frosted with snow) try trading places with Noi, a poster boy for teenage alienation hailing from the bleak, colorless end of nowhere otherwise known as  Iceland. This very deadpan comedy about a Nordic rebel  is for those who prefer absurdist situations to jokes, and who like their humor espresso dark.

Dr. Zhivago

Who knows how many animals sacrificed their skins so that women around the world could wear fur hats like Lara’s in Dr. Zhivago? Or how many human nerves were frayed by the tinkling of music boxes playing her theme? Dr. Zhivago was roundly booed by critics upon its release in 1965, but the public ate it up.

When it was  restored and revived for its 30th anniversary, Roger Ebert declared that it was “an example of superb old-style craftsmanship at the service of a soppy romantic vision, and although its portentous historical drama evaporates once you return to the fresh air, watching it can be seductive. ” Ebert observed that “the story, especially as it has been simplified by [director David] Lean and his screenwriter, Robert Bolt, seems political in the same sense Gone With the Wind is political, as spectacle and backdrop, without ideology.”

And like Gone With the Wind, it’s the epic sweep, and all that snow, that impresses. Lean built an ice palace out of wax, and resorted to simulating snow with marble dust and plastic during filming in Spain at the height of the summer.

Still yearning for a polar blast? Consider Fargo, March of the Penguins, Encounters at the End of the World, or the Turkish film Climates. And here’s a great YouTube video:

Have any favorite snowy movies? Post them in the comments!

Linda Dubler

Review: Ballroom (Latin American Film Festival) by Linda Dubler
Ballroom will be screened on Friday, October 30 as part of the Latin American Film Festival.

All the world’s a ballroom in Ballroom, Lais Bodansky’s prize-winning film about a down-at-the-heels dance hall in Sao Paulo whose clientele is a little frayed around the edges, as well. That’s because they’re mostly AARP-ready regulars who gather weekly to see and be seen. In some cases, it’s implied, it’s the only way a few of them have to affirm that, yes, they are still alive.



Now, that sounds tragic and, granted, a sense of imminent mortality underlies this gently bittersweet movie. But there is humor, too, and the sort of plainly human observations we don’t usually see in standard Hollywood fare. Age spots and wrinkled necks aren’t really the point here. They’re a given. I admit it; you’ve seen this before: the ballroom as a microcosm of life. We see the survivors, who take life as it comes (I couldn’t help but note that a LOT of the women asked to dance are blonde).
But Bodansky demonstrates it’s not always easy to swirl your way into changing your life. Among the many mini-dramas we observe:
• an aging lothario who ignores his elegant regular date when a fresh-faced young newcomer (there to help her boyfriend with the music) arrives on the scene.
• a desperate woman who ages visibly each time she’s passed up by a potential partner (she’s as lovely as anyone, so her situation is much more complicated than an easy Ugly Duckling scenario).
• the mysterious minx — is she tragic or powerful — who prowls  the club like a predatory animal, waiting to pounce (or be pounced).
• the poor gentleman dubbed El Skunko, who dances all the time, every time… alone.


The structure is hardly new; we’ve seen it in dozens of pictures, ranging from Saturday Night Fever to Strictly Ballroom. But Ballroom has a quiet confidence, a killer soundtrack and a cast of actors so natural (and talented) you almost forget it’s not a documentary. Add some terrific laughs and a tender heart and to me, that’s entertainment.

Food Glorious Food by Linda Dubler
September 8, 2009, 11:51 am
Filed under: General, Top Picks | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

“Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.”  Sophia Loren

Sophia Loren

Sophia Loren

With Julie and Julia launching three books  to the best seller list and a trio of  Atlanta chefs still in the game on Bravo’s Top Chef,  I’ve been thinking about  food in the movies. There’s a familiar handful of titles that pop up whenever anyone puts together a list on this theme — Babette’s Feast, Eat Drink Man Woman, Tampopo, Mostly Martha, Big Night, and now Ratatouille. To that, add Stephen Chow’s hilarious The God of Cookery, in which he plays a jaded, arrogant chef who has lost his mojo and has to rediscover it ; his triumph involves creating a meatball that squirts.

Then there are the documentaries that make eating a worrisome venture, including Super Size Me and Food, Inc. If actual foodstuffs seem too  scary to contemplate, consider Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, a documentary by Les Blank that’s been added as a bonus to Blank’s estimable Burden Of Dreams. It features Herzog, the German filmmaker, fulfilling the  promise  he made to then aspiring filmmaker Errol Morris, that he would literally eat his shoe if Morris ever completed his first project, Gates of Heaven. Shot at the Gates premiere, it shows the ever passionate Werner H. chewing away on  a boot  seasoned with duck fat, garlic, tomatoes and herbs, boileded into  submission, and washed down with  a bottle of Heinenken.  Or revisit Chaplin’s Goldrush for the famous boot-eating scene, (the boot was made of licorice)  which required 3 days and 63 takes to suit the master; supposedly Chaplin was rushed to the hospital in insulin shock following this ordeal.  Here’s that same movie’s bread ballet:

Alfred Hitchcock was notoriously phobic of eggs, declaring “Blood is jolly, red. But egg yolk is yellow, revolting.” One of the most disturbing food images I can think of  is from Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps.  It’s a simple black and white shot of a piece of fish sitting on a lonely plate in the protagonist’s refrigerator — but there’s something about the near empty ice-box and the pale fillet sitting on the white plate that is unappetizing in the extreme.

Here’s a cooking demo that my Asian food enthusiast son showed me. I think that Julia would approve.

What’s whetted your appetite or put you off your feed? Write us and share your thoughts.

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.

Film Festival of India: Greatest Hits by hmablogmaster
August 31, 2009, 3:28 pm
Filed under: Film Series: High, Top Picks | Tags: , , , , , , ,

If  the High’s  Treasures From India’s National Film Development Corporation has you inspired to put together your own festival courtesy of your local or online DVD outlet, consider these selections shown over the past few years in the High’s Film Festival of India. When I checked, all were available on Netflix so they shouldn’t be hard to find.

The Terrorist
Indie director Santosh Sivan (who began his career as a cinematographer) made this penetrating, visually stunning psychological drama about  a young woman in an unnamed guerrilla group who embraces the chance to sacrifice herself for a cause. As timely now as when it was made in 1999, The Terrorist was inspired by the 1991 murder of Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.  It’s a movie less interested in politics than in exploring the question, “What kind of person would choose martyrdom and murder?”



Got a couple of hours? Paheli is shorter than many Bollywood extravaganzas, gorgeous to look at, full of folkloric charm, and its songs and dances seem fresh and unformulaic. Plus it features two superstars: Rani Mukherjee as a bride who’s been abandoned, and Shahrukh Khan in the double role as her workaholic husband and a love-struck ghost who assumes her spouse’s identity.

Continue reading