A Serious Man – This is why I love the Coen brothers. This 2009 follow-up to No Country For Old Men is not commercial. In fact it is soooo dark and difficult, that it was an absolute lock to make no money in theatres, and you gotta love someone who does that. This film follows a soft-spoken Jewish Physics professor whom God has decided to drop the hammer on, presumably due to an ancient curse that the film references in a prologue. Everything is falling apart here – His wife is leaving him, he is getting blackmailed by a student, and his neighbor is trying to steal part of his lawn. Hell, He’s even getting harrased by the Columbia House record club! Despite its darkness, I admired the way the Coens let the story play out. I kept waiting for the hero to break out, like Michael Douglas did in Falling Down, but no, the film doesn’t give the viewer that release. If anything, it saves its real bile for the end. Bleak and depressing, but recommended.
Cleo from 5 to 7 – Agnes Varda film from 1962 started out disappointing me, but eventually won me over. It follows a singer (Corrine Marchand) in real time as she awaits the results of a test for cancer. I wasn’t engaged by the story until a scene where she rehearses a bleak song, and breaks down over the lyrics. This is a quiet, observant movie, and one has to meet it halfway in its portrayal of this young woman who believes she is doomed. The turning point comes when she meets a young soldier in a park , and an obvious spark occurs. Now, instead of despair, there is the thought that she believes she has been saved. The films conclusion doesn’t take either of the easy ways out. Instead, it at the same time sad and hopeful. An added note: The photography of the streets of Paris is first-rate. Recommended.