Monday, July 7, 2014


Jim Fouratt’s Reel Deal: Movies That Matter

July 2014

A heat wave is predicted for July and August on the East Coast, which is perfect

air-conditioned movie theater time. Please keep that in mind when the air is sticky

and even the air you breath is hot so that sitting in a cool, dark, air conditioned

theater may be a better choice than boiling on a beach in the Hamptons or Fire



BOYHOOD Director Richard Linklater

Richard Linklater's small epic of the modern nuclear family was 12 years in the

making. Taking one family in Austin Texas and filtering the experience through

the eyes of a 7-year-old boy, how he sees his role in the family structure and the

world around him is the core of the film. Linklater shot 39 minutes screen time

each year over 12 years. Boyhood is not a documentary. We watch actors play the

members of the family and we see them age in real time as actors and characters

right before our eyes. Ethan Hawke plays the father of the children and Patricia 

Arquette the mother. We watch how the free wheeling folk rock singer (Hawke)

disappears out of the picture and is replaced by serial lovers acting as surrogate

dads. Hawke returns periodically to lay his free spirit, Woody Guthrie ideas on

his children and tries to pretend he has been a good dad even if not physically

present. We see the kids as they grow older and distance themselves from his

narcissistic seduction and charismatic charm (Think perhaps Loudon Wainwright 

and his children Martha and Rufus). Arquette plays the sometimes lost, always

needing love mom and repeats the same mistakes in her choices of men. Both

actors are simply superb. We watch the toll life takes on their faces and dreams

over the 12 years. The center of the film, from age 7 to 19 is Mason played by

Ellar Coltrane and right next to him is his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater)

who, in her own way, is played remarkably and insightfully (if reluctantly) by

Linklater’s own daughter.

Boyhood is centered on the Mason’s coming of age. What Linklater has

accomplished is to tell a universal coming of age story while centering it on a

white, middle class family in Texas that implodes. The same underlying male

coming of age story, told in a different location, class and ethnic reality, would

still, I believe, ring true. It’s a remarkable triumph of filmmaking.

Boyhood is an American masterpiece that will take its place along side Orson 

Wells and John Ford’s cinema masterpieces. Don't be put of off because you

may in your own life know well the emotional life Boyhood travels. While in his

private life, Linklater knows well what this couple and their children go through,

as an artist, he is able to distance himself from this personal story while informing

it with the emotional truth he has learned personally. This is a great movie for all

generations to see as all of us in some way are up there on the screen. Boyhood is

an American cinematic masterpiece.

LIFE ITSELF director Steve James 

Most smart people know Roger Ebert, the Chicago based film critic from Sneak 

Previews, the PBS incarnation of his groundbreaking television show with Gene 

Siskel. Most smart filmgoers know the documentary filmmaker Steve James from

the insightful and sensitive award winning documentaries Hoop Dreams, Stevie

and The Interrupters (all available on VOD). I knew Roger from his show and

his reviews in the Chicago Sun Times in print and online and from seeing him on the festival

circuit. I often sat next to him at Sundance, in public screenings, and in the back

row of the largest theater. One year we actually had a verbal public fight after

he interrupted me when I was asking a young filmmaker a question that Roger

thought was inappropriate. I disagreed, and in front of about 1300 people, we

squared off.

I loved Roger Ebert because he was passionate about movies, went out of his way

to advocate for films that would have fallen through the cracks and did not see his

role as critic divorced from the world around him. He was a role model, one could

say, for an engaged critic.

James in my view is the most important documentary filmmaker in the US today.

He takes his time to show all dimensions of a subject with no easy answers given

to the viewer. What he does do is immerse the viewer in the complicated world of

his subject and challenges the viewer to figure out his/her own response.

What a perfect choice to fully dimension, a TV icon, Roger Ebert. I learned so

many things about what made him the profound critic he was from Life Itself:

the early days of being the geeky overweight kid with a nose for news, hard

drinking, self-destructive and brilliant at the keyboard. James traces his growth as a

journalist into a film critic and how he navigated out of the dark side of alcoholism

and became the insightful, if pugnacious, pop critic who would champion a film he

thought you MUST see. He and Gene Siskel were the yin and yang of film critics.

Both were passionate but in very different ways. Both were competitive in their

views and it made exciting television and got many butts into seats to see films that

they thought should have a life. Life Itself interview subjects, such as Werner 

Herzog, Errol Morris and Martin Scorsese all speak of how Roger affected them

and their work.

In his 50’s, Roger met at a 12-step meeting, Chaz, fell in love and married her.

Gene died. Roger carried on alone and then was diagnosed with cancer. He made

it public and showed us the face of cancer and the grotesqueness of its physical

rampage. What James at Roger’s insistence shows us is the battle to live and not be

shamed into a shadow by the physical devastation from the disease and side effects

of medical interventions. Life Itself is a remarkable portrait of a Roger Ebert who

brought the same passion to his writing and public advocacy for the cinema to his

own fight to live. He refused to be assigned to a dark room where nobody looks.

Life Itself is not a dark film. While it does dwell on a dark subject, cancer, Life

Itself is a brilliant study of a life well lived right up to the end. See it.

YVES SAINT  LAURENT director Jalil Lespert

My friend, Drake Stutesman, once whispered in my ear, “You can learn as

much about the politics of a time from looking critically at how people dressed

and fancied themselves as you can from all the historical essays championed

as definitive.” This thought, which I did not fully understand, stayed in my

consciousness. I have always wondered why so many people were enamored

with the world of couture fashion when most would never live in its world. They

would never able to wear a Channel, Dior, Balenciaga, Charles or Valentino or 

Largerfeld. I asked myself why did the designers take on international celebrity

and fame? A few years ago, a documentary on Valentino gave a peek into the

world behind the dresses celebrities wear. As beautiful as it was, it still seemed

hermetic and cold. We were not really let inside.

At this year's Tribeca Film Festival, I found myself so engaged with the

documentary film, Dior and I, which chronicled the debut of collection by Raf 

Simons for the House of Dior that I actually cried. It was an adventure tale with

all the surrounding excitement.

Now we have the lush and dramatic narrative film on the world of Yves Saint

Laurent by Jalil Lespert. This bio-drama is freed from the boundaries of a factual

documentation to take us into the world of this shy, quiet little boy who always

wanted to draw clothes for women. He had supportive parents including a mother

who wanted to wear everything he drew. She was his first muse. When Yves Saint

Laurent (Pierre Niney) gets a job at the House of Dior his talents are quickly

recognized. Then when Dior passes the designer rein, to 21-year-old Yves it goes.

He hated the business side of fashion. He just wanted to design. Like Valentino, he

found a personal and professional partner, Pierre Bergé (Guillaume Gallienne),

the arts patron, who took care of business and protected the passive-aggressive

designer from the public and the business people. It is the 60’s and 70’s and we

see how this self possessed and often selfish designer danced with fame while

running from it and bathed in the material world it offered him. Pierre was always

there to shield him from the business people and to protect and/or rescue him

from the excesses of fame as well as the 60’s swirl of sex, drugs and Morocco.

Laurent’s female muses are also vividly introduced: Victoire Doutreleau 

(Charlotte Le Bon) the loyal beauty who not only modeled his clothes but

protected him from the media snoops. Loulou de la Falaise (Laura Smet) who

I knew from  Andy’s back room of Max’s .She was the smart

girl with all the latest drugs to share with Yves in his hideaway in Morocco. Yves

Saint Laurent captures the craft world of couture and the fabulous world of

fashion icons in the same way a director like George Cukor did in the golden age

of Hollywood.          
(cc) jim Fouratt 6/25/2014 NYC 

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