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Showing posts from 2010

Made in Dagenham

Sally Hawkins and her plucky overbite will not be denied.   This much, at least, we should know by now.
Ms. Hawkins plays Rita O'Grady, one of  a very small minority (just 157 of 55,000)  of women working in the Ford Plant in Dagenham England.   The year is 1968, a fact partially announced by Desmond Dekker's "The Israelites," which we hear early on (the song went to #1 on the English charts that year), as male and female employees are seen riding their bikes to the plant, in something of a jolly, English, working class idyll.  Rita and her coworkers are sequestered in a sweaty workroom, where they are responsbible for sewing upholstery for Ford vehicles.   The warmth of the close workspace is attested to, as the first order of business for many of the women is to strip off overclothes down to slips, bras and articles of feminie dress that are a running source of embarassment for their kindly union rep., Albert, whenever he shows up to brief the women on negotiations …


Dame Helen, in the parking garage, with a machine gun.  Is this perhaps some perverse game of Clue, updated for the Grand Theft Auto generation?   No, it's just one of the slightly guilty pleasures of the poorly-named but frequently entertaining Red, full of a surprisingly ballistic group of un-expendables.       

Bruce Willis plays Frank Moses, one of the story's RED's.   Not commies, mind you.  No, quite the contrary.  He's a former black-ops CIA agent, classified by his former employers as "Retired: Extremely Dangerous."   Frank is trying to lead the placid life of a retiree in Cleveland.   At one point, when he steps out of his house and regards the suburban sameness about him, one expects the sort of contempt we see from Ray Liotta's Henry Hill in Goodfellas, mired in the witness protection program.   But no, Frank looks around him at the bland subdivision bedecked in Christmas decorations.   Cut to a shot of the front of Frank's house, complete …

White Material

Among more obvious cinematic parallels to be found in Claire Denis' White Material, I find myself coming back to, of all things, A Serious Man.
Some might say that all Cohen brothers movies are strange in their way, but A Serious Man was strange in a very atypical way for Joel and Ethan Cohen.   Having never addressed Judaism or general issues of Jewish culture in America, it was as if everything they felt, whatever baggage might have been lurking about their Jewishness came tumbling out of their screenplay for the film, all of which concluded with that final shot of the approaching funnel cloud, one both unsettling and seemingly out of place in their body of work.  

White Material takes place in an unnamed African country.  The film was shot in Cameroon, the setting for  Denis' first film, Chocolat, as well one of the countries in which she lived as a child while her father's job  as a French civil servant took their family to several countries on the continent.   In int…

Charles - Charles City

I headed back north from Bascobel, Wisconsin and rejoined state highway 60, which had become the line from which I improvised - or simply got lost - as I made my way across the southern part of the state.   Highway 60 meandered along with the Wisconsin River and its attendant wetlands until joining US 18 and curving up into Prairie du Chien.   Not to be confused with Un Chien Andalou, much as my brain made the connection.  
I crossed the Mississippi from Prairie du Chien, reluctant as I was to leave a state with such a commendable reverence for cheese and beer.   The Mississippi is particularly expansive at Prairie du Chien; I thought I was crossing two or three rivers, given the several channels that flowed around the islands in their midst.   Right across the river, Iowa began with wooded bluffs.  Not exactly the way one pictures the state.   But soon enough, the land flattened to endless corn fields, already harvested, shorn and tilled.   A not overpowering scent of manure wafted…

Blaine - Boscobel

Day two of crazy, unrelenting wind in Wisconsin.   Up to state road 60 and west about 30 miles, I came to Columbus, home of Louis Sullivan's Farmers and Merchants Bank, the last of his eight, country "jewel box" banks he designed toward the end of  his career.  The Farmer's and Merchants was recently used in Michael Mann's  Public Enemies. as a bank robbed by Dillinger.

I wasn't quite as thrilled as I usually am to set my eyes upon a Louis  Sullivan building.   Perhaps because I recently saw the bigger, almost palatial National Farmer's Bank in Owatonna (see post entitled "The Bay, The Riverview and Louis Sullivan Too" to see pictures of the National Farmers), Minnesota.  Perhaps because it was difficult to stand still and take photos in the high wind.   Perhaps because I was practically assaulted by an American flag, while standing across the street  to take the  photo above.   I'm trying not to look at that too symbolically.....But I real…

Rivoli - Cedarburg

It's 107 miles to Cedarburg, I've got three quarters of a tank of gas, no cigarettes, precarious finances, 90,000 miles on my little BMW, it's sort of dark and I'm not wearing sunglasses.   But sometimes, you just have to get out of the city.
Having languished through the first day and a half of my week off, I decided that I needed to do something, however impractical that something might be.   Finding nothing appealing in Iowa, at least the eastern side of the state, I found what looked like an interesting theater in Cedarburg, Wisconsin.   Finally, at 2:15, fighting against the considerable force field of my condo and paralyzing indecision, I hit the road.   
Tuesday was one of those harbinger of winter days:   leaden skies and bullying winds which seemed intent on striping every last leaf from the trees, leaves once loosed collecting and swirling in small cyclones, or thrown to and fro in bunches, their movement across sidewalks and streets like deranged flocks of bir…