Monday, May 30, 2005

NYC, Still a Police State where you can see good movies.

While looking sadly for a place to eat on Friday night,after discovering the closing of our favorite Japanese place, Mie, my brother, sister-in-law and I all came across the evidence of the encroaching police state. Police vans lined the street and a lone woman was crying in a wheedling sing-song, "don't ride your bike in the'll get arrested!" to each biker who passed. There was a crowd of legal observers in green baseball hats taking notes, and a little further away, a sizable rally at St. Mark's Church. It was the end point of another NYC Critical Mass ride. I'm really pissed off that despite the fact that May is supposed to be "national bike month," something that could really use promoting in a genuine way in NYC, that the odious, corporate mayor, continues to crack down on a movement that should be seen as improving NY's quality of life. Imagine what it would be like if the city were to ban private cars!

Movie Comments:
This was a heavy movie weekend for me. On Friday night I saw the Jet Li movie, "Unleashed," which, like many of Luc Besson's creations was a bizarre mix of hokey sentimentality and extreme violence. This must be why Besson was initially heralded as the French director with a Hollywood sensibility, a man making films French in Name Only. I like the review I linked to above, which encapsulates this ethos with the statement, "Luc Besson...makes the kind of films that a 14-year-old boy might come up with if he suddenly had access to millions of dollars to bring his fever dreams to life." In this case, the fever dream is of a man (Jet Li) who is kept as a dog by a vicious gangster (Bob Hoskins). "Danny the Dog" goes out with the gangster to collect debts. He beats people to death when his collar comes off and he's ordered to "get 'em" or "kill 'em." The fight sequences, complete with audible bone-crunching, allow the audience to get the kung-fu thrill that they must have come for. The movie, however,like so many ultra-violent spectacles, gives the audience what it wants and then moralizes against it. Danny is finally liberated through music (it turns out his mother was a pianist, murdered by Hoskins) and grows as a human being in the warm embrace of Morgan Freeman and his teen-aged daughter. Given Besson's continual pairing of older men with MUCH younger women, I think the characterization of Besson's films as the products of a fourteen-year-old mind makes sense. The relationships are simplistic, idealized, and rarely sexual.
On Saturday, with friends, I saw a much more "mature" film at BAM, "Madame Brouette," a hilarious, and yet serious feminist Senegalese movie that reminded me, oddly, of some of Lizzie Borden's films of the 1970s. Moussa Sene Absa's film focuses on a woman who strives for independence from men and at the story's beginning, defies convention by taking in her friend who's fleeing from her abusive husband. Not only was the film completely entertaining, which is so rare in "issue oriented" movies, but the music was fantastic. The performers/composers were the French-Canadians,Majoly&Serge Fiori (of Canada's "Harmonium") and the griot, Mamadou Diabate who won the Berlin film festival's "silver bear."

And now, it is too sunny to sit here blogging.

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