TIFF 2008 Reviews (7)

This is the last in the series for 2008.  I am woefully late in writing fair versions of these from my notes and must blame both personal diversions and far too much transit activity.

Reviewed in this post:

  • Lovely, Still
  • Adam Resurrected
  • Of Time and the City

Saturday, September 13

Lovely, Still  Directed by Nik Fackler

Robert Malone (Martin Landau) is an elderly man living alone, apparently unmarried or widowed.  He has his routine.  It’s near Christmas and he’s wrapping his one present, to himself, to put under his tree.  All the decorations, especially the lights, are old.  The only odd thing about his house it  has many empty picturehooks, but few paintings or photographs.  Also, Robert suffers nightmares from which he awakes listening to Christmas music on the radio.

A family moves in across the street.  Mary (Ellen Burstyn) drops by to say hello and a tentative romance begins.  She is very eager, and after an oddly short courtship, Robert and Mary are sleeping together.  This doesn’t last, thought, and after a particularly violent nightmare Robert wakes up alone in panic. 

Now we learn that all that went before was in his mind, memories of past times.  Richard is terrified of being alone, and his house is full of post-it notes left by Mary, his wife who lives across the street.  Not long after, Robert lands in hospital and Mary is faced with saying goodbye to what is left of the husband she loved.

This is a very moving film with touching work from both lead actors.  All the same, the transition between states for Robert might have been handled less violently.

I couldn’t help comparing Lovely, Still with Away From Her that covered some of the same ground, but better.

Adam Resurrected  Directed by Paul Schrader

Adam Stein, the title character, was the toast of Weimar Germany — a comic, a magician, an entertainer with a wide following even among the Nazis.  Years after the war, he is a sociopath, clever, engaging but dangerous and prone to violence.  This leads him, unwillingly, to a treatment centre in the Israeli desert for Holocaust survivors.

Adam has a thing about dogs.  During the war, he was made a pet of Commandant Klein (Willem Dafoe) who recognized him and trained him as a pet emulating and befriending “Rex”, a German Shepherd.  Constantly he worries for the safety of his wife and daughter, and one day sees them walk by enroute to the ovens while he plays his violin.  After the war, he will be rejected by his family as a collaborator.  All of this is interwoven as flashbacks through the story.

One day in the hospital, Adam finds a young boy who was raised as a dog.  Nobody but Adam can reach him.  Gradually there comes trust and, eventually, humanity.

Jeff Goldblum plays Adam and captures his talents, his mercurial mind and his haunting memories perfectly.  He is a comic, a desperate improviser, getting by as he can.  In the end, Adam returns to some sort of normal life, but the spark of creativity is gone.

Of Time and the City  Directed by Terence Davies

Terrence Davies reviews Liverpool, the city of his youth, through a crusted lens with reams of historic footage — old buildings, people, post war reconstruction, deindustrialization.  A mix of poetry and images shows the gritty beauty of the city as it was, a Victorian industrial town of narrow streets with overcrowded housing.

The film turns political with the arrival of the “Betty Windsor” show, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth.  Davies contrasts the pomp and luxury with the poverty of Liverpool.  No monarchist he.

As the city rebuilds, accompanied by no less than Mahler’s Ressurection Symphony, old low rise housing falls to new shining tower blocks in fields of open space.  Newer is not necessarily better, and Davies shows us the same lined faces looking out of windows and off of balconies as we saw before in the old Council houses.  Later, the new courtyards will be overgrown with weeds and grafitti.

“Where has my Liverpool gone” is Davies’ theme.  This is a love song for a long-lost friend.

We think we are at the film’s end, sunsets and all, a misty-eyed view to the past.  But wait!  Cue the music!  This is Liverpool reborn, the cultural capital of Europe for 2008.  We must look forward.

Davies says all he needs to with a bombastic finish, the triumphal end of Mahler’s symphony and lots of fireworks.  Perish the thought that the city might only be a shadow of what it once was.