For three months, a group of friends went to the movies together. Here are the conversations from those post-film discussions.

Embrace of The Serpent

Film is an exploration of an individual’s–or group of individual’s–perception of the world. Too often we are presented with gritty streets, honking horns, love affairs, flights across country, train trips, college campuses, period pieces, or family dramas. Embrace of the Serpent gathered us in a sinking canoe, floating us down through the hells and heavens created by our misguided desires.

Two men separated by 35 years seek caapi, a flower known for its healing and psychoactive powers. One man stands as their guide. While the white men boast of their righteous conquest, they contribute to a long history of hidden selfishness. Karamakate alone stands between this men and their quest. His aim is to protect his culture, his people, from any more destruction and in doing so for the first man, destroys. His own path becomes selfless through sacrifice, aiming to teach one man, and therefore teach the world.

I’d also like to touch on the thought of savages. What is unfamiliar to us is often disregarded or explained away as strange. The fight to recognize in each other the beauty of being continues. As we continue our search of this world and worlds across the universe, keep in mind what makes us similar is greater than our differences.

Film transcends place. It transcends time, offering us a guide to better understand the world, just like Karamakate. I’d like to thank you all for joining me on this journey. I hope to see you in the dark theater soon.

 

Further Watching:

Aguirre, the Wrath of God

Apocalypse Now

Walkabout

 

Further Reading:

Heart of Darkness

Dante’s Inferno

Breaking Open the Head

 

Disclaimer: Movie Club is by no means hosted or run by me, River, although I am happy to make the post-film newsletters. Movie Club is a means to see movies with other people and discuss afterward. The email chain is always available for your movie going desires. Feel free to include other people in the messages.

 

Tale of Tales

I’m not sure if I can begin to discuss Tale of Tales without a disclaimer, or maybe a little history. I saw the trailer for the movie nearly a year ago. Aly called me over in our house to watch the trailer she had just seen. Whether it was Salma Hayek’s bite into the still beating heart or Toby Jones petting the enormous flea, the first trailer left us enchanted. Here was some reflection of our world, with all the magic left in it. Seamonsters, princesses, kings, and hags, we had stumbled across something groundbreaking. Seemingly, this might be the first piece of groundbreaking cinema we had seen in years. Now, my disclaimer is I did not love the film, but that does not mean I did not appreciate it.

Born from the ancient fairy tales of Giambattista Basile, Tales of Tales spins three stories around  the theme of desire. A barren queen desires a child, an old peasant desires the touch of her handsome queen, and a young princess desires the affection of a handsome husband. In fairy tales, the elements of narrative drive a moral at any expense. Holes in the story, really great expanses of story, are accepted as long as some parable is able to express itself. Here, in Tale of Tales, the visual story overrides the narrative, setting the scene for all the fabulous moments I experienced in the trailer. This is the source of my discontent, yet I cannot deny the power of the film through its visual storytelling.

There is a compromise here, a sense that we must ignore the plot in order to comprehend the work as a whole. Fairy tales, passed down from generation to generation are not so different. Pieces of folklore intended to instruct and inform. The textbooks of early civilization. Something for the children. Just as those who have desired something so great they risk all, doomed to some unfortunate consequence, we too must take care and consider compromise. As the film begins to close and we see those who have survived enjoying themselves, a tightrope walker balances above the towers of the castle. His rope is on fire, yet he paces himself, taking each step in thought.

 

Further Watching:

Willow

Legend

Spirited Away

 

Further Reading:

The NeverEnding Story

The Mists of Avalon/The Once and Future King

Watership Down

 

Next Movie Club - The Lobster

 

As always, please feel free to comment further below. Be nice. And see you for the next movie club!

 

The Lobster

Disclaimer: I am sending out this newsletter and review to everyone, whether or not you made it to the movie, because there is important information below. In other words: SPOILERS! Skip down to the obvious page break to keep reading if you have not seen the movie.

If you begin a movie by shooting a donkey dead, what are the next ~90 minutes going to be like? As the opening title credit flashed across the scene, goosebumps spread across my arms. With each minute, with each tension building minute, this feeling increased. The world we had entered in The Lobster is set immediately, only growing more demented––and hilarious––with each passing moment.

AGAIN: SPOILERS!

During the film, I thought of two other tense features I had seen recently. Under the Skin and Ex Machina create worlds similar to our own, but their dark secret floats just below the surface of the water. You can see something there, you are aware of the possible danger, but you cannot quite make out what it might be. Throughout the film we are briefly relieved of this tension with the unique humor of the film. Director Yorgos Lanthimos pulls and plays between tension and humor, releasing possible clues to an uncomfortable future (the red intercourse), leaving us waiting (wanting?) for some obscene scene which never unfolds.

Possibly most unsettling was the score of the film. In his interview with filmmaker Peter Strickland in BOMB Magazine, Lanthimos says, “It was instinctive… I thought, if I'm using music, then it should be really present and become a new and tonally different layer in the scene… I was trying to add something other than what the scene was doing itself, something that might even be in the exact opposite direction of the scene. Instead of reassuring the scene with a related kind of music, both of them together created something new, something that wasn't there before.” Read the full interview here. Lanthimos uses his soundtrack to toy with the viewer, as if the film were a cat and us the helpless mice who have stumbled into its trap.

Who is the antagonist? The hotel manager? The woman with no heart? The loner leader? Society itself? The Lobster presents us with a reflection of not just our culture, but all cultures. This film presents the ways in which a society arbitrarily builds constructs, and the following pain, humiliation, and finally fulfillment in opposing or breaking down those structures. Yet, what are we left with at that point? Blind? Hungry? Maybe, but at least for Colin, not alone.

 

Further Watching:

Dogtooth

Berberian Sound Studio

Death to Smoochy

 

Further Reading:

Forever Valley by Marie Redonnet

My Mortal Enemy by Willa Cather

The Rebel by Albert Camus

 

If you had to skip over the review of The Lobster, it is okay to start reading again. Hear me? Start reading now!

 

Hey everyone! So I wanted to throw out a few things for us. There are three films coming out in the next few months I’d like to draw attention to:

The Automatic Hate

Weiner-Dog

Swiss Army Man

 

As soon as I know times and dates for these we can start planning our summer of movie club. Secondly, I’d love your suggestions on what to watch! Feel free to email me directly or email the group to have a discussion on what else is coming our way.

Finally, the John C Reilly Movie Club, as it stands, will likely be on an indefinite hiatus after August. I’d like to put together some sort of award ceremony for the films we’ve seen this year and our time together! If you have any ideas, shoot ‘em my way, otherwise expect to hear more on the issue soon.

I hope everyone is healthy and happy. Lots of love to you all. I’ll leave you with this:
 

“Everybody wants to see everyone in every movie naked. That’s why we have movies. That’s probably the only reason people go, to imagine everyone in the movies naked.” -John Waters

 

Swiss Army Man

Swiss Army Man was the last film we saw as a group. I had decided to let someone else write the review, but the subsequent newsletter never came about. John C Reilly Movie Club came to an early, abrupt closure.