Monday, July 27, 2009

Everything is Illuminated

Searching for one’s past, one’s roots is one of those themes that never grows old because there are so many people, so many pasts, so very many roots.

Traveling with Jonathan as he searched for the story behind a simple photograph is thrilling in a quiet and so very controlled way. Especially made so because the land of his adventure is not a new, unexplored land but an old land, a used-up-for-the-most-part land that is as mysterious as one never settled. The land is a mystery because it is so different from America but also because it has been closed to the West for so long and only now slowly opening. And as it slowly opens, Jonathan enters with a guide his age traveling with his grandfather.

There are so many searchers here, both intentional and accidental. By the end of the film there is exploration and discovery all over as so many circles are dawn together. Revelations all over. I guess everything is illuminated.

And because it is simply a fine story with rich characters in a unique is a really fine film that flows with ease and depth.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Face in the Crowd

When the list is made of most versatile actors, Andy Griffin is going to be there. For anyone who only knows him as Sheriff Andy Taylor in the nearly 250 episodes of The Andy Griffin Show, seeing him in No Time For Sergeants might not be a stretch. He seems more like one of the residents from the hills outside Mayberry than the Sheriff. But as Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes in A Face in the Crowd, he is the drifter who would have passed through the small town, stolen all the girlfriends, and had all the businesses willingly empty their cash registers for him. Even though just a face in the crowd, he knew how to make his way, to seize the day, to make every moment count for him.

Not an admirable character by any measure, Lonesome’s insight into pop culture is astonishing. Or perhaps not. Each age (and ages are getting shorter and shorter) believe it is the first one to be run-over by mass media and its ability to get so many thinking the same way so fast. What people do today on YouTube, Lonesome did on radio and then television.

Again, a fine story, great cast, unusual setting all in the hands of Kazan makes for a great film.