December 25, 2013 Film ReviewsUpdates


The fear of disappointment and entrapment, the longing for truth and direction, the irrepressible ordeal of coping with loss and detachment, the power of the past and the persistence of memory, the tenacious plight to set things right. Collectively, they are the vicissitudes of modern life and powerful currents in cinema.

In Michelangelo Antonioni’s lavish, textured and lachrymose L’eclisse (1962), Vittoria (Monica Vitti) is a beautiful, talented translator who crosses paths with the suave and urbane Piero (Alain Delon), a stockbroker with an insatiable passion for financial success and fine cars. The quirky chemistry between them is matched by their reservations and doubts. Promising to reunite time and time again after their initial exchange of passion, neither Vittoria nor Piero attends their subsequent rendezvous. Instead, we are left to contemplate the empty site of their forsaken meeting by taking in its sparse scenery and attuning our ears to its urban cacophony; an experience all the more striking, powerful and resonant on account of the absent lovers.

In Alexander Payne’s The Descendants (2011), Matt King (George Clooney) is a successful and prosperous lawyer living in idyllic Hawaii. As the primary estate holder of a picturesque slice of pristine land on the island of Kaua’i, King’s family life and business aspirations are suddenly and irrevocably derailed by his wife’s irreparably tragic boating accident.

Burdened with the responsibility of reconnecting with his two rebellious daughters and his accusatory father-in-law (Robert Foster), King is also faced with the revelation of his wife’s hitherto extra-marital proclivities. The discovery of her romance with a potential client prior to the accident sets King (and his family) on an onerous mission for truth, confrontation, closure and reconciliation. In The Descendants the family’s daily trials, challenges and decisions are fashioned, at once, by their debts to the past and commitments to the future.

Martin Scorsese is not a name that one immediately associates with that lucrative and crowd-pleasing faction of cinema known as the feel-good-family film. Scorsese is, after all, the venerable but controversial director of gritty, confronting, hard-edged and violent epics such as Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), Goodfellas (1990) and Casino (1995). And yet, in Hugo (2011), Scorsese delivers one of his finest, most captivating and beautifully crafted films; a homage at once to the mechanical marvels of childhood, the city of Paris in the Industrial Age and the early history of cinema a la the silent films of Georges Méliès (1861-1938), particularly the legendary Le Voyage dans la lune (A Trip to the Moon, 1902) with its iconic image of a rocket crashing into a wincing, custard-like moon face.

The film’s namesake is a young orphan who lives in a Paris railway station, maintaining the clocks, pilfering food and working on his deceased father’s legacy: repairing a broken automaton designed to produce inscriptions with a pen. His determination to mend the defunct machine, by stealing mechanical parts from surrounding businesses, aligns his fate with the railway station’s Toy Store owner; the long retired film maverick Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley). Hugo’s desire to restore a mechanical memento from his past reverberates with Méliès’ attempts to salvage traces of his own legacy.

In these contributions to cinema, memories, dreams and projections  – the ineffaceable, intangible and indeterminate – fuel the machinery of the drama and animate the lives and struggles of its key players.



– Dr. Varga Hosseini