Sunday, December 11, 2005

Film in 2005: Part IV of possibly more...

Parents and children. Children and parents. Five films seen in 2005 fall into this group: familial dysfunction and children vying for the affection of their father (The Bee Season), divorce, joint custody and parents vying for the affection of their children (The Squid and the Whale), a tale of a man in search of his son (Broken Flowers), and two sons trying to understand themselves and their fathers My Architect (2003) and Tell Them Who You Are.

Of the five, Broken Flowers starring Bill Murray, a film I'll jokingly refer to as the year's best and only Dadaist film, is the least of the five for me. Although intruiging and interesting at times, I walked away shrugging. The Bee Season and The Squid and the Whale both fall somewhere in the middle; the latter was probably the the stronger film of the two, but I feel a complicating factor in that the former had a certain likeable quality I'm having trouble putting my finger on.

My Architect and Tell Them Who You Are were my favorites of the five. Both are father quests, shot by sons looking for their fathers and, in the process trying, to understand things about themselves.

My Architect is the work of Nathaniel Kahn, son of the great 20th century architect Louis I. Kahn who died a lonely death from a heart attack in a Penn Station bathroom in 1974. The result of five years of work, the film is very personal and moving. In addition to presenting a fascinating biography, a moving personal question, and some incredible architecture, the film includes interviews with master architects B.V. Doshi, Frank Gehry, the late Philip Johnson and I.M. Pei. An excellent film.

Tell Them Who You Are is also a film made by a son trying to understand a highly successful father. This time, the filmmaking son is Mark Wexler and the famous father is legendary cinematographer Haskell Wexler. The key difference between this film and My Architect is that the father in this film is still alive (very much alive), a fact which, of course, amounts to entirely different perspectives and dynamics. The reviews of this film are mixed. Some critics found it indulgent and insincere while others gave it high marks. I was fascinated by the dynamics and found the film meaningful in ways that transcended the two main characters, son and father.

(to be continued... hopefully)


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