Saturday night was a big movie watching night. Three movies, covering a wide range of interests - a classic foreign film, a Hollywood blockbuster, and a black and white classic. They also covered a wide range of video quality, as the foreign film is really a TV adaptation, the Hollywood blockbuster was a gorgeous modern HiDef presentation, while the classic was a clean, B&W film. Somehow, it all worked out just fine.
First up was Part IV of Dekalog (The Decalogue), director Krzysztof Kieslowski's masterpiece for Polish television. Each episode is based on one of the Ten Commandments, and all are set in a dreary apartment building in Krakow. They are not preachy by any means, and of the four I've now seen, they sometimes only lightly touch on the themes of the appropriate Commandment. This was was based on "Honor thy father and thy Mother" and tells the story of a young woman who finds an envelope of her father's labeled "Open upon my death". She suspects it might have something to do with her long dead mother, but can she resist opening it? And what might it have to say and how might it affect her relationship with her father?
Another powerful entry in the series. These are some really great dramas, powerful and interesting, described once by Stanley Kubrick as the only masterpiece he could name in his lifetime. All have been must watched cinema and I'm anxious to get into more of them. I put this one on because we had about an hour my wife was ready to start watching the next movie and it filled the time admirably.
We followed this up with the 2005' Best Movie, Brokeback Mountain in HD. It was kind of weird that I had this movie from Netflix, given Heath Ledger's recent tragic demise. This added twist made even my wife want to come down and watch the movie.
A long movie, clocking in at 134 minutes, filled with impressive visuals, which are director Ang Lee's forte, it failed to seriously impress me. In case you don't know, Brokeback Mountain follows the lives of two men who fall in love while spending a summer up in the mountains as sheep wranglers (you know, where men are men and sheep are nervous...). They fight their forbidden love once they come down out of the mountains and try to carry on in as "normal" a fashion as possible. Each gets married and has children, although Ennis (Heath Ledger's character) has a much harder time dealing with his feelings for Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) than Jack does.
They manage to get together a few times a year for "fishing trips" but Ennis finds it harder and harder to compartmentalize his feelings for Jack. Some ups and downs occur, tragedy ensues and Ennis must carry on as best he can.
My one word evaluation for this movie was "overwrought". Everything just seemed too much, right from the opening camera shot of a cowboy leaning against a wall, shot thought the wheels of a passing train. I'm pretty sure it wasn't so much the homosexual love story that put me off, just that the characters seemed to go on and on about it, and everything just dragged out. Both Heath and Jake did great jobs with their characters, as Heath's taciturn cowboy and Jake's kind of glitzy rodeo rider were played well. I also thought that Michelle Williams did a knock out job as Heath's first wife. But in the end, I felt it was just overly dramatic and overly long. My wife, on the other hand, thought it a great, sad, touching and romantic movie. Must be a 'chick flick', I guess!
We finished up the night with our first viewing in over a year of Casablanca. This was the HD version I got from Toshiba and it was the same clean, crisp version found in the Special Edition DVD. My friend and I have seen Casablanca dozens of times and it never fails to impress when watching this sharp reproduction just how much is going on in every frame. I was once again just blown away by how beautiful Ingrid Bergman was and how perfectly she inhabited her part. Still my all time favorite movie and watching it never gets old.