Documentary about the Young@Heart chorus, a group of septuagenarians and octogenarians (and even a remarkable 93-year-old woman) who perform punk and other music of rebellious youth. As for the aesthetic value of what they do, you end up evaluating it in much the same way one would a children’s school-play adaptation of “Macbeth”: you root for them, and it’s cute and funny that they’re giving it a go. In fact there’s an infantilization of these seniors going on here (though the director of the chorus, Bob Cilman, himself in his late 40s, admirably does not patronize them). Still, this is a loving, moving film, and there is one truly great singer among them: Fred Knittle, who suffers from congestive heart failure and performs hooked up to an oxygen machine. On opening night he sings Coldplay’s “Fix You”, and he gives what very well may be the definitive reading of a beautiful song, which also serves as an elegy for the chorus members who passed as the film was being made. “Lights will guide you home/and ignite your bones”.
“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”
With “Raiders of the Lost Ark” Lucas, Spielberg, Harrison Ford and John Williams made an indelible mark on the culture and ushered in the modern blockbuster. I was a huge “Raiders” fan circa ’81, though I remember my dad having if anything an even better time than we kids in the theatre: we could barely keep him in his seat after the boulder sequence. Now Indy’s back, and the first glimpse of that fedora, the first sounding of that great theme, bears us back on the seas of memory. The silly screenplay is set in the 1950s: Indy must return the titular skull to a lost city of gold in Peru before it can be got hold of by a group of evil Russians (led by a fantastic Cate Blanchett—great fun to watch this smartest of actresses putting on a silly accent and having a laugh). There’s a tension between Spielberg the masterful grownup artist and the popcorn fare purveyor. Is he still good at giving us a spot of fun? As clever as he is, all his work has been marred by problems with shape and tone, and “Crystal Skull”, eventually enervating despite all its frenetic (yet oddly non-visceral) motion, is no exception. That said, Spielberg is working in a tradition of stunts and action that has delighted audiences since the beginning of cinema itself, and of which he has an encyclopedic knowledge. There’s an extraordinary sustained set piece in the middle that is really something to see: a sword fight atop vehicles crashing through the jungle, rollicking along cliff sides, and careening over three waterfalls. It’s enough to get my dad bouncing out of his seat once again.
From Israel, a bit of magic realism. A hapless, unhappy wedding waitress is joined on the beach by a silent little girl in a striped inner tube whom she observes emerging from the sea, showing no signs of distress, seemingly abandoned. This is the central mystery around which directors Shira Geffen and Etgar Keret interweave strands of narrative about stifled desires, desperation, separation and connectedness, in today’s Tel Aviv: a tough female wedding photographer gets sacked for shooting the dark, banal side of weddings; a just-married couple, who end up stuck in a miserable local hotel for their honeymoon after the wife breaks her leg at her wedding, encounter a potential home wrecker, a woman who’s working on what turns out to be a _very_ special writing project; a Filipino caregiver pines for her little boy back home and struggles with a grumpy senior who views her askance since she speaks no Hebrew; the senior is estranged from her daughter, an avant-garde actress. Water suffuses the film as the unconscious flows into the external world. Watch closely: there is magic around the edges of everyday life.