I haven’t commented – much less reviewed – movies in a while. Not because I haven’t seen very many, I have. But, perhaps because too much blockbuster type stuff has had its share of ten-cent reviewers like me and people go to see things because they happen to fit with their other, more pressing schedules. Also, there has been a quite wearyingly predictable newsround in recent times and I am not going to remark on the similarities between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, North and South, right and left, chalk and cheese, sweet and sour.
In reference to polar opposites, I wondered if an iTunes rental of “Still Alice” was going to disappoint if the trailer and plot spoilers were to be believed, but, not so. Being, er, over sixty, thus eligible for certain privileges like a guaranteed seat on the Métro, tends to cast a long shadow sometimes, in particular, the possible, if not imminent threat of some debilitating disease or other. People of my age occasionally give passing thought to being introduced to the grim reaper. Julianne Moore, in the role of a lifetime, plays a successful professor of linguistics, who finds herself initially unable to capture a word, as if it is just out of reach, and she is subsequently diagnosed with a rare familial form of Alzheimer’s disease. I found myself trying to remember how many times I had been caught without the right word, as if it had slipped between the cracks in my memory – a quite normal ‘senior moment’ I suppose we all get from time to time. The story revolves around the inexorable progress of the disease as she tries with less and less ability to hold on to her identity and the reactions of her immediate family. More and more, thoughts drop out of her head, which is both sad and almost unexpected. So, we are led into a solitude of twilight paths we’d prefer not to have to face with a bittersweet, perfectly timed ending.
By contrast – brutal contrast, as it happens - Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” was also showing at the cinema this week. Echoing “True Grit” with broad, snowy Wyoming landscapes and a frontier mindset of careless bloodshed, this would have almost worked as a stage play – Tarantino moves his pieces around virtually a single set as if under stage direction. Again, the intimidating Samuel L Jackson, with improbably perfect dentition, incidentally, provides masterfully adroit manoeuvres around an incendiary and sadistic script, a company of perverse men betrayed by money and false causes. Tarantino imbues each of his characters with a distinct and complex personality, interweaving a plotline of feral brutality and post-Civil War distrust with considerable final trademark blood-letting. As it turns out, this, together with some of the more gratuitously anti-racist themes, is what doesn’t quite work – a flabby ending with dead or dying; the only nice people having a brief candle of a moment before being remorselessly snuffed out.
Two very different takes on departing this life. Both not very reassuring but one much gentler than the other. Your choice.