Mike Mills’s & Kasper Tuxen’s Beginners

Mike Mills is capturing what he can of the human soul. I do not mean he is out there with a box. I do not mean he has a box and a net and he is trying to coax the human soul into a box using a wad of bacon and magical snare. Mike Mills is not a hunter. He knows nothing of snares. But Mike Mills does have the noblest of ambitions – he is trying to capture something magical without possessing any actual magic. He is recreating the brevity of the soul’s movement through THE HOUSE.

Our problem is the assumption THE SOUL is IMMORTAL. This could not be further from the truth. The soul is brief. The soul is moving. When something touches our soul we say WE ARE MOVED. Movement above all implies a temporality. The soul is constantly and happily deteriorating. When I say THE HOUSE it is to say this world is not OUR HOUSE. We have no claim to it. No entitlements. We are visitors passing though this space. The soul is a tenant moving through THE HOUSE. It is very difficult to watch. It is almost impossible to map. It is like a handful of flour moving off the board in a bakery. Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor and Melanie Laurent are tenants moving through the temporary space of light and screen and film gelatin. Mike Mills is mapping the human soul. He tries to anchor the experience down using concrete details – the stars, nature, the president . . . but even these are representations and must succumb to their own temporality. Even these are made of gelatin. Gelatin implies a temporary fixedness.

Perhaps none of that will make sense to you. Suffice to say Beginners is the best film moving through our screens right now. Soon it’ll be gone like anything. The reels recalled and burned in the crematorium. Maybe one or two copies will be hidden away, to echo, flickering like a ghost on a private screen. But the nostalgia and the ephemeral nature of a film’s run is part of the point. Mike Mills enacts brevity as his subject is BREVITY.

Ewan McGregor has charmed his way back into my heart and my pants. Melanie Laurent and Christopher Plummer never left. Goran Visnjic has burned a new poison into my heart. Together they perform the excruciating ballet of grief, new love, longing, heartbreak, sexual desire, loneliness, splendor. Perhaps I am making this film sound too serious since at its core it is a comedy. And I’ll be the first to admit I laughed a thousand times greater than I cried. But what better currency to operate in than laughter? A moment of ephemeral and coincidental bliss – whose novelty degrades over time. There is so little need to cherish something if we really do think it will last forever. The soul’s brevity defines its value – there is a dire importance we cherish what can vanish at any moment. Even if I’m wrong about all the rest – you’ve still got about the cutest pup I’ve ever seen . . . $12

If you heart Beginners:

Recommendations by Cheet Cheet
John Cameron Mitchell’s & David Lindsay-Abaire’s Rabbit Hole
Yojiro Takita’s Departures
Takeshi Kitano’s Kikujiro

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The Fan’s Guide to Avoiding Movies that Suck Eggs and Shelling Out the $5 for Movies that Will Make Your Day

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