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

Jim Jarmusch’s The Limits of Control

is philosophically rich – probably one reason why the film did so poorly in the economic sense.

No doubt the most beautiful cinematography I’ve seen all year. Jim Jarmusch made the right decision in asking Christopher Doyle (longtime collaborator of Wong Kar-wai) to shoot his film. However, it seems like Jarmusch may have given himself too many artistic limits in making this piece. I sense a lot of resistance – resistance against dialogue, resistance against clear narrative or resolution, resistance against character development.

It is as though we are only perceiving characters in the most ephemeral instant and only when they are on the verge of transformation. Characters do not progress, they impress (as in, leave a vague impression of a thought or idea). This may have been a deliberate choice since portraiture is a recurring motif in the film. And that is what we indeed seem to get – a sketch of a character as opposed to a case study. Or maybe it was Jarmusch’s goal to impart a vivid impression with the sparest encounters. On that level, he’s wildly successful. On other levels I think he withholds too much and his film starves. But I should probably also add The Limits of Control contains the best nude scenes I’ve watched in several years. Paz de la Huerta becomes a goddess. Jarmusch is expert at creating new goddesses . . . $7

If you heart The Limits of Control:

Recommendations from DJ Cheet
Mulholland Drive
The Man Who Wasn’t There

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