Help! Help! I’m trapped in a movie selection silo designed by people totally unlike me — probably young, male, and technocratic. They like sex, explosions, and torture — often entwined. I usually just fast-forward through this stuff but their monitoring doesn’t register that.
My main theme is “eclectic.” There’s no bin or box for that. They don’t like any kind of assortment or variation. Nevertheless, I sometimes go exploring. Netted these interesting and mostly unadvertised movies last night. They are not bizarre but they are not murder mysteries either.
FAKE (2010) on YouTube A young painter has no success until he accidentally is seen as someone who can create fakes. This ability entraps him in the greed of a gangster who obsesses over collecting art. Enough violence, more than enough bad words, and some sex between the painter and his girl friend, will hold the interest of those who don’t particularly care about art. It’s all very jokey and tongue-in-cheek, particularly when seen by someone who knows what is true, because then the ridiculousness is obviously intentional and meant to be satire.
But I enjoyed the shots close up of brushes going into paint blobs and the grand swooshes of black curves that the painter uses to begin his canvases. As far as insights into the legalities, protocols and provenances of art, the tone was cynical and not particularly enlightening. But the activities themselves are barnacles, extrusions, and medieval conventions. Neither does The Law — come off well for realistic reasons: short-staffed, uninformed, unworldly. Not evil, but ineffective. They don’t consider art anything but a fantasy until they find out about the money involved.
VICTORIA AND ABDUL (2017) on Netflix
Half a century ago when the Glenbow Institute was barely beginning, Bob and I were in Calgary to sell bronzes when we were taken on a tour of the warehouses. We were ushered into a room of deep drawers and one was pulled out to reveal a set of Queen Victoria’s actual clothes: a nightgown and a sort of double duty skirt-and-top meant to simplify dressing for dinner because the skirt stayed the same but the top was exchanged. The evening top was quite elaborate with a lot of jet beads — and some stains from spilled soup. Each garment was nearly square because of the queen’s girth. It was indelible and anchors my affection for this movie.
The charming tale is based on reality: Queen Victoria became quite attached to a Muslim carpet peddler from India sent to deliver an honor. She relied on his friendship for fourteen years, until her death. The fantasy version is full of social comment and two sequences are particularly amusing, not least because Dame Judi Dench is playing Victoria. She is my age and is allowed to look old, even more old than she really looks nor me either.
The first amusement is rolling the nearly round Queen out of sleep for the day, probably using a body double though Dench is well-padded for most scenes. Two women literally and gently spin the sleeper out of the bedding and dress her. She may not be quite awake.
The second one is the great state dinner where she meets Abdul when he comes to deliver a precious gift: a single coin. This is meant to be a bit ridiculous when the Queen is accustomed to receiving diamonds so famous they have names. The bored Victoria slurps soup, stuffs in mouthfuls of gourmet food, and dozes off between courses. The many courtiers at the table gobble while they can.
After this nonsense Abdul persists in friendship and is rewarded by capturing what’s left of the Queen’s interest in the world. Now she is awakened and returned to her former self as Abdul teaches her Pashtu, both written and spoken. As she reminds everyone, including herself, she IS the Queen of India. Of course, shock and terror sweeps through the establishment. Abdul has a shorter companion who is also against the whole thing and never really warm. He’s probably invented, but perfectly valid.
The teasing and points-made could not be more timely. Aging America is asleep in the soup.
Aeon has a feature in its daily post which is a short film on something unexpected, experimental, and possibly graphic rather than presenting humans. In my childhood when one went to the movies, one expected these to be shown between the two features, along with the filmed news of the time. Often they more memorable than the grand romances and campaigns. A bit of their flavor is preserved in these two films. Maybe they came from evading all the big rich auteurs who impose their views on us, as well as the streaming cowboys who herd endless films through our lives.