Saturday, January 14, 2006

145. every woman is a universe

Movie recommendation: Nine Lives directed by Rodrigo Garcia. And it really is about nine different lives, all women, all complex and troubled, all engrossingly interesting. It's an acting as well as a cinematic tour de force. Each life is taken one at a time and there are no cuts - once the movie starts focusing on one woman's life, we watch one continuous scene in real time, no edits, no cuts, no tricks.

This is amazing from a cinematic standpoint because it doesn't feel like one continuous shot. What I mean is, the one shot is pulled off so well and with such mastery that it doesn't feel like a gimmick or like the director is doing something different just to be different. It has the flow and the pacing of a traditionally shot and edited film. For those who've never tried to shoot a scene, it's hard to describe how difficult it is to pull something like this off, and for this movie to pull it off without drawing attention to the device is astonishing.

And part of what makes it work is the acting. Now I know something of how hard the technical part of that is, but to act in one continuous shot...amazing. Thing is, each of these nine little stories shows its central characters at some kind of pivotal conflict. Each story starts out simply and softly. Some stay that way leaving the sticky undercurrents stewing beneath the surface. Some of them erupt in cathartic outbursts. And to bring so much to the table in such a short span of time, and to do so in one continuous take...I have a newfound respect for all nine actresses.

Oh, I almost forgot to talk about the script. Writing something like this is insanely difficult. You can't rely on cheap and easy tricks like flashbacks and you don't have time to bring in temporary characters to fill in the back-story. Everything lives and dies off of the dialogue. Tiny lines like, "the first time was a mistake," pack so much information into so small a space, you learn boatloads about the character in the span of one line. That's the kind of writing that half makes me want to break all my pencils and the other half want to sharpen them and get to work.

All this gushing about this film, and it earns every bit of it.

"Is there a but-monkey (as Laura Ingraham would put it) in there somewhere?"

Yes there is. Nine lives is a great movie BUT it treats men like dirt. It makes them out to be mindless, self-absorbed, and stupid dolts. Now I know there are some women out there nodding your heads saying, "yeah, because they are," but let's hold on a minute. It was on NPR yesterday afternoon. A doctor (can't remember the name) was talking about raising children and he was talking about how both men and women have the ability to empathize, but they do so in different ways. Women have emotionally focused empathy while men have action focused empathy. Each has its uses.

For example, let's say a brother and sister are driving in a car when the engine overheats. They pull over to the side of the road. The sister calls her mother and she caters to the emotional needs of her daughter. The brother calls their father and he walks his son through the process of getting the car cooled down enough to make it to the next gas station.

Then again, I suppose we deserve it. How many movies have we seen where the guy is the smart one and his love is only there in the movie to look pretty and to tell the hero what a stud he is.

Anyway, if it's playing in your area go see Nine Lives. It's by far the best movie I've see this year (yuk, yuk, yuk) and I suspect it will remain so when 2007 rolls around.

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