mercoledì 9 giugno 2010

The Underestimated - Chapter 1

There are movies in cinema history considered masterpieces by all the critics.
If you don’t love them, well, you’re in trouble. I usually feel ashamed if I don’t appreciate them enough, but at the same time I can’t oblige myself to love “The Masterpiece” at every cost (I have this kind of problem with the so-considered Best Movie Ever, 2001: A Space Odyssey, that always bored me to death. I know, I’m sorry, I’m terribly sorry but... hey, what can I do about it??!). On the contrary, there are movies that are clearly not masterpieces, but nonetheless we happen to adore, no matter how critics have demolished them, explaining us why they are not working. Sometimes, actually, we love them because they are not working, because they are flawed. And sometimes, I just think that critics don’t get them and that those movies have been underestimated.This is why I decided to talk, once in a while, about my favourite dropout movies, hoping you will rediscover them and you will love them as much as I do.

Which movie should I start with? Real life gave me a little help. I was recently in London for my job and one evening, in a Soho restaurant, I bumped by chance into Ralph Fiennes. I managed to seat at a table almost in front of his table (but I’m sorry to say that apparently he didn’t notice the stunningly gorgeous cinema blogger who was looking at him non-stop during the whole dinner), and I immediately started to think about my favourite movie of his filmography: The End of the Affair, by Neil Jordan (1999), the perfect example of underestimated movie. Based upon a much autobiographic novel by British writer Graham Greene, The End of the Affair is set in London during the Second World War and it tells a story of love, jealousy and faith. Maurice Bendrix (Ralph Fiennes) is a writer having an affair with Sarah Miles (Julianne Moore), wife of a civil servant, Henry Miles (Stephen Rea). They are madly in love with each other but, after an air raid where Maurice fails to be killed, Sarah suddenly breaks up with him. Why Sarah did what she did? Maurice can’t find an explanation and he is devastated and tormented by doubts. When, a couple of years after their splitting up, Sarah’s husband (who’s a good friend of Maurice) confides him to suspect his wife to be unfaithful, Maurice, still jealous of Sarah, recruits a private detective, Mr. Parkis (Ian Hart), to investigate upon her. What the husband and the lover will find out, though, it is far from what they expected and the truth they have to face is about to change their lives for ever.

The greatness of The End of the Affair resides in this: it is much more than you think. This is not the typical romantic drama, even if all the ingredients are there. This is not the classic story where the lover is handsome, nice, and irresistible, and the husband is awful, rude and unbearable. As a matter of fact, it is almost the opposite. The lover is not that loveable, after all. Maurice is rather selfish, as a character, his extreme jealousy makes him heavy and sometimes boring, while Henry is a much nicer and wiser man. This movie is able to surprise because it is always taking unexpected directions. You have no clue that religion is going to be one of the central themes until a scene that is a turning point in the whole story. And the relationship between Maurice and Henry at the end of the movie is so rare and precious, an incredible thing to witness. The structure is very interesting as well. The movie starts from the end: one of the first scene relates the meeting between Maurice and Sarah two years after the couple has separated, and from that moment we follow two different stories, the past and the present, that will converge only in the final part. It is also a movie having a quite gloomy atmosphere: it rains a lot, in London. But there is something that shines all along this film: the actors’ performances. If you read my blog, you already know that British actors are my favourite. I love them because they are the kings of understatement: no need to scream, to overact, to roll the eyes. An undetectable movement of the eyebrow will be enough. An entire range of emotions will spread in front of you through a single whispered statement, or a simple step. Here, Stephen Rea (l’acteur-fétiche of Neil Jordan) is a dream of subtlety and perfection as the husband who’s not able to provide for the strong emotions and physical attraction his wife needs, while Fiennes and Moore allow us to seat in our armchairs and think that the world is actually a better place we thought it was. And can I forget to mention the most underestimated actor of all? Ian Hart, signore e signori, wins us with another of his brilliant performances. When the juries of the acting prizes will finally open their eyes and gives this actor what he deserves? Last, but not least, Neil Jordan guides us through the complexity and the difficulties of the human heart with the passion/compassion (and a magical fluidity of filming) simply perfect for this story.
The affair is maybe ended, but I hope that your love for this movie has just begun.

2 commenti:

  1. Oh dear! I simply agree with you: Neil Jordan is an underestimated film maker! "the crying game" is one of my favourite movie ever without mentionning his early films taking place in lost places in England such as "the miracle".
    I also agree about his genious of story teller bringing you were you are not expecting!
    I haven't seen the movie you recommend, and I can't wait to discover it!

    And congratulation for your great blog! It is a real pleasure to discover it!

  2. Chère Fille Oasis,
    Thank you for what you wrote. The Crying game is one of my favourite movies too, but I like all Jordan's films... do you remember Mona Lisa? He is SO underestimated!

    By the way, your blog is AMAZING and I'm still at the beginning of my discovery...


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