Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Cup of "Bliss"

So, here is another five star of mine.

"Bliss": *****
This movie is an adaption of of a novel by Zulfu Livaneli. The story, set in rural Turkey, begins with a beautiful shot of a young girl lying by the water side in a sand filled landscape. As the camera slowly pans over her, the innocence  of the scene takes on a sinister nature as one notes that the young lady is not merely resting, but appears disheveled, and with pictorial innuendos, one is left with the horribly dismaying suspicion that an act of violence has taken place. 

The young woman, Meryem, is brought back to her village in dishonor. She has no recollection of the event, and is locked up, the suggestion even made by her cold step mother to commit suicide to save the family honor. She refuses. In that one act, one begins to understand the strength within this young woman. Her uncle, the head of the village, sentences her to death. His son, Cemal, upon his return from  the army, is given the duty of killing her. As honor killings are illegal, they set off to Istanbul, on the pretext of arranging her marriage there. Meryem, unaware of what awaits her, follows the dictates of her uncle.

This is a story of a journey. A journey of clashes, between tradition and modernity, family honor and conscience. It captures a current and ongoing debate in this and many other areas of the world. In Istanbul, Cemal and Meryem stay with his brother Yakov. The character, Yakov, captures the cosmopolitan  and modern nature of Istanbul, so different from Turkey's rural areas. He understands the obligation of responsibility of honor and duty that weigh on his brother's heart, yet challenges them. Cemal, bound by honor, attempts to carry out his duty, but in the last minute, although believing in his cousin's culpability, refuses to go against his conscience. He throws away his cell phone, knowing that in making this choice he has turned his back on his family, and in his disobedience, brought dishonor to his father. He is now, along with Meryem, for all intents and purposes, an outcast on the run. 

The remainder of the film captures the growing relationship between the two young people. In their struggle to survive and evade those hunting them, they learn about each other, seeing each other with new eyes. He struggles with his perception of her, clothed in her dishonor, and his new perception of who she is as a person, an individual of growing importance to him. She continues to look to him as her older cousin, her protector and provider, her shelter, yet through their experiences grows into herself, a strong and lovely young woman. 

They meet up with Irfan, an erudite, sophisticated and philosophical college professor who is running away from his own life, attempting to capture moments from his past, present and future. They form an unlikely and wary alliance. Meryem embraces this new experience, and Irfan quickly identifies in her an intelligence and quest for knowledge that aligns with his own. The relationship between Irfan and Cemal is an uneasy one. Irfan challenges Cemal's way of thinking, provoking Cemal to anger, but also to a new understanding. The battle raging in him is a struggle between the beliefs and customs of his background, which make up a great part of who he is, and these new perceptions on position, duty, roles and thinking.

The climax of the film is Cemal's acceptance of his feelings for Meryem, regardless of her past, occurring at the same time they are found by the men his father has sent, and Meryem's growing recollection of what happened to her on that fateful day.

This is an outstanding movie, and deserves many plaudits for its composition, it's thought provoking nature, and the depth and richness of the acting. I do hope that many of you will take time to watch it. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Mountain And A Lemon Tree

My friend Karen today mentioned two films that she recently saw, films I recommended. One of them was "North Face", a film about a German climbing team's 1936 attempt to conquer the north face of the Eiger on behalf of their country. The other is set in Israel and called "Lemon Tree", the story of a conflict that arises between the Secretary of Defense of Israel who moves into his new home, and his neighbor, a Palestinian widow, whose family's lemon grove is considered a security threat.

The North Face: ***
Two young soldiers in the German army, avid Alpinists, leave the army to take on the north face of the Eiger. Their love of climbing and conquering, wrapped into their friendship and relationship, ultimately drew them to make their attempt on the Eiger, although the politics and nationalistic fervor of the time also contributed to their decision. Though based on historical events, some latitude was taken with the story.

Karen mentioned that the whole time she watched the movie, she was clutching her husband's arm, and that is precisely the feeling evoked in you as you watch it. The suspense of the moment, places the viewer right there beside the climbers, braving the elements alongside them, not knowing what the next moment will bring; though unlike them, we the viewers, are safely ensconced in the comfort and security of our homes. It is a film that brings home how small and insignificant we appear when compared to the implacability and grandeur of nature's elements. It captures that feeling within man to conquer the unconquerable. The desires of these two young men will resonate with those who share the same adventurous mind-frame and heart. And to those of us armchair adventurers, who would much rather sit at home and snuggle up in our couches, it allows us a brief moment right beside them on their journey. This is not a movie for the faint of heart, or for those wanting a happy ending. It is taut, gripping, suspenseful, dramatic and tragic. Well done.

Lemon Tree: *****
This beautifully acted film, is what I consider a true five star "Jem". Hiam Abbas, in her portrayal of a dignified Palestinian woman Salma, who seeks to prevent the destruction of her family's lemon grove, is a treasure to behold. Her dialogue is in her expressions, her movement, her physicality, and yes, in her words. But it is not just Hiam Abbass that makes this movie shine, there is a tremendous cast of actors that help bring it to life. This story is loosely based on an actual event that took place, however it was an olive grove in lieu of a lemon grove.

The story is about what happens to this solitary palestinian woman's life when the Israeli Defense Minister Israel Navon moves in next door. The lemon grove is quickly characterized as a threat to the Minister and his family. A place of vulnerability in his security. To him it represents a weak point in a strong defense, something that needs to be taken care of. To this solitary palestinian widow, it is the heart of her family. It is their history, heritage and life. Her daily joy, providence and purpose. It is all that she has known. Her husband is gone, her daughter married and living elsewhere, her son, living his own life in America. This is all that is left her, what she understands and knows. When the attempt is made to raze down the grove, she takes legal action and appeals to Israel's judicial system. She does not resort to violence, but instead takes her fight to the courts. The minister's wife, Mira, sympathizes with the woman, and the movie captures their silent communication in glances, tentative smiles and nods. Mira herself leads a solitary existence, with her husband constantly away fulfilling his duties, she finds herself alone for the most part. Their daughter studying in the US is her sole contact at times, with the exception of her security detail, and even that is rare. Perhaps she sees in her neighbors life a purpose and simpleness, that has escaped hers in the politics of her husbands position. Perhaps she relates to the solitariness of her neighbors walk, but ultimately she supports her neighbor in her fight to keep her lemon grove intact. The movie watches this case go to the Israeli High Court, where the decision comes in favor of the countries security. A wall is built that completely hides the grove from the sight of it's neighbors, but the grove itself is razed down as well. The wall represents so much in that area of conflict:  Safety, separation, division, and a breakdown of communication and understanding.  This is a movie about life. In this small issue is captured a wealth of larger issues. A review by Joel Leydon of the Israeli News Agency captures this brilliantly. I encourage you to read his review.

I hope you enjoy these two movies, and look forward to hearing your own comments with regard to them.

The Reels of Time

Hi! My friend Karen set this site up for me a long time ago, and it has taken me this long to make my way to it!  Somehow, and I'm not entirely sure how it happened, I found myself recommending movie "jems"(a play on gems and my name - Jeenu) to my friends and family. Movies I found to be entertaining, thought provoking, chick flicky, or child appropriate. Movies that I thought others really needed to see. Their response might be different than mine, but at least I knew there would be a response.

So here I am with a blog site, where I can write about what I love to do - watch movies! Ever since I was  a young child, I could get lost in a movie. For a brief period, I was transported out of my life to other places and lives, some that spoke to me in a personal way, some in an intellectual or emotional way, and others that just entertained me!

With this blog, I hope to bring to your attention a variety of different kinds of movies. Some may have subtitles (a phase I am going through right now), some may give you a glimpse into a real life event, some may make you want to dance and move your head from side to side (Bollywood films), and some might have all the ladies sighing with pleasure (commonly know as "chick flicks"), and others might be ones you can watch with your children without worrying about content. Then there are those that will inspire you and motivate you to want to get up and do something for the betterment of humanity, or perhaps really pursue that dream you gave up on. Movies offer so much more than just pure entertainment, though that is their main objective, they can also offer a little bit of hope, laughter, a touch of joy, and sometimes a good hearty cry.

Well, I hope you enjoy the movies that I recommend on this site, and also hope to hear what you thought of them yourself. In the meantime - Happy Viewing!

Jeenu :)