Departures – 7

A beautifully elegiac film about loved ones’ departing life and human beings’ finding their callings, enhanced by a side-story of cello-playing that fed into an ennobling soundtrack.  I hope, however, that the Japanese ritual of “encoffinment” was an allegory. If so, it was justified. If not, then the movie has a lot of improbabilities to account for, starting with the “emergency” calls the hero had to respond to. If a corpse can’t wait, who can? Another recurring theme was eating, which I have yet to integrate. And the acting was rather broad, which seems a convention of Japanese cinema, not life. The biggest mystery, though, was how this pleasant, interesting film won the Academy Award for best foreign picture.

ps: What are the odds of seeing two movies about disenfranchised cellists or two moview about Japanese “death” rituals in the same year?

Easy Virtue – 7

A rich farrago of witty repartee, courtesy, I suppose, of Noel Coward’s original script. The American living by her wits, and considerable beauty, plopped in the middle of the decaying English aristocracy is, by now, a well-worn, time-honored conceit, but nonetheless open to japes and gibes, the latter most expertly delivered by Kristin Scott Thomas. Jessica Biel and someone named Ben Barnes played the short-term romantic couple – she, the veteran of love; he, the naïve romantic – but it was Colin Firth lurking in the background who, we always suspected, would steal the show. Unless, that is, one counts the proper but tippling butler – a symbol, perhaps? – who gets the last, and best, line.

Il Divo – 7.5

Stunning moviemaking that, seen on the heels of Gomorrah and Valentino, gave a pretty bleak but colorful picture of Italy. All those marbled floors, high ceilings and columned terrazzos, heavily made-up women and men with deep tans and coiffed hair, who would kiss you and murder you equally without expression. Any doubts that there was truth in this portrayal of Italian political leadership are dispelled by the stories coming out of Rome this month of Silvio Berlusconi’s birthday party with topless 16-year-olds. Not that Andreotti was involved in sexual scandal, just that he was similarly oblivious to any moral implications of his actions. There was no hint of what his public appeal must have been – it surely wasn’t the turned-down ears – but I take his affectless character to be a symbol of sorts that one must be Italian to decipher.