Friday, October 28, 2016

25th Philadelphia Film Festival, Days 7 and 8: Persons of Extreme Interest, 'Christine' and 'Paterson'

(Read about day 4 here)

As I stated in my previous post, I usually take Monday and Tuesday off from festivals to get back into my regular work routine and catch up with a weeknight film on the other days.

This year was no different.

On Wednesday, which was seriously one of the longest, most tiring days I've had in a while, I drove out to a 9:25 screening of "Christine", the Rebecca Hall vehicle about reporter Christine Chubbuck who killed herself on live TV back in the '70s.

Perhaps I'm bias to movies about journalism because I'm a journalist, but "Christine" really enveloped me in that sense of '70s broadcast journalism. Beautifully stylized with those long microphones, bold colors, huge machines of film runners, reel-to-reel editing systems, scripts that reporters actually read from, I felt like I was in that Sarasota, Florida TV station.

Feeling like you are in that environment is a key part to journalism films, and "Christine" hit the mark.

As mesmerized as I was with the production design, it was Hall who is in top form here. With little to no footage of the real Chubbuck out there, I can only imagine Hall perfectly captured the misery, sadness, workaholic, quietly happy, strong woman of the real Christine that one has read about. While I found Natalie Portman faltered as Jackie O in "Jackie", another PFF selection, Hall absolutely was Chubbuck. The deep, Southern-twanged drawl and nervously restrained body language is in full force from the English actress as she battles every emotion under the sun in this film.

For many, especially of this generation, I doubt they even know who Chubbuck is, but she was a defining figure in the world of broadcast journalism. Kronkite, Murrow, Chubbuck, all icons for vastly different reasons. Chubbuck took her love for reporting real news seriously, not stooping to the "it bleeds, it leads" mantra that was coming around at that time (and is faithfully executed today). The personal/professional factors that strongly contributed to her depression came out when on one fateful day in July, she stuck to her station's "policy" in giving the audience blood and guts by committing suicide live on the air. She would succumb to her injuries in hospital later that day. She was only 29.

The lead up to the suicide is the meat of "Christine", a strong study of a very fragmented public figure. I cared about Chubbuck in this film, and I appreciated her as a journalist, largely because of Hall bringing a voice to an almost forgotten figure.

The next night was Jim Jarmusch's "Paterson", a film I knew nothing about other than it competed for the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year. I've never seen a Jarmusch film, so I couldn't even tell you what to expect just based on his style. What I received at the end of the two hours was an enriching experience about life, relationships and mindfulness.

The name Paterson takes on many forms in this movie: it's the name of the main character (played by Adam Driver); it takes place in Paterson, New Jersey; and it references the poem by its hometown boy William Carlos Williams. With so many references to one name in one movie, I was thinking how to paterson Paterson à la Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Paterson is a bus driver in Paterson, and he lives with a wonderfully artistic woman named Laura. He listens to the colorful conversations of his passengers and writes beautiful verses in a discreet notebook. His daily routine is the same in getting up about 6:10, going to work, coming home to conversations with Laura, walking the dog to the bar where he gets a drink and enjoys the company of the bar keep and patrons, then goes home.

This is a very bland film in that it's not heavy on plot and conversations are key. It's a great film to watch because it's about exclusively normal people who love each other, the spoken word, the colorful characters that enter and leave, and everything else. I loved watching these kind-hearted characters with nothing but love for life and the here-and-now and watching them for a little while. I can't even write a wannabe overly pretentious review of this film. It's beyond words in its resolve to just be. Life is to be, and film is to be, but this is a film that breathes and acknowledges its existence for the simple fact that it exists. It is what it is, and is full of love.

BONUS: Here's the dishcloth I completed during "Paterson". Noticed how I fucked up the right side edge? Definitely added on another stitch at one point. Doink. 

Christine- Very good
Paterson- Excellent

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