In the Company of Women, Part II

By Jeffrey Overstreet

2783315627_94f68e493d_zContinued from yesterday

“You’re the sort of man who can’t know anyone intimately, least of all a woman.”

That may be the most stinging, hurtful reprimand I’ve ever heard.

Thank God it wasn’t aimed at me: Those words were spoken by Miss Lucy Honeychurch to her fiancé, Mr. Cesil Vyse, in 1985’s A Room With a View.

The insult broke their engagement. It also broke the poor man’s heart, just as it would have broken mine.

As I wrote yesterday, movies have influenced how I feel and what I think in the company of women. [Read more…]

In the Company of Women, Part I

By Jeffrey Overstreet

6978815032_613400725d_zIn late July of 1992, Batman Returns ruled the box office.

I bought a ticket for something else: A film about two married women and a grumpy widow who take a holiday and, as The Seattle Times put it, “rediscover their sensuality on the sunny Mediterranean.”

Strange, I know. But there I was, a twenty-one-year-old male, spending what little money I had to see Enchanted April.

How many college guys would you guess were in the audience watching this ladies-only getaway, listening to women ponder, dream, commiserate, and grumble about their husbands? I doubt that the film’s marketing strategists considered my demographic. [Read more…]

The Boy Who Believed in Airplanes

This is Jeffrey Overstreet’s last post as a regular contributor to Good Letters. We thank him for the thoughtful words and reviews he has shared so faithfully and wish him well in his next pursuits.

Matthew was a high school senior, two years ahead of me. He was a gifted musician, a generous friend, and not too cool to hang out with a sophomore like me. I learned a lot from him. His interests in books, music, and movies influenced mine.

But one Saturday afternoon in 1987, as we emerged from a matinee of Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun, Matthew startled me into silence by complaining about the movie. He was smarter than me, a better talker. I was too intimidated to respond. But I disagreed. Fiercely. What he found dispiriting (and “way too long”) I found enthralling and transcendent.

It may have been that afternoon, as I wished for the eloquence to argue, that I began my journey into film criticism. [Read more…]

The Hobbit on Steroids

In a public library, there waited The Hobbit. And in a cineplex, there screened The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

These two things are related. But only somewhat.

I vividly remember Mrs. Tuttle, a children’s librarian in Portland, Oregon, putting a book by J. R. R. Tolkien in my hands when I was only seven years old. The book began simply, introducing me to a hobbit and his habits. Bilbo Baggins was a likeable, fastidious fellow, fond of good food, smoking, and safety. I liked him. But he was clearly a little too comfortable and contented, lacking any interest in engaging the world beyond his neighborhood.

The excitement in Tolkien’s narrative began with the arrival of a wandering wizard on Bilbo’s doorstep. That led to a parade of unexpected visitors—dwarves gathering to plan their quest eastward into a dragon’s lair to regain their conquered kingdom. Bilbo became their reluctant accomplice, accepting the risky job of “burglar.” [Read more…]

Holy Motors’ Motor Skills

As Holy Motors begins, a sleepwalker leans against his bedroom wall, upon which a forest is painted.

Or might it be a real forest after all?

The sleeper—played by filmmaker Leos Carax—moves into it, like Lucy stepping into Narnia, where he finds a strange movie theater and a catatonic audience.

Here comes an ancient dog—both magnificent and menacing—stalking down the theater aisle. Perhaps he’s a portent of the death of cinema in the age of digital media. Perhaps he’s Carax himself, transformed, an old dog come to show us some new tricks.

And wow, does he have some new tricks. The wallpaper forest and the phantom dog are only the first of this movie’s many big-screen wonders. It’s a mesmerizing, multi-genre marathon, as if the director knows he’s dying, and so he’s showing us trailers for all of the films he’d make with world enough and time.

Still, this isn’t just a series of incongruous short films. Common threads bind these vivid sketches together with the sense of an urgent appeal. [Read more…]