Reader mailstrom, 10/16: Through a Screen Darkly; Prince Caspian; Lakeview Terrace; Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Welcome to Reader Mailstrom, a chronicle of stand-outs from the daily maelstrom of Looking Closer email.

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DARKLY PLEASED

From Chris:

Just wanted to say it’s great to know that there is a Christian out there who loves film as much as I do. It’s kind of always been the thing you don’t talk too much about in Christian circles or gatherings. I read your book and thought your insights were terrific.

The part where you talked about being on a date and tearing up at the film you were seeing rang close to home. That happened to me at Atonement last year. I don’t think she noticed. Sometimes the raw emotional power of a film just gets to me and I feel like I don’t have the control to fight it.

I can often find God in the movies in spite of the liberal bent of most of Hollywood. They put truth on the screen without even realizing it sometimes.

Anyway, at the age of 41 it’s great to know that I don’t have to be ashamed to appreciate the fine artistry in the world of film.

From Robert:

I just wanted to thank you for the copy of your book “Though a Screen Darkly”. I just finished it and I thought it was really great, it always amazing to me to see other people’s perspective on films that are as special to them as they are to me, and even more so when they are in different ways or for different reasons. But I continue to find it fascinating, and it also makes me feel less weird when I’m not the only one who sees things that remind me of movies everywhere, and how they can be used as not really a model of how to live, but as a reminder that knowledge can be found anywhere, in family, church, home, car, bathroom, and at 24 frames per second.

Again I thank you for the book, (Loved that Harrison Ford joke by the way) and I will be sure to get you a copy of my first published work. Nothing spectacular, just a short Star Wars parody a friend of mine and I worked on. But you take it easy and I wish you continued success.

By the way, the only movie you mentioned that I never heard of was “Babette’s Feast” but I just rented it and I’m going to see it sometime this week. Thanks again.

MY RESPONSE:

Wow, what day-making letters! Thanks to Chris and Robert!

I would love to see your Star Wars parody, Robert. There can never be too many Star Wars parodies. I love Hardware Wars. And Thumb Wars.

By the way, you are the first person to ever mention the Harrison Ford joke! Thanks for that!

And speaking of readers named Robert…

I’m thrilled to report that the novelist Robert Clark, author of Mr. White’s Confessions and Dark Water, recently offered this endorsement for Through a Screen Darkly:

In this beautiful and incisive meditation on the art of film — at once memoir, manifesto and critical guide — Jeffrey Overstreet teaches us not only why film should matter to people of faith but how to *see* movies as vehicles for inspiration and, indeed, grace.

 

THAT ‘FORNICATIOUS’ CASPIAN

Hi Jeffrey,

I was on “SermonAudio” recently and I found a segment from a radio station programme called “Generations”. I didn’t listen to the whole thing, but they were discussing the movie adaptation of Prince Caspian. Two things I remember them saying (apart from them casually slamming off The Golden Compass in passing) 1) Susan kissing Caspian was something “fornicatious” – I though she was just letting him know she liked him; 2) [related to this], Andrew Adamson is a “feminazi” or related to that “movement”.

Personally I though the Prince Caspian was just fun play-dress-up light entertainment. Some religious imagery I noticed were the underground temple thing with wall carvings of Aslan etc. – an allegory of 1000 years post-Christ (by that I mean, the rich historical Church buildings and such)?

If you’re interested in exploring Prince Caspian the movie, and its relationship (or lack of) with Prince Caspian the novel, I recommend you look back these posts: My review, my compilation of reviews that expose the film’s betrayal of the novel.

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REGARDING LAKEVIEW TERRACE

After I posted a link to J. Robert Parks’ review of Lakeview Terrace, I received this note:

I have watch LakeView Terrace fantastic movie that has contained lots of action.
Young thoughts and feelings has explored very well. It may get to charts. Not about races. Romance is also included with tender. Lovely movie I watch it on [bootleg movie site URL deleted]. I got DVD quality movie with easy. Also convert it to Ipod too. Site was grate than I thought.

MY RESPONSE:

Wow. You watched the movie through an illegal download… and you watched it on your iPod! Congratulations. I’m sure you’re in a far better position to review the film than J. Robert Parks. I love it when romance is included with tender.

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DON’T LOOK TO WOODY ALLEN FOR LESSONS IN SEXUAL ETHICS

This letter came in to CT in response to my review of Vicky Cristina Barcelona:

Admittedly I am an atheist, so my sensibilities are no doubt different than those of your reviewer and readership, but I saw “Barcelona” as a meditation on passion and as such, didn’t see the characters so much as individual people, but as types. And I came away from the film thinking that I’d witnessed a powerful cautionary tale. A life of pure, atavistic passion leads to chaos and destruction. A life unpunctuated by moments of profound sensual delight can be tedious and hardly worth living, The trick is in the navigation.

I do not think that Allen was TRYING to present solutions, or indoctrinate viewers into how they should best live their lives. I think he was trying to say that a life of unmitigated practicality can produce dangerous levels of ennui that might turn destructive, and a life of undisciplined passion can be explosively violent and implosive, so it is up to us to make choices we can live with.

Perhaps I’m being too Pollyanna, but I did not see that Vicky and Cristina suffered destruction. At most I would say they endured costly Instruction. Whether the insights available to them through this dreamworld experience will make them better people, the movie stops short of showing us, but I think the audience is left to reflect on the nature of eros, for good and for ill. If one views the film as mainly a meditation on eros from one person’s point of view, its value becomes more acceptable. But I would no more turn to Allen for tips on the finer points of sexual ethics than I would turn to a Roman Catholic priest for tips on sexual technique.

MY RESPONSE:

I have to say… I think I agree with you. Perhaps my frustration Allen’s blind spots prevent me from properly appreciating what he does accomplish here. (My friend Brett McCracken certainly enjoyed the film more than I did.) I just think that Allen’s given us these observations before, and better, in films like Hannah and Her Sisters. But I appreciate the feedback. You’re probably seeing this one more clearly than I am.


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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.


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