It’s summer movie time. Ahh summer. I remember hot and sticky summers in New York when I’d escape the heat by going to the movies. In the cool darkness, I could watch the pretty things on the screen float by like colorful snowflakes.
This summer, I have two movies to recommend highly. They’re chick flicks but not in the conventional sense, and I’ll try to give you my impressions of them unconventionally.
One Sunday, I walked to a cheap movie theatre to catch Winter’s Bone directed by Debra Granik. Yes, I walk in LA.
Ree, the 17 year old heroine of Winter’s Bone, walks a lot. Her quest to find her father before the family home is taken is not an adventure to distant lands filled with fantastical robots. She walks in a winter Missouri landscape to the houses of her distant cousins. Occasionally, she might get into a truck, but only occasionally.
Not much is said in Winter’s Bone except the essentials, and Ree is smart enough to not talk too much. Even when she’s showing her younger siblings how to fire a gun, she says only what she needs to.
The universe of Winter’s Bone is divided by gender. There is a definite man’s world and a definite woman’s world. The men won’t talk to Ree, but the women do. However, the women aren’t the archetypical nurturing home bodies. They are not earth mothers. They have their own problems and issues.
They can help Ree, but they can also hurt Ree. When Ree goes where she shouldn’t, it is the women who beat her down—not the men. When Uncle Teardrop shows up to rescue her, he faces the men—not the women.
However, it is the same women who also bring resolution to Ree’s quest and make her take part in a ritual both gruesome and necessary. Through this act, Ree moves from girl to woman in the tribe. Even though Ree and the women will never be on the same side, there is a respect for Ree as a woman and not a girl.
I like that the film shows us powerful women without getting all you-go-girl Oprah about it. Among the women there is a tribal hierarchy where loyalty is prized along with an ability of knowing when to talk and when not to. The brutality of hierarchies among women is rarely shown.
The men can have their meth labs and their guns and axes, but the women are the ones who keep the world going and always, eventually, get their way.
As I walked home from the cheap movie theatre, I wondered if I would see another movie this summer as good as Winter Bone.
Then Tilda Swinton showed up in Luca Guadagnino’s Lo Sono L’amore (I am Love). Julia Roberts might want to learn Italian, but Tilda Swinton owns Italian.
Language is important in I am Love. What are the words we use and how do they conflict with the appropriate words to use? How is changing places and languages like putting on a different set of clothes?
Tilda Swinton’s Emma is a master transformer. She doesn’t just act a part. She becomes what she needs to be. Her first transformation happens before the film begins. She is Russian born, but she becomes Italian when she marries her husband. Her second transformation is complete at the end of the film in a moment that reminds us that great actors and directors can move beyond words.
Why does one transform? Why does one change? Necessity? Love? How does one escape the beautiful prisons one builds around one’s self? How does one not just love but become love?