These days I let the content of my posts be dictated by those thoughts or connections that keep popping up in my mind and refuse to go. In the last couple of weeks I’ve watched three movies, and although they are very different, I couldn’t help but notice that they have something in common: the main characters wave wads of money around. What they are trying to achieve couldn’t be further apart.
In Jim Jarmusch’s film Only Lovers Left Alive (I give a brief summary and more details of the movies at the end obtained from www.imdb.com ), Adam and Eve (the film is loosely based in a book by Mark Twain , The Diaries of Adam and Eve. If you want a free e-version go here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0195101529/ although others are available) are two vampires who’ve lived (or been undead) for centuries and have been in love it seems for as long. They are exquisitely well educated (I love the scene where Eve is packing to go and visit Adam, as she lives in Tangiers and he is in Detroit, and she packs two suitcases full of books [a woman/vampire after my own heart] after speedreading classics in many languages), live pretty isolated lives, and feed themselves by buying blood from well-connected doctors and blood-banks. Despite their peculiar lives, their existence is like a shining diamond compared to that of the human being around them because they appreciate the beautiful things around him, literature, music and love. Adam doesn’t call humans ‘zombies’ for nothing. He is a musician and seems a romantic lost in the modern world, with suicidal ideation and all. Eve reminds him that he has lived through similar experiences when he was associating with Lord Byron and his circle. The film is astonishingly beautiful. Even a dilapidated Detroit looks sad but fitting.
John Hurt, who plays Christopher Marlowe, throwing darts with a painting of Shakespeare as target, is wonderful, as always. Unfortunately, he runs out of supply of “the good stuff” and ends up dying because of contaminated blood.
Dallas Buyers Club, based on a true story, where the main character, Ron Woodroof, played in a well-deserved Oscar winning performance by Matthew McConaughey, is a Dallas electrician who is neither educated not sophisticated. He seems to be only interested in drugs (cocaine mostly) and women (more about that later) and as we discover when he is diagnosed with AIDS due to an accident at work, he’s homophobic too. At the time of his diagnosis the illness was very poorly understood and most people thought transfusions, IV drug use or homosexual relations were the likely culprits. After a brief period of denial he discovers that unprotected sex, that he has plenty of, can also be a mode of transmission. They give him 30 days to live. His character is not likeable. He’s sexist, homophobic, and seems to live only for the moment. But he won’t quit. He’s determined to live for as long as he can, and he will confront whoever gets in his way, be the FDA, hospital, doctors, the government. He is not completely altruistic (when he starts bringing drugs from Mexico and later on from wherever he can get them, he charges people and you have the sense that he is making money out of it), but he is not heartless and he goes out of his way to share the information he finds, including sending medication to a policeman friend, for his father who suffers dementia. And he seems to abstain sexually until he finds a girl who comes to the clinic seeking treatment (and boy, is he happy about that!). He also gets to accept homosexuality and defends his transgender friend and associate Rayon, a deeply touching Jared Leto (who again deserves the oscar). Throughout the movie we see Ron change and be transformed by his experience
There are brief scenes where you get to sense the real person behind the bravado (like when Ron goes for dinner with his female doctor and friend, and they talk about his mother, who was a painter but abandoned him when he was very young) and I particularly liked the scene when Rayon, dressed in a man’s suit, goes to visit his father, a banker, who at some point says ‘God help me’ and Rayon says: ‘He is. I got AIDS.’
The film is not one for great stylistics. It does have the look of a documentary, and the form is at the service of telling the story. The performances of the two main male actors are outstanding.
I mentioned how Ron is mostly interested in drugs and women. He shares these interests with Jordan Belfort, the protagonist of another story based on real events Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. His other interest being making money. The film is fast paced (although it’s quite long), beautifully filmed, has fantastic performances, it is really funny at times (when both Jordan and his best friend and associate end up legless due to a drug overdose the movie becomes pure slapstick) but it is horrifying. When I talked about American Hustle a few weeks ago I discussed the possible amorality of the film, here there is no doubt; this is a celebration of trickstery, corruption and fraud in the grand scale. Money is justified by itself, there are no limits to greed and selfishness, and when punishment finally arrives, it is too little, too late. And judging by the seminars the character is offering at the end, he has learned nothing in the process. Matthew McConaughey plays a small but powerful part (reminiscent of Alec Baldwin’s bit-part in the film version of Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross) giving Jordan his own version of the ethics (or lack of) of being a stockbroker.
Would I recommend them? They are all good films, although very different. Dallas Buyers Club is a solid movie with great performances, and a history of the human spirit and human resilience. The Wolf of Wall Street is like King Midas’s story in modern times, but with no punishment. If you hate bankers and financiers and feel aggrieved by the current economic situation I don’t recommend it as it will make your blood boil. I think that Only Lovers Left Alive will become a cult-film, and I’m intending to buy it and watch it more than once. It is one of those movies (like Blade Runner or even Wall-E) where the non-humans have more appreciation and understanding of the beauty and greatness of life than humans do. Maybe we should take heed.
Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
A story centered on two vampires who have been in love for centuries.
Jim Jarmusch (screenplay)
Direct link to imdb page:
Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
In 1985 Dallas, electrician and hustler Ron Woodroof works around the system to help AIDS patients get the medication they need after he is himself diagnosed with the disease.
Direct link to imdb page:
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, from his rise to a wealthy stockbroker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government.
Direct link to imdb page with trailers, etc.
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