From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Media Watch: Movie reviews: ‘Amelie,’ ‘In the Bedroom’

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the Feb. 28, 2002 edition of the Inland Register)

Last August while attending a two-week educational program in Belgium, five classmates including myself boarded one of the 189 mile-an-hour trains in Brussels. We were in Paris for the weekend in two hours.

Before leaving on Sunday evening we walked up the long steps to the unusual church of the Sacred Heart on Montmartre. Then we took the Metro to the North Station to catch the train back. At a change in metro lines we waited for the next train. We were pushed by several people as we entered the subway. I knew we were being pickpocketed. I held on to my billfold for dear life. I didn’t feel a thing as the pickpockets took a date and address book, which they promptly handed back to me. I did not thank them. At that time evidently they got the billfold of a friend standing next to me.

The bad memories of Paris quickly faded away as I recently saw the French film Amelie. Writer-director Jean-Pierre Jeunet presents a fable of the goodness of a young woman in a Paris filmed in a “magic-realism” style. Amelie is enchanting.

Audrey Tautou, who reminds you of Audrey Hepburn, plays the waif Amelie Poulain. She is in her early 20s. She has moved from the countryside to a small apartment in Montmartre. She is very shy and has not had much interaction with others throughout her life. She has a vivid imagination.

One day Amelie finds a tin box hidden behind her kitchen wall. The box is roughly 40 years old and filled with all kinds of memorabilia a 10-year-old boy would want to keep. Through fairly complicated detective work she finds the 50-year-old man who originally put the box there. She places it in a public phone area as she calls the number as he walks by. The man answers the phone as Amelie watches him look down and see the tin box. He opens it. Tears flow from his eyes as he sees each of the once precious items.

From that event Amelie decides to do kind deeds to the people she works with in a restaurant, the old man who paints his version of Renoirs in the apartment near her, and a young clerk at a food stand who is constantly picked on by his boss. In the process of sharing her life through quiet kindness and a bit of devilishness Amelie opens up to the possibilities of true love for herself.

Amelie is a story of what it means to live alone and isolated from others. It is a story of the obsessions of our lives that can close us off from others. It is a story of the importance of memory and respect for human beings who are all less than perfect.

Above all, Amelie challenges us to seize the moment of each day and live it to the full.

Paris is never more beautiful. The scenes in East Station are without pickpockets. The rock walkways up to the Church of Sacred Heart have no smell of urine.

Yes, Amelie totally pulled me into a charming story that has a dream-like quality to it.

And yes, Amelie has subtitles. For a visual experience and a story you won’t forget some very clear subtitles are a small price to pay. Amelie is a delight.

Amelie is rated R for sexual content. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting rates Amelie A-III — for adults.

*****

Todd Field’s new film In the Bedroom takes us to villages of Knox and Lincoln counties in Maine during an incredibly beautiful summer.

A doctor named Matt Fowler (Tom Wilkinson) is married to a high school music teacher, Ruth (Sissy Spacek). Their life seems almost perfect as they hold a barbecue on their large lawn in front of their stately old home. They have a wonderful only child, Frank (Nick Stahl). He is preparing for fall acceptance at a graduate Ivy League School in architecture.

But this last summer before graduate school he falls in love with a local single parent, Natalie (Marisa Tomei). She has two wonderful small children and is in the process of a divorce from an abusive husband (William Mapother).

Ruth in particular struggles with the idea that her son might throw away his career to marry Natalie. She fears he will be stuck as a lobsterman for the rest of his life supporting Natalie’s children. Matt doesn’t express his concerns quite as openly and enjoys seeing his son so happy for the summer.

Into this world comes tragedy in the tradition of Shakespeare as Frank dies in a fleeting moment. The central concern of the film is how Frank’s parents handle such an overwhelming event that even seems to deepen in its sorrow.

In the Bedroom takes us into the depths of anger, pain, and sorrow. How Matt and Ruth cope and then seek answers when there seem to be no answers is a highly emotive experience for any viewer.

There are many reasons to see this film. One of the movie’s strengths is a key series of scenes when Wilkinson and Spacek emote in blaming each other for the death of their son. The script at this point is absolutely extraordinary. The screenplay is by Rob Festinger and Todd Field. It is based on an 18-page short story, “Killings,” by Andre Dubus.

The acting of Wilkinson and Spacek in the key scene of bitter recrimination is as good as acting gets. Spacek has already won the Golden Globe for best actress. Wilkinson, who many will remember from The Full Monty, is her equal.

The beauty of the Maine coastal villages is poignantly photographed by Antonio Calvache. One scene where Ruth is leading her choir in a difficult piece at an outdoor park overlooking the fishing boats in the bay is unforgettable.

The use of mirrors in the Fowlers’ bedroom is done very effectively as we see layers of submerged anguish pealed away.

In the Bedroom is the opposite of the MTV-like-film Moulin Rouge. It is very slow and lyrical.

The overuse of product placements in the film is distracting. For many the last third of the film will seem like a change of genres.

The ending scene in the bedroom is powerful and haunting. Eyes wide open, Dr. Fowler remembers what has happened. The final scene of the beautiful homes of a picturesque village looks so perfect as we realize that the human beings in those homes can be so terribly wounded and filled with pain.

In The Bedroom is rated R - Restricted (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). There is some violence and harsh language. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting rates In the Bedroom A-IV —Adults with reservations.

(Father Caswell is pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish, Cheney, and Ecumenical Relations Officer for the Diocese of Spokane.)


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