Sunday, January 11, 2009

DOUBLE FEATURE: A Trip to Bountiful / The Unbelievable Truth

We have here a curious duality - one movie whose title is completely obvious, and another which, after two viewings, I still can't really fully describe. Let's dive in, shall we?

Vital Statistics:
A Trip to Bountiful, 1985
Rating: K

A Trip to Bountiful is based on a stage play by Horton Foote, which I was fortunate enough to see at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, OR. I don't remember much of the stage production, except a crystal image of the abandoned house, picked out in oranges and browns. The play I recall as being very autumnal, which the film is strikingly not. This movie is a summer movie, a summer movie set in southwest Texas of the early 1940s. It's the story of a highly dysfunctional family (which I recall being better played onstage), and one woman's journey to return to her roots. It's a film loaded with hope, a "creation" film. It has one of my favorite hymns in it, and one of my mother's as well - "Softly and Tenderly," a classic old rooter.

As for theology...there's a definite connection between the idea of Bountiful (this woman's hometown) and Eden - a sense of loss and a desire to return to her roots. There's a strong distinction drawn between loving your neighbour and not. Some characters are cruel and spiteful - all the fellow-travelers are kind and helpful. This is, of course, promptly deconstructed when you begin to see the good intentions behind the cruelty and spite of the "evil." I was struck especially by the rather wistful portrayals of the nameless girl on the bus, and the sherriff. Might-have-beens connect with the desire to return to Eden. And once you get helps. It puts you back on a half-remembered path. The journey and the destination mingle to create a new person, once you've walked the road.

That may have sounded a bit maudlin. The movie's kinda like that.

The Unbelievable Truth, 1989
Rating KJ-13

Have you, ever had a conversation where you and the other person weren't actually listening to one another? Not just "waiting for your turn to speak," I mean that you're both essentially monologuing on unrelated topics.

Imagine that, only it's a movie. The whole movie. There's a scene like that in the movie, but, in fact, the whole movie is kind of that way. We've talked a bit in class about film as a conversation, but in this conversation, whatever I might have tried to say to Hal Hartley, The Unbelievable Truth was going to go the direction he wanted it to go.

There's a continuous refrain with the main character: "Are you a priest?" "No, I'm a mechanic." And it sounds absurd. But there seems to be something in common there. I couldn't tell you what, but something.

This, thus far, has been my favorite of the movies, and is a contender for champion overall. We'll see.

*A note on the rating system. These are intended largely for my mother - sort of an old joke. They are as follows.

K - Mom, you will object to nothing in this movie.
KJ - Oh, I'd forgotten that scene. Whoops. Sorry.
KJ-13 - Okay, there are a few bits we're gonna fast-forward through...
F - Sorry, Mom. I broke the DVD.


Kathy said...

A whole rating system, just for me! Hazzah! (Sorry about your DVD).

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