New at the movies: cool vampires, harsh war memories, cold revenge and the Holocaust, too
The biggest movies of the week are down near the bottom this time. You’ll find the ones at the top far more engaging. There’s blood, revenge, torture and death, and even a haunting conundrum from the Holocaust.
Here’s the list …
Only Lovers Left Alive: 3 ½ stars
Blue Ruin: 4
The Last of the Unjust: 4
The Railway Man: 3
In the Blood: 2
Projecting Change: 4, 4
And 3 unrated: The Other Woman, The Quiet Ones, Brick Mansions
ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE: Here’s a different view of vampires, although I suspect Dracula would have seen himself this way. Sophisticated is the central description, and, as played by Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston (Loki from the Marvel movies) and envisioned by Jim Jarmusch, who wrote and directed, ultra-cool.
They’re not teenagers or throat rippers. They treasure fine old things, love music and literature and get their blood without violence. One buys from a black-market seller; the other bribes an attendant in a hospital blood bank. They savor it like wine connoisseurs as they drink out of sherry glasses. Then sink back in ecstatic bliss.
This stylish film with Jarmusch’s usual languid pace, much like his Mystery Train of years ago, is at heart a romance. Tilda’s vampire lives in Tangier; Tom’s is a recluse in Detroit. The two communicate via skype and then in person when she comes for a visit. “Everybody left,” he says to explain the empty streets and the church that became a car park. There’s little story (except for a brief disruptive visit by her sister played by Mia Wasikowska) but there is plenty of sensual atmosphere. In its deadpan way, this is an essay on love that goes on forever and a lament for the things that don’t last. (International Village) 3 ½ out of 5
BLUE RUIN: Feel the tension build slowly and deliberately in this one. It’s rare to see that done so well in the movies these days and that alone makes this one special. It beats with the rhythms of real life, languorous much of the time; bursting with noise and brief violence at others. And always pulls you along and keeps you engrossed with a series of clever twists.
Principally, it’s a revenge tale. A young, slovenly drifter (Macon Blair) who lives in an old beat-up car sees a newspaper story about a man released from prison on a technicality, speeds back to his hometown in Virginia, cleans up and stalks the guy intending to kill him.
He actually sets off a series of tit for tat retaliations that’ll remind you a bit of ancient feuds. Hatfield-McCoy anyone? Bit by bit the story comes out what led to this. And as we learn more our sympathies shift several times. Ultimately the whole notion of revenge in a society of easy gun access comes to appear futile. All this is created with a deft touch by director Jeremy Saulnier who also wrote the lean script and did the cinematography. It’s low-budget but doesn’t look that way. It delivers a punch like that other Southern Gothic film, Winter’s Bone. And Trivia fans, notice that Eve Plumb is in the cast, and not much like she was back in the old Brady Bunch. (VanCity Theatre) 4 out of 5
Also at the VanCity …
THE LAST OF THE UNJUST: Claude Lanzmann finally tells the story he didn’t have room for in his mammoth, 9 ½ hour long Holocaust documentary Shoah. More exactly, he didn’t know how to fit it in because it was so perplexing. It haunted him and now almost 30 years later he reveals the tale of Benjamin Murmelstein. Or rather he lets him tell it all himself, in the interview he gave in 1975 and a few writings that Lanzmann reads aloud. The story is chilling.
This man was a rabbi in Vienna where he helped many Jews escape when the Nazis took over. Then he became head of the Jewish Council at the Terezin concentration camp in what is now the Czech Republic. Originally passed off as a “spa” and a gift to the Jewish people from Hitler himself, the camp has been featured in several documentaries, most recently The Lady in Number 6 which won an Academy Award this year.
Murmelstein tells grim tales of what really happened there and gives mostly self-serving explanations for why he was on the council. This is where the immensely engrossing film gets frustrating. He relates his stories like a voluble Austrian uncle. He’s eminently likeable but can you trust him? He doesn’t admit any wrongdoing. He co-operated with the Nazis to help the prisoners. He claims he didn’t know about the death camps but does allow that he could have suspected more when people were sent away. He had contact with Adolph Eichmann himself over some seven years and says he was a demon, not a bland bureaucrat as Hannah Arendt wrote. He takes a few swipes at her and insists he was not a collaborator as she had written. Tried but acquitted by a court, he was vilified anyway.