Movie Shorts


“All Good Things”:  Based on a true story of a still-unsolved murder, Ryan Gosling plays the tortured guy who grew up in a shady family and marries Kirsten Dunst, a sweet and unassuming lass who gets cut into pieces, literally, for her trouble.  Dunst finally gets to show some emotional range on the big screen, but Gosling does better with the “this-is-so-intense-it’s-killing-me” role in “Blue Valentine.”


“White Material”:  Feels real, but fictional, account of a white family who has owned a coffee plantation in Africa for so long that they think they belong there, but the revolution happens, anyway, and they’re the wrong color, no matter how good their intentions.  A slow-moving, but gut-wrenching, story of the many facets of racism:  from the patronization of colonialism to the brutality of tribalism. 


“I Am Love” (“Io Sono L’amore”):  Tilda Swinton plays a Russian immigrant who marries into a prosperous Italian family, who seems to lead a comfortable and unassailable life, only to shake the foundations by falling in love with her homosexual son’s lover, the chef extraordinaire.  See Tilda pretend she doesn’t even speak English, and though the screenplay is glacially-paced, the sex scenes are quite steamy.  But, as the old song goes, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”


“The Illusionist”(“L’illusionniste”):  A very unusual film, in French by Scottish animators, about an aging magician, in the early 1960’s, who begins to realize that his act is considered about as old-fashioned as, well, vaudeville.  The art work, hand-crafted, is lush, but the screenplay is awkward.  It’s like spending a long time looking at a mime:  the artistry of communication despite significant self-limitation is impressive, but there’s something very important missing here.


“Everyone Else”(“Alle Anderen”):  This German film examines the relationship of an unmarried couple who decide to vacation together.  They already have their problems:  she’s ready to move in, he’s not; she wants children, he doesn’t.  But they discover even more issues with all this time together:  when, in the throes of intimacy, she says “I love you,” he always responds by making love more vigorously.  She wants him to reciprocate the sentiment verbally.  But then, when they happen to encounter neighbors of his, a married couple, we learn that he doesn’t consider her a social equal, even though he’s the one who’s struggling with finding meaningful work.  For American audiences, this film will feel slow-moving, but at times it delves into relational dynamics with astonishing depth.


“Exit through the Gift Shop”:  Oscar-nominated documentary about a French shopkeeper and amateur videographer who becomes so obsessed with finding the underground graffiti artists that he becomes something of a pop artist himself.  A curious reminder that we live in the populist video age, where it’s all about iconography, hype, chutzpah, and self-promotion.


Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Co-Pastor, United Presbyterian Church, Greenville, Texas