The Modest and the Immodest
"Water": This modest, well-intended chronicle of the plight of widows in India in the 1930's is darker than it needs to be. Taken as a cultural commentary, it helps explain the rationale behind the somewhat bizarre interruption of the Joseph cycle in Genesis 38. In a society where widows are hardly able to support themselves, what is the responsibility of the culture to care for them? In ancient Israel, the familial duty is made clear in Deuteronomy 25:5-10. But what about here, and what about now?
"Le Petit Lieutenant": The title refers to a young French police academy graduate, assigned to the detective division in Paris, but the film really centers around his boss, Commandant Vaudieu (Nathalie Baye), and her struggle to take command of her personal life as well as her rookie street squad. It's a modest film about personal loss, but it feels starkly real.
"Factory Girl" is based on the shooting-star life of Edie Sedgwick (Sienna Miller), a wealthy, attractive party girl who dropped out of Radcliffe in 1965, hobnobbing in pop-culture New York City with the likes of Andy Warhol (Guy Pearce) and Bob Dylan (Hayden Christensen). Having no particular talent except her natural good looks and proclivity to excess, and little ambition except to be noticed (sound like anyone today?), she burns brightly in the stratosphere of hot celebrity, and then just as quickly flames out in a drug-induced stupor. The film, attempting to recapture the cavalier bawdiness of the era, sometimes feels like pornography, but it's difficult to ignore the haunting, brooding presence of Pearce's Warhol or the manic/depressive swings of Miller's Sedgwick. The confessional scenes are almost played straight, except that Warhol can't help but eat Hershey's kisses while he's baring his soul. Cultural icon, indeed.
"Smokin' Aces": The immodesty is how cavalierly human life is "wasted," as FBI agents and several groups of thugs all try to blow each other away at once, both at close range and through sniper scopes. Nothing even remotely redemptive here, or even memorable, except that newcomer Alicia Keys proves that she can act as well as sing.
"Flushed Away": Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Ian McKellen, and Jean Reno lend their considerable voice talents to a humorous animated tale about an uptown rat who gets flushed down the toilet of his penthouse apartment and finds himself in the strange new world of the London sewers. On his journey back home, he discovers true love with a "commoner," as well as a resourcefulness that he didn't know he had. Plenty of sidebar entertainment for the adults, including old pop tunes sung by a chorus of slugs. It won't win any Oscars, but it's modestly amusing, and you can safely watch it with your children or grandchildren.
"The Namesake": Who would have thought a Bollywood movie would contain gratuitous backside nudity? That's a shame, because it's going to limit the potential audience. But once we get past that immodesty, this is a gentle, intelligent film about an immigrant couple from India, who raise their two children in the United States, and how the whole family continues to straddle two cultures. What's lovely about the film is the way the couple grows to cherish each other more as they grow old together. Of course, this immigrant story is also played out in many other "subcultures" in the U.S.A., and the broader application is evident, in everything from being selectively bilingual to making fun of an accent to embracing cultural customs from "the old country."
Questions For Discussion:
1) Are we still a "nation of immigrants"? Which cultures seem to "melt into the melting pot" more than others?
2) Have you ever found yourself in "a whole 'nother world" from the one you grew up in? How well did you "assimilate"?
3) What did Andy Warhol contribute to popular culture? Is his contribution enduring?
4) What does your congregation do to care for "the orphans and the widows"? (Exodus 22: 21-24)
5) What does your congregation do to assist recent immigrants? (Deuteronomy 24: 7-18)
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Terrell, Texas
NOTE: "THE NAMESAKE" OPENS MARCH 23rd