Bleak Beauties

Before completing my ArtPrize 2 piece, wanted to quickly shout out two interesting movies.

The first is The Dish and the Spoon. A poster created by marketers makes the title seem cutesy rather than as sweet and appropriate as it is. It’s a disservice that it shows Greta Gerwig doing a massive eyeroll, and that kind of thing that has earned her that unfortunate title “the queen of mumblecore”; I suspect it could make one dismiss the movie altogether with an eyeroll or two on the poster viewer’s part.

But this movie is an odd delight that shows the actress’s range while always doing that Greta Gerwig thing that she does, which is why you love her anyway. Her beauty is stealthy, to herself as much as anyone else. In fact, she almost constantly denies it, masking it with gawkiness, making it all the more interesting.

Alison Bagnall wrote, produced, and directed, only her second feature (she also partnered with Vincent Gallo on the screenplay for the fine Buffalo 66). Mark Schwartzbard shot the Delaware locations with moody grace, and Darrin Navarro edited.

New York has rarely looked as glossy or as haunted as it does in Steve McQueen’s Shame, a sinuous descent into loneliness. “Sex addict” was used continually in the press materials, and why not? It sells. But rather than being titillating, those scenes are brutal without being violent, and leave an increasingly nasty and freezing aftertaste. McQueen chooses to keep his camera trained mostly on the face of his protagonist, played by Michael Fassbender; his eyes, alternately empty, ravenous, and in the end, devastated. The ménage a trois at the end is one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. I had a hard time getting it out of my head, and Fassbender’s performance is a wow. Carey Mulligan also grows up a bit here, playing the Lost Girl sister whose self-hatred manifests in other ways. Who raised these kids? That’s part of the power, at least for me; I started caring about what circumstances could produce such dysfunctional siblings. There’s also a brief appearance by the lovely Nicole Beharie, so good in the barely-seen African Violet (put that in your queue and watch it).

There is great beauty from cinematographer Harry Bobbitt, and the score by Harry Escott and Joe Walker’s editing are perfection.

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