Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Caramel / Whisky

I have a problem. Lately I find that I am not thrilled by many of the movies I watch. I went to the theater and saw Caramel, a Lebanese film about the romantic trials and tribulations of four Lebanese women connected with a beauty salon. It wasn’t a bad movie but it just didn’t have much of a story, no big ideas or big emotions: it was an interesting slice of life film. It’s true, I don’t know much about Lebanon and what life is like there, and there were some interesting scenes that suggested the difference between our culture and theirs, i.e. the importance of being a virgin upon marriage in a Muslim country. But otherwise, the romantic problems of Lebanese women are universal. Maybe that’s enough to make this a worthwhile film—that you recognize the similarities between our lives and those of other cultures, but I want more than that from a film.
I had a similar problem with the film Whisky, a Uruguayan film (on DVD). This is a deadpan comedy about a man who asks his female assistant to pretend to be his wife for the few days that his more successful brother is visiting. The film was mildly entertaining and again, it was intriguing to watch a Uruguayan film where the characters are German Jewish immigrants, but other than that…there was little action, no big ideas, and little emotion: nothing to take away with you to savor. So what is it that is happening in the world of film that we are given a slice of life rather than a full story? If these were written works, both Caramel and Whisky would be decent short stories, but satisfying novels they are not. In these films we are given a slice of life, which in my mind provides a window into another culture or another world. This is worthwhile, especially for those of us who are curious about the world but don’t travel much. Nevertheless, I want more than that. I want films that I can cherish, that can transport me from my ordinary life into a world completely different from my own. I want full stories with fully-developed characters. I want movies with some kind of thought behind them, movies that can teach you a lesson or that can open your eyes to something great. I want to be enriched as well as being amused. I want to be challenged. Am I asking too much? What do you think?

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