Naziha Arebi uses her documentary on the Libyan women’s soccer team to bring us into the country’s struggles in three different stages after the revolution. These women dedicate themselves to creating positive change through their love of the game despite long odds, anti-progressive sentiments, and their sometimes conflicting reverence for their religion and community. A beautifully observed, painfully inspiring film.
There’s a tiny detail that captures why Bergman movies are among my favorite exhibits of human nature: in the middle of a relationship extinction level event, Liv Ullmann still crawls over Erland Josephson to the nightstand to set the alarm clock. Even when it feels like their lives are tumbling down, habit keeps moving them forward. Their fights don’t have neat arcs; the actors let heartbreak or guilt or fear or fury come in fast and surprise them, and shunt them aside just as quickly. This couple can be viciously cruel with each other one minute and so tender and gentle the next; they can stay up all night talking in circles. Despite all the ways they know each other so well, and intellectualize their own baggage with laser precision, they can still be at its mercy. Watching them grapple with whether they're better together or apart is more complicated and crushing and hopeful than I expected even from Bergman.
A TASTE OF HONEY (dir. Tony Richardson, 1961, United Kingdom, Spine #829); MAURICE (dir. James Ivory, 1987, United Kingdom).
This week I watched two British films about young people scrambling to find a way to build a life outside the bounds of societal expectations. Both feature gay characters drawn with a radical compassion far ahead of their time, and mischievous performances that put the exhilaration and terror of young love on full display.
Before seeing Tony Leung in SHANG-CHI this weekend, I watched him play a rich boy with soulful eyes whose indecision brings turmoil to a pair of late-19th century brothels. Hou contrasts the beautiful haze created for male fantasy with the harsh realities of beatings, addiction, and bondage. He also shows the tenacity of the flower girls who use every limited tool at their disposal and what power they have with their patrons to dig themselves out of the debt their “aunties” use to keep them captive.
The Bri-terion Collection
I’m loving the Criterion Channel streaming service, so every week I’m going to share my favorite new find.