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Short Takes on Film
Ben Nyce | Via Latina

 

 

“Mud” is a good yarn about coming of age, growing up. Fourteen year old Ellis (Tye Sheridan) befriends Mud (Matthew McConaughey) who is hiding out on an island in an Arkansas river after killing a man who has been abusing his woman – the love of his life as he and Ellis want to believe. Ellis’ mom and pop are loveless, so he goes out of his way to create an idealized love, helping Mud survive and carrying messages to his woman friend. The setting of the river, the houseboats along its banks, the island are nicely evoked. Writer and director Jeff Nichols tells the story in a refreshingly, old style, linear way and with a steady rhythm of images. Ellis learns a lot about family love, romantic love, love between friends and Mud learns a lot about his woman (played by Reese Witherspoon). Sam Shepard makes a strong impression as Mud’s father figure. It’s a beguiling story, well-told, without Southern caricature or cornball histrionics.

Further thoughts on “Renoir” (Landmark La Jolla): The gorgeous landscapes and sea views don’t obscure the tough presentation of the old painter. Despite the mellow paintings of youthful flesh, he’s a fierce creator. Asked if he could no longer use his arthritic hands he replies “I’d paint with my dick.” His son Jean, the future filmmaker, accuses him of using his strategy of “moving like a cork in the water” as a passive screen behind which he allows his wife to make the hard decisions. One such decision is the firing of Gabrielle, the longtime family helper and model. Did she become too close to Renoir? The film implies that he used her body as well as rendering it on canvas. This idea is decidedly not in Jean’s book “Renoir, My Father.”

 

Another fine film by John Huston is “Beat the Devil.” A hilarious shaggy dog story, the script was supposedly concocted each night during the shooting by the bibulous Huston and Truman Capote. It’s about con-men stranded in Italy on their way to Africa to buy land which they will sell as uranium rich deposits. Robert Morley leads the con along with Peter Lorre. Their encounters with the Dannreuthers, played by Humphrey Bogart and Gina Lollobrigida, add further spice. There’s a wonderful spontaneity to the film. If you want an evening of pure, off-beat laughter beat it to “Beat the Devil.”

Keep your eye out for the upcoming “What Maisie Knew” and “Stories We Tell.”

Nyce taught literature and film at USD and authored “Satyajit Ray” and “Scorsese Up Close.” Call the Del Mar Library at 755-1666 for “Beat the Devil.”

 

 

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