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Short Takes on Film
Ben Nyce | Via Latina

Click on photo to enlarge.

“Love Is Strange,” written and directed by Ira Sachs, is a touching examination of the fate of two gay men of advanced years. Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) have been together for 39 years and finally decide to get married. But George loses his job with a Catholic school as a result and Ben’s retirement doesn’t cover living expenses and they must sell their apartment. The relentless pressure of the New York real-estate market forces them to live apart with family and friends. George winds up on the couch of two hard-partying cops and Ben with his sister’s daughter (Marisa Tomei) and family. They don’t see much of each other anymore though they’re deeply attached.

Ben rescues himself from full-on depression by going up on the roof and painting cityscapes. The film’s painterliness becomes evident; the camera carefully notices different textures of light and shape as it follows Ben’s searching eye. Christos Voudouris’ cinematography is especially telling here. But Ben is occupying one of his nephew Joey’s bunk beds and Joey is pissed at this invasion of his privacy. At 16 he’s going through his own difficult passages of growing up. No one has privacy, especially Joey’s mom who is trying to write a novel. When Ben and George do meet in a crowded public space, Ben’s decline becomes apparent. In our last glimpse of him as he starts down the subway stairs we see a stooped, frail old man. George finally finds a rent-controlled apartment they could afford but it’s too late for Ben. The performances of Lithgow and Molina are full of tenderness and love.

Magic in the Moonlight.  Click on photo to enlarge.

Woody Allen’s films often border on parody. In “Magic in the Moonlight” he’s doing a partial throwback to the sophisticated drawing room comedies of the ‘30s and ‘40s. Colin Firth at his wittiest and most abrasive plays Stanley, a magician who imagines he can spot faking a mile away. He’s lured to southern France by his pal Howard who has found a medium, Sophie (Emma Stone), who is conning a rich heiress. Stanley attempts to unmask Sophie but ends up falling in love with her. It’s all very complicated and full of twists but it doesn’t fly very far. Compared to “Blue Jasmine” it’s a throwaway effort.

Nyce taught literature and film at USD. He authored “Satyajit Ry” and “Scorcese Up Close.”

 

 

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