Friday, July 09, 2010

The Secret In Their Eyes

I am a man who watches movies. Unlike many of my frum friends I do not claim to consider movies a waste of time. Some prominent rabbis and educators I know watch junky movies because they consider films to be a waste anyway - so why not have fun? And life is serious enough - so why see a serious movie? Why not just escape? My answer; this is G-d's world, and everything we do matters. That's why I like my movies heavy and well done.

Early in 1992 Roger Ebert (in this article about the film JFK) cited a saying; "A man watches a movie and the critic must acknowledge that he is that man." He credits the quote to Robert Worshow, but I always associate it with Ebert. I remember when I first read it and then posted it on my wall, as he suggested. I am not officially a critic, but I am a man who is serious about his movies.

My dear friend, of blessed memory, Aaron Bulman loved movies. He once said that since frum people see movies anyway, someone should write about them in an honest way for our crowd. His point was that people should be directed to worthwhile films. The catch with his idea is that people are happy to see popular romcoms and comic book flicks that get panned by critics unanimously as having little artistic or intellectual value. It reminds me of the time Andy Statman opened for the Miami Boys Choir at a Chanukkah extravaganza and the crowd largely ignored him as though he were the one who was low level entertainment. Sigh.

I write all this as an introduction to discussing a film that will soon be available on DVD. It's worth seeing in a dark room on a big screen, but that may no longer be possible so it's worth seeing any which way you can see it. The film won an Academy Award this year. The award was for best movie. And yet you may not have heard of it. It won for best foreign film - in an upset. It's name is The Secret in Their Eyes and it is one of the best movies I've ever seen.

I'm reminded of how people sometimes say that another person is not their type, and then they fall in love (usually when people say that they don't fall in love). This is not my typical type of movie, which is a funny (not ha-ha) thing to say because it's impossible to honestly categorize this film. Did it make me laugh? A few times. But it's definitely not a comedy. Did it make me cover my eyes and watch through my fingers the way I do on the rare occasion that I end up seeing a violent action or horror movie? A couple of times. This is not an action or horror film though it has moments of great action, drama, suspense, and shock. I'd say more than anything else it's a mystery and (at least one) love story. It's also a buddy movie and a virtuoso display of film-making that us mere mortal, non critics will appreciate even if we don't know exactly what great camera work or cinematography is comprised of.

Critics often give away large amounts of plot. This is one of those movies that the less you know about the better (even if you appreciate great film making enough to generally not care if you already know what will happen). It unfolds in a brilliant way and it would be a shame not to be surprised by the treat of each ripple. I will therefore not tell you anything about the story other than that it's an original spin on many old familiar stories combined (like a spectacular unicorn, it is made up of simple things we know and yet appears fantastical). It is has a few grotesque moments (that I'd have preferred it didn't have). In the end, more than anything else, if I had to pick one word for it, I'd say "romantic." You have to watch it to the very end and then we can discuss.

Even if you like your movies solely as a form of escape I think you'll like this one. The Secret In Their Eyes Is A remarkable accomplishment. Don't walk, run to an On Demand channel near you and watch The Secret In Their Eyes.

PS - For another of my forays into film review, see here for my piece on The Emperor's Club.


Blogger kishke said...

No doubt you've seen it, but if you haven't, check out Educating Rita. I watched it the other day and it's wonderful.

July 15, 2010 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

never saw it. thanks for the recommendation.

July 19, 2010 at 12:18 AM  

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