Monday, December 26, 2011

Thank You TV For Intriguing Recent Movies - Part II: “Weekend”

      Movies on Demand is an aesthetically critical savior for anyone not living in New York or L.A. that wants to stay au courant.  Weekend opened on it in September and it’s the best romantic drama of the year.  It was made with British government grant money (I know it’s too much to ask for such a handout in these grave economic times, but the difference between Europe and the U.S. is that one trumpets art and the other produces it – guess which we are) for about $200,000.  The plot is the “Brief Encounter” trope of two strangers casually connecting and realizing, in a short space of time, that their relationship is more profound than they’d initially anticipate and that they may not be able to immediately stay together.  

Tom Cullen and Chris New
      Andrew Haigh wrote and directed it in a casual way that is vaguely similar to the festival circuit “mumblecore” group.  However, Weekend is committed politically as well as artistically and that’s a big difference.  Tom Cullen, as Russell, has a job, friends, flat, and life of his own.  Although he’s lonely, he’s always been on his own and is only really close to his best, straight friend who
was his foster brother.  Chris New, as Glen, is an artist intending to leave and pursue a college (it’s seems like an MFA program) opportunity in the U.S.  His medium involves interviewing men with whom he’s been involved physically about their emotion and attitude towards being gay.  He’s direct and puts it out there, but he may not have the depth and soul of Russell.  During the weekend, they interact with friends and the world around them, but the levels of intellectual and physical intimacy between the two men is what is jolting and gutsy.

      Haigh is honest about alcohol, drug use, casual sex, and the range of attitudes that gay men express about their familial backgrounds, culture, relationships, and politics as it plays out in their lives.   From an online interview I saw, I didn’t get the impression that Haigh is gay, but that he really wanted to put a romantic couple under the microscope.  He does so with patience, humor, and elegance that made me wish it wouldn’t be over.   American directors rarely tie romance to anything other than two attractive, semi-witty straight people getting together and being really worried about whether to have sex.  The couple is usually presented without much of a context beyond a couple of friends or goofy family members and all of them live in surroundings that would be beyond the means of most upper-middle class, established, middle-aged couples.  The movies vary in terms of commercial viability and most of them are pleasant and nothing more.  (Bridesmaids and Knocked Up were major and worthy exceptions because they were both so rudely alive, truthful about the ties between economic and emotional satisfaction, and the happy ending was neither orthodox nor completely realized).

      Cullen and New are major new faces.   Both are excellently trained in the classical tradition and are simultaneously active on the British stage.  However, they’re the new face of Method acting – European style in that they look like any couple of twenty-something guys in a secondary city walking along and chatting, but with a current running between them.  

No comments: