Recently, Bjork said something to the effect of how she couldn’t wait until she was flat old, because she believes all musicians worth their salt create their best compositions when they’re in the autumnal phase of life.
I’m not on the same page as her, and think, conversely, she herself has been on a bit of a downward slope as she approaches middle age. To my taste, music is the province of the young, and that holds true across the board, from classical to current Top 40 — Mozart died too young to fall from grace, whereas Stevie Wonder lived long enough to slide into mediocrity.
On the other hand, the history of cinema is littered with gorgeously crepuscular examples of how film directors of distinction often reach their apex at the very tail end of their careers. Among my favorite entries in the category of “Old Man Cinema” (sadly, I do mean “man” at this point, but perhaps a few more decades will rectify this imbalance) are:
- Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Gertrud
- Orson Welles’ F for Fake
- Edward Yang’s Yi Yi
- Yasujiro Ozu’s An Autumn Afternoon
- Alfred Hitchcock’s Family Plot
- Robert Altman’s A Prairie Home Companion
- Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny & Alexander
- Robert Bresson’s L’Argent
And I refuse to kick it with anyone who doesn’t recognize Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut for the majestic final curtain it was. Heck, I’d even go so far as to say Stephen Spielberg has never been better than he has been over this most recent decade, specifically with A.I. Artificial Intelligence and Munich.
Tonally speaking, these movies are as wildly varied as the masters who made them, but they do share a sense of formal patience and a quiet respect for life as it is. Of course, there’s something to be said for the wild abandon of youth — Godard’s early expiration date springs to mind — but in many cases, internalized experience trumps externalized innovation.
Manoel de Oliveira recently turned 101 years old. So there’s always the possibility that The Strange Case of Angelica will emerge as the Portuguese titan’s final film … though he’s still working so often, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the man outlive Xavier Dolan (whose new movie Heartbeats is currently playing at the Lagoon.
But in a way that feels too deliberate to be accidental (not unlike Altman’s death-obsessed Prairie Home), de Oliveira’s movie is keyed directly into the differing perceptions of time and the knowledge of mortality that separate youth from their elders, even as time draws them together.
Angelica tells a simple but moving story about a photographer who is charged with taking a final portrait of a woman who died in the full bloom of youth and womanhood, having just been married days prior to her death.
The photographer’s assignment overwhelms him from the onset … evidently, given she opens her eyes and smiles in his viewfinder. From there, he is plunged deep into the pleasurable morass of questions surrounding life, love and the time-freezing nature of his chosen medium.
Trylon Microcinema presents the enchanting Strange Case of Angelica as part of its series of Premiere Tuesdays. It will play both this evening and next Tuesday, April 12 at 7 and 9 p.m.