Friday, January 15, 2010

The Dardenne brothers

Like most people, I hate to admit that I'm wrong.  Especially when it comes to movies.  In fact, I pride myself on my first response to a movie. And usually that response, like an instinct, becomes something that only grows in value over time.  I always wanted to be like one of my film heroes, Pauline Kael, who claimed never to need to see a movie more than once.

But, alas, like all things, that "response" can prove flawed at times.  The more I watch movies, the more I realize that sometimes the way I react to something depends greatly on my mood.  Am I growing more emotional, is my response dulling, or am I simply becoming more honest?  Hopefully, it's simply the latter.

All this to say I'm late to jump on the Belgian directors' Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne's bandwagon.  They've twice won the Palme D'Or from the Cannes film festival, and most of the critics in the world have long been proclaiming their greatness.  But I saw La Promesse and then Rosetta when they were released in the nineties, and neither really grabbed me.  So I did what any mature person does, right?   I spent the next ten years avoiding their work.

Finally, after encouragement from some of my friends, I decided to catch up with their last three films:  The Son, The Child, and Lorna's Silence. And now I finally understand that these guys do certain things as well as anyone.  You know, small things like direct actors, move the camera, and control the look and feel of their films.  Oh yeah, and they do it with little to no music at all.

The best way I can think of them is as the next generation of transcendental filmmakers.  I'm not sure they quite yet attain the height of Bresson, but I'd say they're as close as anyone I've found who is on that path.

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