Starting over isn’t easy. Most of us live with wreckage in our heads. The calamities of the past don’t just get up and walk away; they hang around, like unwanted tenants, drumming on your skull. That’s why people who say “it’s never too late” should be strangled with rainbows. Any trite response should be met with force. As adults, we need to reconcile ourselves with mountains. That takes some doing. Only incipient people can change without stress. For those who’ve lived, change can feel like you’re unravelling. Mike Mills’ new movie, Beginners, is about adults stumbling into a new phase of their lives. They stumble because they’re not ignorant of history. Their new lives are always mindful of the past.
I guess, if David Cronenberg can make a movie out of Crash, he can make a movie out of Cosmopolis. Both books are about looming death and dirty secrets; the killing sweep of history. This could be the film that springs R-Patz from his Twilight jail. The protagonist here isn’t American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman, but he’s the same slice of money. As usual in Don DeLillo’s fiction, there’s no real interest in women as individuals. Life is a dick-swinging contest for DeLillo. He writes like Nietzsche crossed with Tom Clancy. In every book, every man has the same anxiety: Am I big enough (to matter, on a cosmic scale)? Who’s better than me? Imagine a personal ad: Self-important man seeks answers. Must be cryptic. Violence preferred.
All South Korean revenge flicks are basically Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie, but this one is even more so. It has a shameless desire to shock. It has fevered bouts of ultra-violence. It has a cat-and-mouse plot freak out. And it feels like it’s stuck on a loop. As I watched I Saw the Devil, I couldn’t help but think of Bart Simpson’s favourite cartoon, with its psychotic mouse and demented tomcat. Here, they’re re-cast as a sneering villain and a sadistic cop. But the entertainment value is the same: you’re meant to salivate over the beatings and the bloody mayhem. The idea that this movie is made by and for intelligent adults is retarded. You’d discover more about the nature of evil by reading the ingredients on a cereal box.
This movie makes you see the world anew. It’s rampant with beauty. For all the talk of non-linear narrative and theological mystery, The Tree of Life is a balm for the senses; it brings peace to you. As an enquiry into grace, it evokes the quality of grace perfectly. The smallest pleasures of human life are held in equal thrall with the grand progressions of the universe. You can’t help feeling staggered by its scope. But unlike the chill of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, this film doesn’t lose its human perspective by contemplating infinity; rather, like a wildlife film, it watches human beings with amazement. You can recognise the family at the centre of this film. The wonder is that for years, we walk around blindfolded.