Monday, October 17, 2016

New York Film Festival Screenings 6

A Quiet Passion (Terence Davies, 2016)
If you can imagine a fusion of Ozu's Late Spring, Foucault's "Friendship as a Way of Life," and Middlemarch (or do I mean All About Eve?), then you'll grasp what Terence Davies has achieved with A Quiet Passion, his stunning biopic of Emily Dickinson, the original riot grrrl. Like Noriko in Late Spring, Davies' Dickinson (Cynthia Nixon in a supernaturally fantastic performance which should beeline her for an Oscar nod) forsakes marriage for a retreat into, nay, a basking in her family. And who can blame her? It's a collective that values intelligence, most pungently evoked in a 360-degree pan across the family reading at night. Her brother and sister (fine support from Jennifer Ehle) spout off staircase wit with a precision and timing worthy of Dorothea Brooke/Margot Channing and the patriarch (an unrecognizable Keith Carradine) allows Emily a modicum of freedom she wouldn't have enjoyed in other contexts. In short, Davies reconceives the family as a place of queerness and thus, the most devastating moments aren't the ugly, unflinching visions of illness and death but rather, when friendships die (in the saddest wedding scene imaginable, for instance) and rebellion leads to disappointment. Written and directed by Davies, A Quiet Passion is an astonishing achievement.

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