vendredi 17 octobre 2008

The beat goes on...


Richard Jenkins of Six Feet Under fame, in Tom McCarthy's understated masterpiece The Visitor.

Did anyone besides me see and love The Station Agent? It was the first film that Tom McCarthy wrote and directed, a quirky little story about a midget (played by the inimitable Peter Dinklage, who was recently in another under-rated film called In Bruges), with a passion for trains. He inherits an abandoned train depot and decides to retire there and live alone. That's pretty much it, plot-wise. Yet big quiet things happen as three unlikely protagonists come together as perfect strangers, much as they might if they just happened to be waiting for a train, carrying a whole load of baggage but trying nonetheless to connect. There is simply no way to do justice to this movie by outlining its main events. Just see it.

And rent The Visitor while you're at it. Richard Jenkins, who didn't do much talking in Six Feet Under, is pretty spare with words here as well. Yet he manages to convey the quiet resignation of a man whose depression, while it may have been triggered by his wife's death, in fact extends far beyond that event to encompass a general dissatisfaction with a comfortable, predictable and deeply lonely life as a university economics professor. His dedication to teaching and research apparently entails using white-out annually to change the last digit or two of the year on the otherwise unchanged course syllabus he endlessly recycles. In a short but telling scene that precedes an even shorter one, in which we see the Professor silently whiting out the 6 in 2006, a student comes to his office to deliver a late paper. To the student's dismay and incomprehension, the Professor refuses to accept it. He's not being cold, really, just unfeeling. He's numb. In his parting shot, the student notes that the Professor has yet to hand out the course syllabus. Talk about late, dude!
Into this life bursts a couple, two illegal immigrants who are squatting in the small walk-up the Professor keeps in New York City. You get the feeling that he hasn't spent much time there since the death of his wife. Indeed, he agrees reluctantly to attend a conference in the city so that he can deliver a paper he has co-written (but in reality only co-signed) for some kind of global economy and development conference at NYU. In an ironic twist, abstraction meets reality. From thinking global in the afternoon, our Professor suddenly finds himself confronted with the results of globalization in the flesh and in a position to act local. Against the backdrop of the Twin Towers and 9/11 no less.
What happens thereafter manages to be both predictable and surprising.
I won't say more.
Just see it. And then tell me you don't want to pick up a set of African drums and sit in the subway or on a park bench all day and just give in to the beat.