Prime Minister's Question Time

Yes, that's right, Netflix are back. This week, I bring you Brazil, Un long dimanche de fiançailles, and Scent of a Woman

Released: 1985
Directed by: Terry Gilliam
Starring: Jonathon Price, Robert De Niro, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Bob Hoskins, Kim Griest

After a mistake leads to the false arrest (and subsequent death under torture) of an innocent man, a lone, daydreaming bureaucrat in this Retro-futuristic, Chinese-bardo society takes it upon himself to right the wrong. In the process he meets the literal girl of his dreams, and is mistaken for a terrorist by his own government.

This is the kind of world we're headed for, frankly, although without the strange influence of Gilliam's mind. The biggest message of this movie (oddly shared by Scent of a Woman seems to be one of personal integrity. By hiding behind a mountain of paperwork and self-contradictory rules, anyone can avoid having to own up to their own actions--or shortcomings. Jack Lint (Michael Palin) is the best example: as a government torturer (echoing his "Mad Barber" scenes from Monty Python's Flying Circus), his sanity depends on the ability to separate work and family, and whose family seemingly exists solely to provide balance. Without the ability to say "only doing my job," he might have to face up to what his job actually is. However, he, like the rest of this society, is easily distracted by petty details and crass consumerism (e.g. "Consumers for Christ" an excellent little banner that probably hangs in Dubya's closet somewhere).

Oddly, some have said that this is an update or pastiche of Orwell's Nineteen Eight-four, but I don't see it. Not all stories about faceless bureaucracies have to point back to that increasingly outdated book. If you want something to compare it to, try Ted Rall's 2024.

Un long dimanche de fiançailles
Released: 2004
Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Starring: Audrey Tautou, Gaspard Ulliel, Marion Cotillard, Dominique Pinon

After The Great War tears two lovers apart, Mathilde refuses to believe that her fiancee is dead, and searches for him by every means possible, finally unravelling the story of his disappearance and seeming death.

An excellent movie, with a lot of action and romance, sure to please both sides of the dating equation. Jeunet, who also directed Les fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain, brings a lot of the same style (and a bit of the same story) to this piece, which doesn't detract at all from the buildup of the story.

Scent of a Woman
Released: 1992
Directed by: Martin Brest
Starring: Al Pacino, Chris O'Donnell, James Rebhorn

Charlie Simms, a prep-school boy in increasing amounts of trouble, takes a job watching over Lt. Colonel Frank Slade, a 'Nam Vet, for the Thanksgiving holiday. Slade takes Simms to New York, where he plans to have a grand old time before "blowing his brains out". They fight over this, Slade has a good time, and eventually the two even help each other out of their rough situations, everybody feels good, and a rainbow pegasus flies out of my ass.

Yes, it's predictable, but it's also pretty good. Pacino gets a lot of great lines: Donna: That's amazing.
Slade: I'm in the amazing business.

Slade: I know exactly where your body is. What I'm looking for is some indication of a brain. Too much football without a helmet? Hah! Lyndon's line on Gerry Ford. Deputy debriefer, Paris, peace talks, '68. Snagged a silver star and a silver bar. Threw me into G-2.
Simms: G-2?
Slade: Intelligence. Of which you have none.

Slade: The day we stop lookin', Charlie, is the day we die.

Overall, it's a bit like watching a combination of the Old Man and every Nam Vet I know: edgy, smooth, and wise all at once. I suppose that's what kept me from being upset by the predictability of it all.

Tune in next week for Carry on Dick, The Seventh Seal, and the first disc of The Prisoner. Same Pravda-time, Same Pravda-channel. Cheerio!

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