Movie Review: The Girl

Title: The Girl (Original Swedish Title: Flickan) (2009)

Director: Fredrik Edfeldt

Writer: Karin Apphenius

Cinematography: Hoyte Van Hoytrma

I stumbled across this one at my local library.  Having not watched a foreign film in a while, I decided to give it a whirl.  I didn’t really expect much more than a little variety to shake up the string of BBC offerings I’ve been checking out from the library’s DVD section lately.  What I got was a visually beautiful, moving film.

You might notice that I noted the cinematographer above.  That’s because the way this film was beautiful visually.  That’s not to say it was full of sweeping vistas or shiny dance numbers or incredible costumes.  It was the composition of the shots, the way light was captured.  If had a greater experience with visual art, I’d be better at describing it, but the long and short of it is that reading the English subtitles is not the only reason I couldn’t tear my eyes from the screen.

The story follows The Girl (never named), whose parents and brother leave for an African aid mission.  She was supposed to travel with them, but a last minute notification of restrictions due to age (she is 9 and a half) results in The Girl being left at home in the care of a somewhat unstable Aunt Anna.  Singularly unimpressed with this woman-child that she barely knows, The Girl is more than happy when Aunt Anna leaves her alone to go off sailing with a boyfriend.  The Girl begins a summer of freedom.

But, before you start to think this is a summery, Swedish version of Home Alone, be assured, it’s not.  The Girl’s freedom devolves into a loneliness and isolation that comes right up to the borders of madness before a meeting with a stranger pulls her back into society and reality.

And The Girl herself is remarkable.  Little Blanca Engström does a very impressive job of conveying the complex emotions involved in The Girl’s isolation.  She has a unique look with her red hair and skinny form–she stands out in every shot she appears in.  And for such a little girl, she can be intense with just one glance, almost to the point of creepiness.  You really don’t need the subtitles to pick up on the emotions and follow the path of this story.  If this young actress doesn’t do any more movies, we are all losing out, I’m telling you.

By the end of this movie, I had the same kind of feeling I have after reading a really excellent book that I know I’ll never forget even if I never manage to read it again.  Usually I withdraw from foreign films that are too “arty” but in this case, it struck the right chord–stable plot, deep emotion and beautiful shots.  I give it 4.5 out of 5 jars of peanut-butter.


Local News Part II: The Head Scratcher….

So, I already complained about the nutty local news inducing panic over space-trash.  But the fun doesn’t stop there.

This one, well, it’s not so much the fault of the local news as just a general head scratcher over the general incongruity of the other two big news stories recently.

Story 1:  Kansas City just opened a kick-ass performing arts center.  Some of you gentle readers who’ve been here recently were probably subjected to at least two views of the building as I took wrong turns around down-town trying to get places (and swearing profusely).

It’s an eye-catching structure (painfully modern, but what big project isn’t these days?)  and is the new home to the Kansas City Ballet, the Kansas City Symphony and the Lyric Opera.  All are things worth of nice digs, and help get KC back it’s old nickname “Paris of the Plains”, and since photography, painting, sculpture, etc. already have a great homes over at the Nelson-Atkins and the Kemper.

Also, it’s nice to see this after all the rah-rah over the Sprint Center which was basically built to attract sporting events.

All this sounds good, right?  World class art and culture?

The head-scratcher comes with Story 2:

The Kansas City school district just lost its accreditation.


Yeah, KC’s school district is notoriously bad, and they’ve been teetering on the edge of losing accreditation for a while now.  They just recently tipped the scale to the negative, after a controversial “right-sizing” the schools and the sudden departure of the Superintendent.

So, we have schools that can’t cut the mustard to even the most minimal requirements of the state….and world class performing arts center.

I’m not going down the road of pointing fingers about how money should have been spent 0n the schools instead of the performing arts center.  I’m just left to scratch my head at how you wind up with fancy performing arts at the same time your schools are going down the tubes.

Actually, the demographics involved in these two stories explain 90% of it.  But the remaining 10% still confuses me.  You’d think that the school situation would have been on someone’s radar as they were anticipating that shiny new beacon to the arts.

Impressive Impressionist

One of the things I always lamented when my family lived in areas further removed from an urban center was the lack of access to museums, particularly art museums.  You’d think that the years of deprivation would have ha td me running straight for the Nelson-Atkins museum the moment I unpacked.

I’m ashamed to admit that my first trip?  Was today.

Granted, I’d tried once before, last summer, but went running when the place was jam packed due to a new exhibit opening.

This time I wasn’t to be denied.   All three panels of a triptych of Monet’s Water Lilies were being displayed together (Nelson-Atkins owns one, the other two panels are owned by museums in Cleveland and St. Louis) for the first time since I was born.  And, Water Lilies was the first of Monet’s paintings I ever encountered (in Picture Memory when I was a first grader).  And on top of this, I had to settle something with myself where Impressionists (and Monet in particular) are concerned.

I once had an encounter with a more art-cultured friend who gave something of a derisive snort when I said I liked Monet and several of the other Impressionists.  It was followed with the phrase.  “Not a surprise.  Most average people do.”  The thinly veiled message was that liking Impressionists was something that only the bumpkins would do.  That they existed like pop entertainment for the masses who couldn’t appreciate finer things.  It’s kind of haunted me since.  I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time avoiding the Impressionists, trying not to like them.

I figured this was the test.  I’d go to see Monet, and while checking off the once-in-a-blue-moon experience, I’d look at this thing and make up my mind how I really felt about it.  If I enjoyed it, no more shame about what I liked.  If it wasn’t as impressive?  Well, then my artistic sense would have clearly matured and I could  look at the entire Impressionist movement as another school in the history of Art, no more or less good than the others.

So, I walked into the gallery room and…

I enjoyed the hell out of it.

If this is a sign of my lack of culture in the realm of visual art, so be it.  Because I spent over an hour having a total moment of zen staring at those panels, and I’d do it again.  I’m pretty sure it’s a color thing, especially with this particular work.  Blues and greens and purples and tiny bits of red masquerading as pink, all squished together into something I could stare at like a  semi-catatonic moron for hours on end.  I may have drooled a little.

Maybe it’s a sign that I’m an uncultured lout that I couldn’t get the same feeling about the arrangement of orange acrylic boxes in the modern section, or the million takes on “Madonna and Child.”*  However, I’m pretty much over my self consciousness and I’ve embraced my back-water nature.


*Side note:  While there are a number of reasons for which one could vilify the Catholic church, I’m choosing to call them out for hijacking the art world into several centuries of Madonna, Child and Occasional John the Baptist.  I’m a huge fan of variations on a theme, but that’s just fucking ridiculous.