The Discreet Bourgeois

Possessed by an urgency to make sure all this stuff I love doesn't just disappear



I have put off writing about Roma even though I have seen it twice (and intend to see it many more times).  I have seen it at home on Netflix and also in 70mm at the beautiful Chicago movie palace, The Music Box. Let me say that both modes were wonderful.  Roma is a film for the ages and its brilliance comes out in both formats.  So if someone tells you that the only way you can appreciate it is on the big screen, just smile and walk away.

You don’t need me to tell you why this movie is an instant classic. It has been written about endlessly. But I can tell you how I feel about it.

What makes me so happy about the success of Roma is that it is such a cinematic movie.  I know that sounds redundant, but most mainstream films are basically illustrated stories, and they are approached and discussed at the plot level only.  You can’t do that with Roma. There is not enough ‘plot’ to discuss. What there is, is pure cinema.  The characters, the story, the sense of place and history, these are all conveyed in purely cinematic terms. Something to make Hitchcock’s heart sing.

And it is amazingly popular.  You would think such a cinematic film would be too austere to be so beloved. What I encounter is people telling me how much they love it, but they don’t know what to say about it.  I think that is wonderful.

It is the triumph of image over dialogue.  Norma Desmond is smiling on us from wherever she wound up.

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The Last Ten Films I’ve Seen

  1. Night Train To Munich (Carol Reed)
  2. A Quiet Passion (Terence Davies)
  3. The Color Of Pomegranates (Sergei Paradjanov)
  4. Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig)
  5. The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos)
  6. Roma (Alfonso Cuaron)
  7. Ben is Back (Peter Hedges)
  8. Mary Poppins Returns (Rob Marshall)
  9. The Last of Sheila (Herbert Ross)
  10. Christmas in Connecticut (Peter Godfrey)


1- Terence Davies has created few but miraculous movies, starting with the remarkable mood pieces Distant Voices, Still Lives and The Long Day Closes.  See a scene analysis of the latter here.  His latest film is about Emily Dickinson. A Quiet Passion is aptly titled. You get to ‘know’ Dickinson  as you get to know the working class Liverpudlians in the aforementioned films: obliquely and thoroughly. How does he do it? The same way Mike Leigh works his magic, I guess.

2- Talking about pure cinema, I had a chance to show The Color Of Pomegranates  my brainiest friends, Kathleen Rooney and Martin Seay.  They even brought a kale salad rife with pomegranates for the occasion. Often, when one loves something quirky and gets to know it intimately, one is hesitant to share it for fear a) that people won’t like it and b) maybe they will make you realize it is not as good as you think, no matter how you love it.  Luckily this didn’t happen here. Paradjanov remains as beloved as before.  Watch him if you haven’t. Read my post on him if you haven’t.

3- Lady Bird is a perfect depiction of teenagers in all their exasperating glory. At first, that made me stop watching it because, yuck, teenagers in all their exasperating glory.  But, it is well done, the acting is good, except for a very wrong-headed last act which totally clashes with the rest of the film.

4- I pride myself on being a huge liberal and very open-minded, but The Favourite actually nauseated me.  And not just because this (as well as Mary Queen of Scots) feature cunnilingus luridly in their plots. I don’t mind the act per se, but as a plot device? Is this a new trend?

5- With Ben is Back I continue my Lucas Hedges admiration society. This kid can act and is not a one-trick pony. Four powerful and very varied performance in this Manchester by the Sea, Lady Bird and Boy Erased.  Of the four, this film is the least, starting off promisingly as an insightful family analysis, but slowly dissolving into a police procedural.  The nuance of the parents in Boy Erased is not here, but that is not Ben Is Back’s problem.  It’s not that kind of movie.  It was pretty satisfying.   The second of the glammed down performances by Julia Roberts I have seen recently, the other being the Netflix series Homecoming.  Oscar and Golden Globe baiting?

6- No cunnilingus in Mary Poppins Returns. At least none that I have noticed.  Just a splendid, overwhelming good time.  Perhaps it hit me just right because I remember seeing and adoring the original when I was 7 years old. It was at Radio City Music Hall and there was a stage show featuring the Rockettes and others.   The AMC River East 21 is not Radio City, but Emily Blunt is at least as wonderful as Julie Andrews was, with a little more vinegar than her predecessor. The songs and musical numbers are fine, the plot is appropriately sweet. And you even get Angela Lansbury AND Meryl Streep AND David Warner AND Dick Van Dyke (!) and the original Jane Banks (Karen Dotrice) in a sweet cameo, and even the god-of-the-moment Lin-Manuel Miranda. I loved it.

7- Thanks again to the Rooney/Seay connection for getting me finally to make it through The Last of Sheila, and for helping me to unravel the mystery without making me feel like a total moron. Repeated viewing of this will be needed and are looked forward to.

8- Keep your depressing and misunderstood It’s a Wonderful Life. The only Christmas movie you ever need is Christmas in Connecticut.  Not only do you get the super-sexy pairing of Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan in the coziest set Hollywood ever created, but you get S.Z. ‘Cuddles’ Sakall.  But wait there’s more! Una O’Connor! and if that wasn’t enough, what every movie needs: Sidney Greenstreet.  And of course, Macushla.

9- I find it hard to write about Roma I will soon. I worship it.