Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sydney Pollack: Tootsie, The Way We Were and Absence of Malice

For my final in Cinema History II I wrote a paper on the directorial themes of Sydney Pollack.  I chose to focus on the theme of honor, as this was something we had specifically focused on in our in-class discussion of The Yakuza, Pollack's film about an American WWII veteran and his return to Japan and the world of Japanese honor codes.

The assignment was to choose 3 films from a director and write on one theme.  Although I could have used Yakuza as one of the films, I decided to choose three of Pollack's other films, feeling this would give my claim a little more credibility.  I won't go into what the paper's said here; basically, all three films I watched had strong themes of honor running through them.

OK, The Way We Were was a bit of a stretch.

Here instead are a few brief reviews of the three films.

Tootsie:  I was happy to see that I still really enjoyed this film.  It was one of my favorites to watch at my aunt's house when I was little (she had a VCR and would tape things off the TV - we didn't even have a color TV for a long time).  If you've never seen it, well, firstly, do.  Secondly, it's a story about an out of work actor, played by Dustin Hoffman, who decides to dress as a woman and attempt to get a job on a popular soap opera.  Of course it works, and both hijinks and a hero's journey ensue.

Recently I was in an adult ed at church with two transgender people and we were talking about the difference in acceptance between generations.  I cited Tootsie as an influence for me of acceptance, even though Hoffman's character is definitely not trans, or even gay.  After watching the film again with fresh eyes, I still think it has a lot to say about acceptance.  It wouldn't be a good story if there wasn't growth, and one of the ways he grows is by accepting the more feminine aspects of his personality and thereby identifying with the women he previously objectified.

Anyway, that's what I was thinking about when I saw this, but it's really not a heavy movie.  It has a lot of humor and a little romance, but it's definitely not a rom-com.  It's very early eighties in the best way possible and done really well.  I especially liked the editing of the farm montage when Hoffman is really falling into his character (interesting look at how he is most honest when he is lying about a pretty bug thing!) 

Absence of Malice:  This film stars Paul Newman and Sally Fields.  Fields plays a journalist who s tipped a bad story framing Newman as a murder suspect (which he's not).  This is a pretty dark film for having Sally Fields.  I mean, I'm sure she's done plenty of dramas, but that's just not how I think of her ("You like me!  You really like me!").  There's a lot here about honor and integrity and truth versus accuracy, and those concepts aren't buried very deep.  Some would say this makes for a shallow film, but I kind of feel like... well, as whoever it was who said it says, "If you want the audience to see the gun in the drawer, SHOW them the gun in the drawer."  If you think an idea or moral is important enough to be in your film, shouldn't you do everything in your power to make sure every viewer gets it, versus hoping they'll take the time to hunt for it?   

The Way We Were:  I admit, one reason I chose this film was because of it's standing in pop culture.  I like to get as many references as I can as fully as I can as often as I can, so I knew I was long overdue to see this.  And boy was I glad I did!  A few nights after my semester was over, I decided to watch an old favorite of mine, Boys on the Side.  Low and behold, what movie should be viewed  but The Way We Were!  And, like most references to other works of art in films, this was a very apt film for the characters to watch - a tale of two star crossed lovers whose love can never really win - basically the same theme that runs through Boys on the Side!

Anyway, I really liked The Way We Were, especially because it seemed like it would be really shallow dramatic love story, but it had some depth to it with political matters entering in to it and what not.  Also, beautifully shot and I really noticed the sound since one of the classes I just finished was Sound for Image.

And that brings me to the end of the semester - Three A's (Sound for Image, Acting for the Camera, and Cinema History II) and one B (Cinema Production II)!  Amazingly, that brought my GPA up a little to 3.51, so I think I'm close to being back on the Dean's List.  We'll see how this summer goes!

1 comment:

Onkel Hankie Pants said...

Congratulations on the grades! We're proud of you.