[Paleopsych] NYT: Nine Short Scenes of Women in Crisis
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Nine Short Scenes of Women in Crisis
[This is a lovely story, but of no relevance to me whatsoever. A review of
the entire film is appended. That's the end of 30 NYT pieces. It took me
an hour and fifteen minutes to format and forward them. Now back to
The Unforgettable Moment
By STEPHEN HOLDEN
EACH of the nine brief scenes in Rodrigo García's "Nine Lives" is a
little epiphany that revolves around a different woman under emotional
stress. Together they add up to a collection of wrenching, minutely
observed moments that suggest Chekhov short stories. Each is written,
acted and directed with such exquisite calibration of tone, subtext
and body language that the performances seem less like acting than
fleeting, revelatory moments of real life captured on film.
The supermarket in which Diana (Robin Wright Penn) and Damian
(Jason Isaacs), former lovers now pushing 40, run into each other
by chance couldn't be a more banal setting for a shattering reunion.
In the fluorescent glare, with barely audible Muzak humming in the
background, they reconnect and within minutes dive into the murky
emotional depths of their past.
Like the other eight stories in the suite, "Diana" is only about 10
minutes long and filmed in real time. But by the end we've learned
more about the inner lives of Diana and Damian than is revealed about
most couples in a feature-length movie.
Even before Diana, in the final months of pregnancy, spots her ex,
traces of anger and disappointment are visible in her face, as she
impatiently pushes her shopping cart through the aisles. When they
catch up with each other next to the canned soup section, they
exchange friendly greetings and chitchat.
Both are now married. Diana is expecting her baby in August. Damian,
handsome in a lightweight hooded jacket, is back in the city after
several years and is about to move to a new apartment with his wife,
Their conversation ends as Damian extends his hand, and with a tense,
too-bright smile, Diana playfully bats it away. The camera trails her
from behind as she moves on and then, unable to resist a backward
look, turns around to reveal her stricken face.
When they bump into each other again moments later in the produce
section, Damian makes the leap back in time.
"Actually, I think about you all the time - the stuff we did, the
things that happened to us, the people we were - it was lovely for a
long time, wasn't it?" he says in a tone of urgent romantic gravity.
Diana stiffens. "It was lovely by fits and starts," she corrects,
adding, "I think we should talk about something else, if we're going
They retreat into chitchat in which he tells her about his job as
producer of a current affairs show for public radio.
Diana's head has lowered, as though she can hardly bear to look at
"You never really opened up to me, you know," she blurts.
"That's not true," he replies.
"It is true," she says. "You made me sad for a long time." Trying to
lighten up, she remarks: "I'm not hurt, and I'm not angry. It's how I
remember it. But none of it matters anymore anyway, right?"
By now Diana is ready to move on, but Damian, abandoning his cart,
insists on accompanying her.
"Are you going to have kids?" she asks.
"No," he answers.
"I can't," he says tonelessly. "I'm sterile."
At a loss for words, she laughs nervously, then apologizes.
When they reach the wine section, Damian takes charge and chooses one
red and one white as though he had done it countless times in the
years when they were together. Diana observes how they're walking and
talking "like lovebirds," then covers her face with one hand as her
feelings well up.
"Five minutes with you and I always feel like my life is a figment of
my imagination," she confesses, exasperated. "You've just always been
this thing that swallows me." She pauses. "I've got to go."
She hurries off, then suddenly turns back, anguished. "You can't just
come up to me after a hundred years, married, and tell me that you
think about me. You can't do that," she says.
"Do you love your wife?"
"Yeah. Of course I do. You love your husband. And this is different
because it's us. We're Damian and Diana. Nothing's going to change it.
You might as well accept. You know it's true."
Diana pushes her cart away furiously. But their need to connect drives
them to turn around and face each other one last time.
"Damian," she whispers under her breath.
Approaching her, he gently places his hands on the sides of her belly,
stoops and softly, reverently, kisses her stomach. For a long moment,
they touch their foreheads together, looking beseechingly into each
other's eyes. He almost speaks, then stops, and they break apart. She
stands there for a moment, her eyes smarting with tears before she
continues to shop, dropping a bottle of dishwashing liquid into her
When Diana can't bear it anymore, she abandons her cart and races down
the aisles frantically searching for him. Rushing to the supermarket
entrance, she peers in both directions, but he's gone. Blackout.
FILM REVIEW; Nine Women and Nine Intense Moments in Their Lives
October 14, 2005
By STEPHEN HOLDEN
During the final vignette of ''Nine Lives,'' Rodrigo García's
extraordinarily rich and satisfying suite of fleeting but intense
moments in the lives of nine women, Maria (Dakota Fanning), a girl
visiting a cemetery with her mother, Maggie (Glenn Close), notices a
cat wandering on the lawn and wonders out loud if cats really have
nine lives; her mother answers that she doesn't think so.
Maggie has spread out a picnic blanket in front of a modest tombstone
that marks the grave of her husband or a close relative (the
inscription is never shown nor is a name mentioned). Later, she stands
guard behind a tree while her daughter urinates. At another point, she
remarks at how amazing it is that people make it through life carrying
so much heavy baggage.
This is how the moments unfold in the movie and in life, like the
shadows of clouds skittering across the lawn. While Maggie converses
with her daughter, there is a split second in which her grief suddenly
wells up, but she catches herself and swallows it. And in one slow,
breathtaking shot, the camera pans 360 degrees to observe the trees
and grass and to drink in the quiet of an eternal resting ground.
Although the vignette is set in a cemetery, it doesn't offer the sort
of weepy closure that people go to the movies expecting to find. Nor
do any of the film's eight other vignettes end in snug little
epiphanies. Together, however, they add up to a film that may be the
closest movies have come to the cinematic equivalent of a collection
of Chekhov short stories. The film's reward for intense concentration
is a feeling of deep empathy and connection. For once, you don't
harbor the uneasy suspicion of having been emotionally manipulated.
Given our immersion in the ways of Hollywood, the absence of that
feeling may frustrate some moviegoers accustomed to getting the
message in a neatly tied package.
In each vignette, filmed in one continuous Steadicam shot, a
10-to-14-minute slice of a different woman's life passes before your
eyes in real time. The nuances of body language and details in the
setting tell as much about the people in these stories as what is
Working with many of the actors who have appeared in his earlier
mosaics, ''Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her'' (five
vignettes) and ''Ten Tiny Love Stories'' (10 monologues), Mr. García
has made a film that could be described as radically realistic. ''Nine
Lives'' is a quantum leap better than its forerunners. In its subtle,
understated performances, the actors vanish into characters who behave
like ordinary people observed through one-way glass.
The movie begins in prison where an inmate, Sandra (Elpidia Carrillo),
is visited by her young daughter and has a meltdown when the telephone
connecting them for their five-minute monthly conversation fails.
Sandra's treatment by the guards suggests she is an unruly prisoner,
and this chapter leaves you with a chill of foreboding about her
future in or out of jail.
It would be stretching a metaphor to say that all nine of the stories'
focal characters are in some way imprisoned, unless the concept of
imprisonment is meant to imply the notion of life itself as a kind of
confinement. But Mr. García, the son of the Colombian writer Gabriel
García Márquez, is too discreet and subtle a storyteller to voice the
theme in more than a murmur.
With a Chekhovian objectivity and compassion, he brings to his
characters' struggles and pains an evenhanded awareness of how the
ties that bind also inevitably chafe. Diana (Robin Wright Penn), the
second story's focal character, is a married, very pregnant woman with
trouble in her face who runs into an old lover (Jason Isaacs), also
now married, while in a supermarket. Erotic sparks fly, and she is
gripped by the familiar, scary feeling of disappearing in his
Holly (Lisa Gay Hamilton), an enraged African-American woman in the
third vignette, returns to her childhood home to confront her
estranged stepfather over childhood wounds that may have involved
sexual abuse. In the fourth story, Sonia (Holly Hunter) and her
boyfriend (Stephen Dillane) have a revealing fight while visiting the
elegant new apartment of their closest friends (Mr. Isaacs and Molly
Parker). Samantha (Amanda Seyfried), the beautiful, bright, teenage
protagonist of the fifth vignette, resists leaving her disabled father
(Ian McShane) and long-suffering mother (Sissy Spacek), to attend an
elite Eastern college, for to leave would mean forsaking her role as
parental go-between in an undeclared war.
Ms. Spacek's character is one of several in the movie to appear in
more than one vignette. In the episode ''Ruth,'' she has a secret
motel rendezvous with a Scotch-swilling boyfriend (Aidan Quinn) on the
night of a full moon.
In one of the rawest vignettes, Lorna (Amy Brenneman) finds herself an
uneasy guest at the funeral of her ex-husband's wife. When the
widower, who is deaf and communicates mostly in sign language, drags
her aside and confesses his lingering passion for her, she is forced
to acknowledge her contribution to the wife's suicide.
Anyone who has ever faced surgery can identify with Camille (Kathy
Baker), a woman awaiting a mastectomy, who expresses her terror of
''no consciousness'' while under anesthesia and her horror at being
''at the mercy of others'' to her patient husband (Joe Mantegna).
As ''Nine Lives'' winds it way from a prison to a cemetery with stops
in many houses along the way, it walks a tightrope. Any glitch in a
film this committed to a delicate, slightly heightened realism, risks
throwing the whole thing off the track. You hold your breath waiting
for that false moment to arrive, and you heave a sigh of amazement and
relief when it doesn't.
''Nine Lives'' is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or
adult guardian). It has profanity and sexual situations.
Opens today in New York and Los Angeles.
Written and directed by Rodrigo García; director of photography,
Xavier Pérez Grobet; edited by Andrea Folprecht; music by Edward
Shearmur; production designer, Courtney Jackson; produced by Julie
Lynn; released by Magnolia Pictures. Running time: 115 minutes.
WITH: Kathy Baker (Camille), Amy Brenneman (Lorna), Elpidia Carrillo
(Sandra), Glenn Close (Maggie), Stephen Dillane (Martin), Dakota
Fanning (Maria), William Fichtner (Andrew), Lisa Gay Hamilton (Holly),
Holly Hunter (Sonia), Jason Isaacs (Damian), Joe Mantegna (Richard),
Ian McShane (Larry), Molly Parker (Lisa), Mary Kay Place (Alma),
Sydney Tamilia Poitier (Vanessa), Aidan Quinn (Henry), Miguel Sandoval
(Ron), Amanda Seyfried (Samantha), Sissy Spacek (Ruth) and Robin
Wright Penn (Diana).
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