[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 
reading MSS.]

    The Unforgettable Moment

    EACH of the nine brief scenes in Rodrigo García's [4]"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 ([5]Robin Wright Penn) and Damian
    ([6]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
    to talk."

    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.

    "Why not?"

    "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


    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
    actually said.

    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.
    Nine Lives
    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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