Thursday, October 23, 2014

'Love is Strange' by Ira Sachs

23 October 2014

On Thursday evening I was at the Glasgow Film Theatre for a screening of Ira Sachs' new film 'Love is Strange', presented as part of both the Luminate Festival and Glasgay! Alfred Molina and John Lithgow play George and Ben, an elderly gay couple who have lived very happily together in New York for 39 years. But when they decide to get married, their world begins to fall apart. George loses his job teaching in a Catholic school and they can no longer afford their apartment. While they search for an affordable alternative they have to sleep on the sofas and bunk beds of friends and family. The pain of living apart from each other after so many years together is evident. And the strain of living in other people's homes is cleverly depicted. 'Love is Strange' is a delicate, subtle, intelligent film. Much is said without the need for words, with numerous close-ups of unspeaking faces telling you much more about the characters' feelings than the dialogue does. The film is beautifully shot, with the trees, streets and skyline of Manhattan becoming part of the cast of characters. There's also a lot of Chopin – sometimes deliberately obscuring the dialogue (though it was very distracting to have two scenes where different characters were shown playing a piano they clearly weren't playing – why bother showing the hands in that case?). One beautiful scene sums up the best aspects of the film: Ben's nephew's wife Kate (Marisa Tomei) is trying to write a novel in her living room while Ben is innocently chatting to her, oblivious to the fact he is constantly interrupting her work. Kate grows more and more frustrated – we can observe the strain growing on her face (unseen by Ben) and we are waiting for the point at which she is clearly going to snap at him. But before this comes Ben's chatter turns into a moan about how annoying it is when Kate's son Joey thoughtlessly interrupts Ben while he is trying to complete a painting. Kate's frustration dissolves into a smile without a word. As Ben says: “When you live with people, you know them better than you care to”. 'Love is Strange' is gentle but powerful, incredibly sad but ultimately uplifting. It will be on general release from February 2015.

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