Just a note to add the above to Ageing Actor category. Also the second film this season for breast cancer to be in the picture. (The other film being Aquarius).
Just a note to add the above to Ageing Actor category. Also the second film this season for breast cancer to be in the picture. (The other film being Aquarius).
Good at Being Bad: The films of Gloria Grahame.
It is the title of a series of films featuring Gloria Grahame showing at the National Film Theatre. Nothing to do with Old Women and Film but I needed to signal In a Lonely Place,(1950) dir. Nicholas Ray to people interested in male violence and women.
The information leaflet and the talk in Screen 1 mentioned the ‘paranoia , distrust and treachery… in the times of the anti red witch hunt ‘ as the background to the film.
I found an interesting study of male jealousy, violence , the lure of celebrity, the reaction of a woman to violence. In these days when the cover up of the abuse by powerful men in many institutions – including Hollywood – is being publicised it is an interesting film to discuss.
In The Greater London Pensioner Association newsletter (October 2017) Judith Olley writes about the Representation of Older People on Film. It is refreshing to read about films from an older person’s viewpoint and I picked up two films that I had missed on their release in London: Aquarius and The Midwife.
Aquarius is an exceptional film about a woman aged 65 who resists a company’s pressure to sell her flat so they can develop the site. I will try to disentangle the threads of the intricate mesh that make of this film a unique exploration of the life of an old woman, Clara. I have to ignore the Brazilian political climate of the times . The sound is important to the director as Clara was a music journalist so I regret not being able to comment on the music and songs. I cannot make informed comments on these important aspects of the film. I just would like to show the way the director/writer exposes the important factors in the life of an ageing middle class woman.
A few general notes:
The titles: as other devices in the film the following titles make the viewer think.
Aquarius is the name of the building Clara lives in and fights for. There are many interpretations that can be used to explain the use of this astrological sign as the title of the film. Given the importance of music for the main character I would favour a link to “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” from Hair and the spirit of rebellion of the late 60s.
Clara’s Hair: the first 32 mins of the three-part film is itself divided into two parts. In 1980 at her 70th birthday party Aunt Lucia has grey hair and Clara aged 30 has cropped hair due to chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer that she has survived. In 2015 Clara has impressive luxurious very long, very black, hair. On first viewing this image is puzzling but powerful. Puzzling because it is an unusual and striking image to use in connection with a woman aged 65, specially when compared to the 70 years old Aunt Lucia’s white hair. But it becomes clear that her hair in a bun is her public self but the gesture of letting her luxurious hair down signals connection with her inner self.
Clara’s Love: In this longest section it is Clara’s love of her home and the people she knows that prevail.The scenes last from a few seconds 12 mins .
Clara’s Cancer: Clara battles against the developers who have invaded her space like a cancer.
Changes in the physical environment
The narrative is based on Clara’s resistance to the pressure put on of a development company and other interested people to sell her flat, the last inhabited one in the 40s Art Deco building. Through this narrative Filho looks not only at the political, social and personal background of Clara’s story but makes a strong statement about the importance of the preservation of the past. The changes and time passing in this film reside not only in people but are inscribed in buildings, furniture, music, photos, archives, relationships as well as inner personal recollections and memories.
THE BEACH TOWN
Aerial black and white stills show the change of the beach town of Recife from low-rise buildings into rows of high-rise towers in 2015. Clara aged 30 in 1980, recovered from cancer of the breast escapes her crowded flat with her brother and sister-in-law. They go for a fun drive, a smoke and private conversation on the sandy beach. In the dark people are playing on the sand.
In 2015 the road is traffic dense and is used by a drug dealer on a bike. There are people jogging and Clara aged 65 takes part in the ‘Yoga laughing’ session with a crowd of people in close physical contact but anonymous. Clara barefoot walks with her nephew and visiting girlfriend and shows how the sewage pipe that divides the poor part of the town from the trendy beach.
Seen from the beach the building is pink but will change to blue and then Clara get it painted in expensive white. The building itself has a front space with shrubs and flowers and garages with forecourt. In 1980 the garage forecourt is alive with children playing football but in 2015 there are only two stray cats. It becomes the site of confrontation between Clara and the ever smiling young developer who devises ways of intimidating Clara.
Clara brought up her children in this flat. We see the front and back entrances where in 1980 a crowd of people of all ages celebrate a birthday and dance to music played on a vinyl record. People stand and lean around a chest. Fade to 2015 and the flat features a large window with sea view and modern furniture except for the chest of drawers. Clara enters walks and poses facing the window as if on stage. She does her stretching exercises in front of the window and prepares to go out passing the chest and a table with modern style chairs.
We will see all aspects of the flat: front and back doors, the sitting room, the bedroom, the kitchen. We are shown shelves full of books and records, the vinyl record player but also the digital one that the grandchild is taught to use. The hammock where Clara relaxes and the chest.
Aunt Lucia’s 70th birthday is attended by a crowd of extended family and friends of all ages from babies to old people. The speech about her life achievements in Letters Music and Law, her time in prison is read by Clara’s young children. This is followed by Clara’s husband telling of the hard times in the late 70s when he had to look after the children while Clara was being treated for cancer. A profile close up of Clara with cropped black hair and Lucia with white hair shows the closeness of the two women. We have the feeling that Clara is walking in her aunt’s footsteps as a working and politically active woman. In an interview about her new book Clara instructs two young journalists on the importance of the past. She and her collection of Lps are witness to this. The young ones do not look too interested.
She is also comfortable with the new technologies.
In 1980 Clara knows her neighbours. In 2015 she has no neighbours but a jogger she knew as a child accuses her of being selfish. She has for the last 6 years been stopping the old neighbours from finalising the deals with the developers.
Building workers: Clara makes sure that she knows their names and addresses them personally.
Roberval is the lifeguard who looks respectfully after Clara’s safety when she takes her daily swim. She relies on him when she needs support.
Ladjane is the maid who worked for Clara for nineteen years. She knows her employer’s needs and there is a certain closeness between them. Clara acknowledges Ladjane’s birthday and even visits her at her home but when displeased she is short with her. She ignores her in a family recollections session when Ladjane intervenes to show the photo of her son who died in a motorcycle accident.
Female Friends with whom she goes to drink and dance in a nightclub. They are also connected through Ladjane’s sister who works for one of them. Letitia gives her the phone number of a gigolo.
Old time friends
Cleide: Clara’s old times friend a lawyer who helps her to find documents in the town’s archives and defends her against the developers.
Ronaldo: The Editor of a paper that Clara does not read anymore. He explains to Clara the corruption and nepotism that is rife in Brazilian society. He divulges to her that the young interviewer was his niece, that a member of his family is close to the construction company and that even Clara’s younger brother is involved in shady business. He himself is not vulnerable because he knows too much and he tells Clara how to obtain evidence against the company.
Adalberto her husband died 17 years ago. Having written something for him, she visits the cemetery but is unable to read it as she is unsettled by a conversation with Diego.
Antonio her older brother: she asks his advice about her situation. It is with his family that Clara recollects her past with the help of armfuls of photos albums. Loss is hinted at in this scene: loss of memory of the thieving maid’s name but also loss of Ladjane’s son mentioned in other contexts.
Clara has three children. Her relationship with them is exposed in the 12 mins long family meeting sequence.
Martin: is mild and smooths out tensions between mother and daughter. His wife and Clara are friends.
Rodrigo is reserved. He is gay but he has not introduced his lover to the family. Clara demands from him to come more often, not only to communicate by electronic means. She would like to know his boyfriend.
Anna Paula divorced, toddler son. Clara’s relationships with her sons are easy but there is some tension between her and her daughter who still hurts from the neglect she felt when Clara was away for two years. Anna is the one who tries to persuade her mother to sell the flat and expresses worries about her: her comfort and security. Clara is rather harsh with her daughter. Accusations and bad feelings are expressed in two occasions.
Toms and Julia Clara is closest to her nephew. She even expresses maternal feelings towards him. They share the love of music and songs and recommend to each other their favourites. Toms’ new girlfriend has also this interest and it is clear that there is here a rapport between the two generations based on shared interest.
Pedro: Anna’s toddler that Clara is expected to babysit for without warning. He seems more interested in being introduced to the controls of the record player than looking at books.
Sexuality Although explicit sex scenes have reached the porn networks, they are not prurient. There are glimpses of sex on the beach, of an orgy, and conversations on the subject. But sex is important for Lucia and Clara.
Lucia: at 70 and a widow for the last 6 years. During the speech about her achievements she visualizes love-making on the bed and the chest of drawers (focused on in many shots of the flat). You forgot or skipped the sexual revolution she says and describes how she was the lover of a married man for 30 years.
Clara is not defined by her sexuality but it is part of who she is. On an outing to a nightclub the women gossip and speak openly about sex, casual and ‘professional’ and Letitia encourages Clara to use the phone number of an escort. A widower dances with Clara and offers to take her home. After exploratory kissing in the car the man cannot cope with the fact that Clara had a mastectomy. They separate.
A noisy sexual orgy is taking place in the flat above Clara’s. Unable to sleep she climbs up the stairs and peeps in. Explicit views of sexual activities with multiple partners. She comes down and stimulated, unable to sleep she phones the escort. An attentive young man arrives and she is in control of their coupling. In the morning she appears so contented that when she asks the life guard Roberval for the number of somebody to call in an emergency he mistakes the request for a pickup line.
Resistance: Clara’s refusal to give way to the construction company is the subject most commented upon in reviews. It is seen as selfishness by some and heroism by others. In terms of screen time the narrative in this spread very thinly. The resistance is situated in a political social setting and rooted in the life course of a woman aged 65.
Clara’s daughter: in the family meeting she is the one who expresses her worries about the safety and comfort of her mother. She has visited the developers and Clara feels this was a lack of respect. Her outburst is powerful: So when you like it, it’s vintage; when you don’t like it, it’s old. Is that right? You guys don’t know what it’s like to feel crazy without being crazy and that the madness is out there, don’t you? Another thing that’s really crazy around here is that we’re talking about money.
Roberval: makes her aware that the area is dangerous and that she should be afraid.
The old neighbour accuses her of being selfish.
The Developers: The first meeting with the developers closes the first part of the film. Diego his grandfather and another man with a bunch of keys first appear in the front path and Clara half opens the door to them. They converse as if it is the first time they meet and Clara makes it clear that her flat is not for sale. Diego is conciliatory with a smile and insists gently.
The Harassment: A noisy orgy takes place just above Clara’s flat when there are many other flats available. The stairs are soiled with smelly faeces. Eventually cleaned. Diego’s car is parked in front of Clara’s garage. Mattresses are burnt in the front yard. A big religious meeting takes place and Clara with the push chair and the grandson are helped up the crowded stairs. Finally Clara who has decided to get the facade of the building painted white is served with legal papers.
The confrontation : Clara approaches Diego as he arrives in the morning and the dialogue progresses from Clara accusations about the burnt mattresses, the noisy party, the dirty stairs to her loss of temper when Diego mentions her children. He had tried to convince her calmly that her staying in her flat is not viable anymore. But she explodes and insults Diego and accuses him and the so-called elite like him to have no character and that they only value money. It is then that Diego reminds her that she had no manners in not asking her grandfather and him into her flat, that she comes from “darker-skinned family …that had to sweat a lot to get what they got”… implying that this what is needed to succeed. She recoils and leaves. This scene occurs in the last 30 mins of the film when the pace of the narrative accelerate and Clara goes on the war path.
RESISTANCE : Clara contacts her old friend, the newspaper publisher, for advice on how to combat the company and is informed of certain incriminating documents concerned with the developers. But he also tells her that his family is connected to them and that even her brother is involved in shady business.
When she receives legal papers about her painting the building facade she involves her old friend the lawyer to help her .
Cancer of the building and accusation: At this point the film takes a less realistic approach. Two of the building workers disclose that they were employed to deliver something to one of the flats. Roberval, Clara’s brother, her nephew and the lawyer come to the rescue and discover the infestation of termites. The images here are striking and symbolic: networks of marching termites have spread in every room of the flat and they find the primary cancer : the nest.
In the meeting room of the company Clara opens a suitcase and spread the termites all over the meeting table with the words
I survived cancer. More than 30 years ago, you know? And these days, I’ve been thinking about something. I’d rather give you cancer than having it myself.
I tried to isolate the components of the film that show the richness of the factors that makes the life of a 65 years old woman. But I failed as it is impossible in this film to ignore so many other aspects. In particular, Clara’s relationship with her daughter deserves more attention. Clara’s insults when angry. The change of men’s role in Brazilian society: difficulty of divorce for Lucia and home carer for Clara’s husband.
It is impossible to convey how Aquarius reflects the many aspects of ageing without considering it with its music and political significance. The acting, the directing, the cinematography also need exploring.
I feel that it deserves a guide to help appreciate its many aspects.
Third film at the Ealing Oldies Network.
The 18 people present were enthusiastic. They appreciated the film and the exchange of views at the end was very lively and informed. It was evident that a few had some experience in the issues raised about caring. It is the third time I present this film to a group of old people and the general thought is that it should be a film that is generally distributed. According to Lumiere data base, it counts only 339 564 viewing in the whole of Europe.
Below some notes taken by Marjorie
Notes from film shown on 20.11.2017 at Quakers Meeting House
Sisters were depending on Martha to care for their learning disabled sister. Everything was fine until Martha suddenly dies.
This is a very common problem when the main carer dies. It is also a very general problem in many parts of the world.
There was insufficient communication and planning between the family members. Family not communicating with wider community or making the most of what support might be available in the community.
Peoples attitudes towards Pauline the sister with disability was mainly negative.
Pauline not given the opportunity to learn skills as it was easier and quicker to do things for her such as buttering her bread.
Some tender moments between Pauline and sister Paulette. Paulette lived in a very colourful almost fantasy world of bright colours and her operatic stage life. Pauline always wanted to stay with her sister Paulette. Pauline was drawn to the bright colours and fantasy world of Paulette. When she was with her sister Martha, the house was utilitarian and colours were very drab and her own clothes were dark and old-fashioned. Paulette gave her nice bright clothes and Pauline looked much better.
All the sisters were frustrated with Pauline at different times. When Pauline lived with her sister Cecile, Cecile had an opportunity to see her boyfriend as being self-centered, selfish and impatient with Pauline.
Lady in butcher shop nasty to Pauline.
After Paulette gives up the operatic society, sells her shop and moves to the seaside she comes to realise that she has different values to her old friends. Paulette is facing retirement which is an adjustment for her too. She realizes she is replaceable and no longer important in the operatic society.
Pauline was probably able to do more than she was ever allowed to do if shown and if adjustments were made. Pauline was very innocent in her manner. Pauline helped her sisters to open their eyes and see what is important in the world. Pauline made changes. Her interest moved from flowers to birds. The scene in the care home was very touching. Pauline was able to form a relationship in the care setting she found herself in. Sometimes it almost seemed as though Pauline was able to see through other people.
A film that has probably one of the most fascinating, strong and magnetic female characters in cinema in recent years.
Lucía Ros Serra
At the age of 82 I have lived 53 years in our house. The tearoom, craft shop, butcher, greengrocer and baker of the main street have given way to fast food establishments, a betting shop and convenience stores. High rise buildings and a multitude of towers shadow the bungalows and old trees of the quiet streets and the heavy traffic is polluting the air.
Ken Loach’s best films came to mind on my first realising the blend of political and personal insights in Aquarius (2016). But it is the middle class background and a lifetime of changes that resonated with me in this extraordinary complex and rich film.
I must admit that I have to ignore many aspects of this film, in particular the Brasilian political situation and the importance of a music and songs that I am not versed in.
Kléber Mendonça Filho’s treatment of the changes that occur as one ages, the importance of space, time, memories, family relationships, intergenerational friendships, sexuality, dreams, corruption, touched me deeply. In the three parts of this two and a half hour film, he tells the story of an old woman’s resistance to the intrusion in her life of the corrupt housing development project.
I have tried to summarise the narrative, characterisation, cinematography for this blog but every time I consulted the footage I discovered a new fascinating and significant detail. I am longing to do a detailed textual analysis of every aspect of the film.
In the meantime below a limited list of capsule reviews that may encourage my readers to watch this amazing film.
There’s an expansiveness to this film’s intelligence; it has a diffuse narrative focus, bringing in a host of scenes, https://www.theguardian.com › Arts › Movies › World cinemaSonia Braga in Aquarius.
Clara may be the motor that keeps the film’s intricate story turning, but every last cogwheel proves to be indispensable …www.telegraph.co.uk/films/…/aquarius-will-make-you-want-to-move-to-brazil—review…
A nuanced portrait of a badass ladywww.irishtimes.com/…/film/aquarius-review-a-nuanced-portrait-of-a-badass-lady-
Clara, the resplendent 65-year-old protagonist of Aquarius, is destined to take her place among cinema’s most valiant and tenacious …
Led by a powerful performance from Sonia Braga, Aquarius uses a conflict between a tenant and developers to take an insightful look at the relationship between space and identity.
Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus.
Sonia Braga plays Clara. She covers a range from sweetly adoring gramma to tough momma with chiding children, from a political beast to a woman longing for physical love. Martha K. Baker KDHX (St. Louis)
A film that has probably one of the most fascinating, strong and magnetic female characters in cinema in recent years. [Full review in Spanish]Lucía Ros Serra
A slow-burn battle between a woman and the developers trying to drive her from her home is a melancholy meditation on aging, memory, and family.
Clara is a creation that could slot into almost any cultural environment. In every street there’s a woman determined to live life as it should be lived.
A drama that’s credible, complex and very satisfying.
It is a pleasure to present a classic film to a group of friends who take the responsibility of all arrangements for the viewing and documentation.. Of the 15 old people present none knew Make Way for Tomorrow but two had seen Tokyo Story .
Note of comments on film ‘Make Way for Tomorrow’ (director Leo Carey) written by Androulla
Lots of positive comments.
Not a sentimental film.
One said she wanted the couple to take up the ‘caretaker’ roles together (the job the shopkeeper told Bark about) i.e. a happy ending. This accorded with the request for a happy ending when the film was made; and which the director refused. This audience member thought that the last scene, where the couple’s middle-aged children (‘the siblings’) admit they had behaved terribly, indicated there could have been a change for the better.
Another member said there were some agonising moments which he found difficult to watch, e.g. when characters were embarrassed. I think one of these was the card (bridge) school scene where Lucy was portrayed as a nuisance. He referred to the ending as “bitter-sweet”.
Yet another said the siblings made things worse for everyone by being selfish e.g. the rich daughter, the only one who could have housed both parents, asks for three months to talk her husband into the idea. She didn’t even try and this meant the end of her parents’ life together.
Another said a similar issue had arisen in her family; others agreed it applied to their families too. One gave an example of a parent who had signed away the family home to one of their offspring, only to be taken for granted, while a wiser mother had kept it in her name and was “treated like a queen.”
Someone referred to the opening scene as “schmaltzy” even though this contrasted with the way the subject of inter-family relationships was dealt with in the film.
Another referred to how the car salesman and the hotel manager, i.e. strangers, treated the couple with respect, which contrasted with how the siblings treated their own parents. This member remarked on the complete faith Lucy and Bark had in each other and how the poem at the end showed they had no regrets, despite being separated in their later years.
There were various expressions of how the issues in the film are just as true today, how we identified with the parental couple and how families care for elderly parents in other countries. Also it’s relation to ‘Tokyo Story’ directed by Yasujiro Ozu.
The Hundred Foot Journey (2014)
Michelin Star and Indian spices get together.
Tout est pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes possibles. Voltaire
I always look at the DVDs on the supermarket shelves to see what is selling. Last month I picked up a cheap one featuring Helen Mirren. I did not know anything about it. What role is she playing at the age of 69?
Absolutely Charming, A perfect feast claims the DVD cover. I put it away to view when mentally tired.
What an amusing 2 hours I spent last night. I will avoid the food language used by some reviewers but I must say that I thought the film was baby food. Every scene of this film was predictable. The characters were stereotypical, the sets idyllic, the cliches abounded. The getting together of the French restaurant owner Helen Mirren and the Indian Om Puri and the two chefs Charlotte Le Bon (French) and Manish Dayal (Indian) provide the love element in this film.
There is more drama in one episode of the TV Master Chef series where diversity of food and people is present throughout than in this feeble fable that lasts two hours. That is if one enjoys food porn.
The claim by some critics and the film makers that it is an anti racism film about tolerance is risible indeed in its naivety and to me offensive. I imagine that the reason I did not switch the television off was the tolerable acting of the main characters.