Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Ron Reed

THE ICE STORM

Recommended Posts

Ron Reed   

Just saw this one. Tell me what you think of it.

Certainly good to see a film that doesn't pander.

All these sad and dreary lives. What's with Jesus popping up every now and then? In the sound track, we get Elton John's "Levon." There's a poster for "Jesus Christ, Superstar" on the subway when the eldest son gets on board. I seem to remember someone using his name in vain, in a way that seemed pointed - can't recall the exact situation. And I think there was something else...

And what to make of the long-haired minister: did he know what kind of party he was going to, and repented, or left in shame? Or did he not know?

Hmmmm...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Any film that brings together Frodo Baggins, Peter Parker, Wednesday Addams and Ellen Ripley just HAS to be good. smile.gif

Meantime, here's an article I posted to the mother board nearly two years ago, when Rich raised the question of just how accurate a portrayal of the '70s this film is:

I entered high school in New Canaan, Connecticut, in 1969, which makes me precisely contemporary with the teenage characters in Rick Moody's novel

The Ice Storm

, now a movie by Ang Lee.

The Ice Storm

is an anthropological dig into post-sixties confusion and suburban ennui. It makes New Canaan out to be a sort of Peyton Place with bell-bottoms, a "desolate village" where parents swap mates at "key parties" and their children are as forlorn as abandoned puppies. But it all looked pretty different to a thirteen-year-old kid recently arrived off the Canadian prairies.

I had gone to the States after the death of my parents, to live with my older sister's family. While I wasn't among what the book calls "the half-dozen poor boys of New Canaan High," neither were we in the ranks of the town's wealthy. My friends were, though.

Moody's novel presents the adolescents of the community as pathetically gormless. To me they were all handsome and polished, even the geeks. (I was leading the life of Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby without ever having read the book.) The children of New Canaan introduced me to the "progressive dinner," whereby we dressed up like our parents (or, in my case, like their parents), in suits, or sweater and slacks, or long dresses, and went from home to home, hors d'oeuvre at one, main course at another, until finally we were picked up in Town Cars and Fiats at the end of the night. This was a good deal different from hopping the bus home from the A&W, which is what I would have been doing back in Edmonton.

The book also presents them as having the sexual restraint of horses. Our social life centred around the Methodist Youth Fellowship. I remember some futile wrestling between my best friend and his girlfriend, but between my girlfriend and me nothing more than closed-mouth kissing. I'd suggest this had something to do with the religious setting, except that Moody makes it clear his characters' lives are firmly anchored by church clothing drives and bake sales too. Must have been Lutherans.

It may be that our elders were up to no good, though I have to say that my friends' parents didn't look like rou

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ron Reed   

I love it.

Care to expand on that at all?

I entered high school in New Canaan, Connecticut, in 1969, which makes me precisely contemporary with the teenage characters in Rick Moody's novel The Ice Storm, now a movie by Ang Lee. ... I only lived there for two years, returning to Alberta when I was fifteen. ... Frank Moher

How very strange. Frank Moher grew up maybe a mile from me in Calgary. I didn't know him at the time, but he became a playwright and dramaturg, and ended up here on the west coast. He dramaturged TENT MEETING, which Morris Ertman and I wrote together. The world is small.

"You could have grace explained to you a hundred times, but unless you got some, it was just air," muses the fourteen-year-old daughter of the book's hapless main character.

Hmm. Grace, huh? Maybe I better read the book.

(Time elapses, during which Mr Reed scans the web for further information on author Rick Moody...)

Yeesh. Now I'm really curious. Titles in his bibliography include Demonology, The Ring of Brightest Angels Around Heaven, and this anthology he's co-edited;

Joyful Noise: The New Testament Revisited

by Rick Moody and Darcey Steinke

n this landmark collection of original essays, twenty-one prominent writers approach the New Testament with a fresh eye toward its meaning for them and for us today.

Coming to the New Testament from a variety of backgrounds, the writers in this collection have all found, as adults, a need to reapproach spirituality in novel ways. Seeking to reconcile their experiences growing up in the baby boom and Generation X years with their political beliefs and the fractious ethics of the late twentieth century, the contributors have gone back to the source text of Christianity, the New Testament. From a variety of unexpected leaping-off points, the essays in Joyful Noise bring us interpretations of "the greatest story ever told" that are eye-opening, personal, and powerful.

It is the freshness of these voices and the absence of dogma or cant that give this collection its force. Some of the writers come at Christianity through childhood memories, as in Lisa Shea's "The Good Enough News," in which her adolescent ideas about the Gospels are filtered through a burgeoning sexual awareness, and in Barry Hannah's profoundly moving recollection ("Sermon with Meath") of a despised childhood acquaintance who went on to find peace as a minister. Other pieces confront particular books of the New Testament, as in Joanna Scott's celebration of the rapturous paradoxes of Revelation and bell hooks's exploration of the idea of perfect love articulated in the First Epistle of John. Still other essays focus on religion in everyday life, such as Benjamin Cheever's funny and bittersweet appreciation of the comforting rituals of a Protestant church service and Ann Patchett's arresting observations of a Southern Christian sect whose members, as a sign of faith, handle poisonous snakes.

Whatever its orientation, each essay in Joyful Noise is passionate, new, and thought provoking. Edited by novelists Rick Moody and Darcey Steinke, who provide the Introduction and the Afterword, and including such diverse contributors as interdisciplinary artist Coco Fusco, painter and art critic Stephen Westfall, poet Catherine Bowman, and journalist Ann Powers, Joyful Noise is an inclusive book, a polyphonous book, and a welcome offering on spirituality at the millennium.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Hmmm....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Diane   

Caught this one for the first time back in February. Promptly had to rewatch it a week later. A brilliant film.

Ron, I was also surprised by the minister. When he first encountered Elena, I thought, "Oh, so she used to go to church and dropped out. Hmmm. Maybe he can help her." But then when he turns up at the party! I think he knew what kind of party it was. What was that remark he made to Elena? Something about the "shepherd sometimes needing the comfort of the sheep." He didn't seem to feel any shame until she told him she was going to pretend he didn't say that. That's when he looks embarrassed and takes his keys out of the bowl.

I think the character that intrigues me most is Mikey. A review I read said he was on drugs, and someone on his football team seemed to agree. But what was really up with him, with all his scientific thoughts and non-sequiturs? Etpetra, who's lurking here somewhere, let me borrow her copy of the film, and we had to discuss Mikey first. She said she hesitated to use a term like "otherworldy" to describe him, but then again, we both agreed there is something of this about the boy. He strikes me as a sacrificial lamb of sorts. He doesn't fit into his family, his school, etc. He seems to court death by balancing on the icy diving board or even venturing outside during the storm because the storm "makes everything clean." And, of course, his death ushers in the potential for these families to change or, at the very least, face their problems.

And how do we read that storm? It's such a presense. I like how Lee shows the storm creeping in with lingering shots of ice forming on tree branches, etc. I kept thinking of the term "hidden God" with that storm. It comes in and takes out the one who seemed to fit into society the least, leaving others devastated and forced to face what they've done. Very Flannery O'Connorish.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ron Reed   

Caught this one for the first time back in February. Promptly had to rewatch it a week later.

Yeah, I think I'm going to do the same. Immediately after finishing it, I don't think I would have thought that. But it has stuck with me: I still find myself chewing over lots of the not-easily-digested bits, wondering if either the novelist or the director were setting little time bombs for us, or blazing a trail through the woods, marking specific trees.

Ron, I was also surprised by the minister. ... I think he knew what kind of party it was. What was that remark he made to Elena? Something about the "shepherd sometimes needing the comfort of the sheep." He didn't seem to feel any shame until she told him she was going to pretend he didn't say that. That's when he looks embarrassed and takes his keys out of the bowl.

You're probably right. Very well handled, the more I think about it: he was as flawed as anybody (well, perhap not anybody, but pretty flawed, completely human), yet with a conscience still operating.

I went to a bookstore this evening to see if I could get anything by this novelist. They only had one (the most recent), and it was pricey, so I think I'll do the library / used bookstore rounds tomorrow.

Interesting thoughts about Mikey.

And how do we read that storm? It's such a presense. ...

I like it best at that level - a powerful, inescapable force that is bigger than the characters. A potent mood / atmosphere / environment. I dislike reading it as a flat old metaphorical symbol of some kind - "these people's lives are as cold and inert and dangerous as an ice storm." Yech. I'd rather let such things just work on me, rather than make them into on-the-nose little messages.

... leaving others devastated and forced to face what they've done. Very Flannery O'Connorish.

Maybe just a bit like the cataclysm near the end of MAGNOLIA?

Ron

(By the way, I LOVE your new hair colour. Very sassy.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Diane   

Over at the House of Sand and Fog thread, Tim Wilson wrote:

I just watched this about a week or so ago with my wife, and we were both quite impressed. Far too often, films fail to show consequences for moral failings, and this one did....

And then Ron answered:

Good point. As I continue to mull THE ICE STORM, I think that's part of what I appreciate about that one, as well. Not that these are moralistic little fables, shaking a finger and saying "Look what will happen if you're naughty!" I guess that's the danger with such films if the characters are two dimensional or the plot unconvincing. But in these two cases, I would argue, the humanity of the characters rings true, and we're left to contemplate things like sin and consequence. They're not happy movies, but they're truthful.

Ron, that's very nice and speaks to something the film manages to pull off very well: getting you, the viewer, to feel sympathy for these characters. I can think of one scene in particular, the one where Kline and Ricci walk home after Kline catches her and Wood in the basement as he waits for his lover to return. I have to admit I was really ready to come down hard on them both, but especially on Kline, but then...he asks his daughter if she's cold and picks her up to carry her home. Something about that moment was so beautiful and so moving...the look of vulnerability on their faces...I managed to find my heart again.

Interestingly, I think we're kept pretty distant from Weaver's character. About the only display of caring we see from her is when she scolds her son for blowing things up in the backyard. I know I felt the least amount of sympathy for her. Is this deliberate on Lee's part? Think of the scene where her son is found dead and brought home. We see his dad's heartwrenching, quiet breakdown and watch the grief overcome his brother and neighbors. But Lee cuts away just as Weaver wakes up. In a way, I really wanted to see her reaction, but it's a brilliant dramatic effect. I felt very little love for her character, and this editing did nothing to change that...but then again, just knowing what she was about to face....

And now that I think about it, I'm remembering her behavior when she returned home from the key party and her night with the young guy. What exactly happened to her, I wonder. Fun times with your date don't usually end with you curling up alone in a fetal position.

Finally:

(By the way, I LOVE your new hair colour. Very sassy.)

Aw, thanks! I do what I can to keep this board lookin' good. :wink:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Alvy   

I saw this film for the first time tonight. Brilliant. So beautifully filmed, and it depicted so well the vapid and despairing nature of -- hmm, I wasn't going to use this word, but I can't think of a better one -- sin. Not in a moralistic way, though. The characters were believable and also, as someone else mentioned, vulnerable and sympathetic. There was an uneasiness that pervaded the whole film, as if all along the characters knew they were made for something better.

I have a feeling that on next viewing, The Ice Storm will graduate from 4.5 stars to a 5 stars.

Edited by Alvy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gigi   

To me, this is without a shadow of a doubt Ang Lee's best work. Perhaps because of the wonderful script by James Schamus, which as everyone has rightly said has a subtlety, understanding, and appreciation of the complexity of the characters lacking in so many films today.

I think that Lee achieves here what he has since faield to do in depicting our relationship with nature and it's beauty (The Hulk's dabbling into this - repeated shots of worn stones and wood - just made the film horribly boring ). I think it adds so much to the unsettling feeling that runs throughout the film. The distance that these people have from one another and themselves is underscored by the meandering paths through the woods lit by the cold winter light. To me, along with the scene mentioned above, the other pivotal moment is when the mother sees her daughter riding through town on the bicycle. It's that attempt to recapture something lost, trying to find your way back when you have strayed so far, that the Ice Storm does so wonderfully.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Alvy   

I always know a truly great film when the day after all kinds of meaningful images are fading back into my memory. The Ice Storm is one such film.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm thrilled that you liked it, Alvy. It's definitely my favorite Ang Lee film, and it gets better with repeated viewings. I still think it's a shame that this film came out in the same year as American Beauty and barely even registered, in spite of being much more truthful and artful.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:

: I still think it's a shame that this film came out in the same year as American

: Beauty and barely even registered, in spite of being much more truthful and artful.

Um ... The Ice Storm came out in 1997, one year before Joan and Tobey did their mother-and-son-coping-with-untraditional-morals thing again in 1998's Pleasantville, whereas American Beauty came out in 1999 and was acclaimed by some as part of that year's "revolution" that supposedly re-wrote the laws of cinema (which also included everything from The Blair Witch Project and Three Kings to Magnolia and Being John Malkovich).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Okay, my memory is failing me. I remember commenting, when American Beauty won, that it was for its more sensationalistic and crowdpleasing moments, not for its observations about American Culture and family life, because The Ice Storm had done this so much more probingly and artfully and yet failed to register on the Academy's radar.

I must have been looking back at how The Ice Storm was overlooked in that previous year. Oh well, the point remains: the preference of American Beauty over The Ice Storm goes a long way in exposing what it is that is different about the two films. AB is a sneering, sarcastic, conservative-bashing film, whereas The Ice Storm is less agenda-driven and more honest.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Alvy   

Interesting. All the way through I kept thinking to myself, American Beauty meets Ordinary People. That was a very superficial comparison, of course: I've never actually seen the latter all the way through, and the former is just a vague memory to me now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I saw The Ice Storm as part of a Sunday Cinema Club several years ago, and I didn't much care for it. I might go for it more now, were I to revisit it, but the problems I had with the film weren

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×