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Peter T Chattaway

The Mill and the Cross (2011)

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Two weeks in Seattle. That was more than I'd expected.

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Question for SDG, who just posted a Facebook link to the latest "Reel Faith," featuring a review of this film:

On this program, do you ask David about movies you haven't seen ("The Big Year") while he asks you about movies (like this one) that he hasn't seen? Or have you both seen all of the films reviewed, and you give each other turns? I find this odd but not off-putting.

But David's eight-or-so bird puns during his "Big Year" review? THAT'S off-putting. :)

Edited by Christian

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Question for SDG, who just posted a Facebook link to the latest "Reel Faith," featuring a review of this film:

On this program, do you ask David about movies you haven't seen ("The Big Year") while he asks you about movies (like this one) that he hasn't seen? Or have you both seen all of the films reviewed, and you give each other turns? I find this odd but not off-putting.

But David's eight-or-so bird puns during his "Big Year" review? THAT'S off-putting. :)

Ha ha ha ... for the record, our producer counted 5 bird puns. I'll pass on your feedback. Mike & I may encourage David's verbal cleverness a bit too much -- his best conceits are really good, and he comes up with them so fast -- although we didn't encourage him to do all the bird puns. (IIRC, I gave a deliberately strained line reading to my scripted "gone to the birds" reference.)

Ideally, David and I do at least two tandem reviews of films that we've both seen, and if there isn't a third film that we've both seen then one of us takes a solo shot.

Last week was a hard week and we wound up seeing two films apiece, one together and the other two separately, for a total of three films. Our producer didn't like that; he said the show needs more back and forth, more dialogue between differing points of view (or at least different voices), so we need to see at least two films together.

Two weeks in Seattle. That was more than I'd expected.

It's been held over several weeks at Film Forum in New York!

Edited by SDG

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So then my tweet-review is correct and I didn't "not get" the movie -- it IS the greatest coffee-table book ever.

I don't quarrel with that assessment at all. I demur, but I don't quarrel, and I would never say you "didn't get" the film on that basis. (It's a phrase I usually avoid, since it's used way too liberally to express mere disagreement, and it generally annoys the heck out of me.)

While I'm not sure I've glommed onto the difference between "not get the movie" and "[not] glommed to what the film is doing," I obviously came across as testier than I intended to or objectively was, so I apologize for that.

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While I'm not sure I've glommed onto the difference between "not get the movie" and "[not] glommed to what the film is doing," I obviously came across as testier than I intended to or objectively was, so I apologize for that.

Testy? Please. I took your comment as a straightforward rejoinder from a man who had been poked, albeit gently, in a provocative way. (Christian has been the testy one in this thread, not you. :)) So, no worries.

To hopefully clarify, I wasn't specifically distinguishing between "not getting the movie" and "not getting [or 'glomming to'] what the movie is doing" -- at least, not directly, although indirectly you could say that it comes down to that.

What I meant was what elicited my comment about being "not sure" that you glommed to [what] the movie [was doing] was not that you called the film "the greatest coffee-table book ever" -- that's a characterization that doesn't immediately raise red flags as far as getting the film goes -- but rather that you criticized it as "a Passion allegory at one and same time too in the background and then too closely following (was there ANY place in Christendom that crucified heretics? I REALLY doubt it)." That criticism makes me think you may have simply misunderstood what the film is doing -- at least, if I understand you correctly.

My take is that we are not meant to see the Christ figure as a contemporary of Bruegel's whose death happens to bear a literalistic resemblance to the Passion of Christ. We are not in Bruegel's Flanders per se, but in the Flandery-Passiony world of the painting -- or rather that world transposed into the cinema's dimensions of time and space; a cinematic interpretation of Bruegel's inner world as represented in the painting, with Bruegel himself as a character.

Did you read my review? It may clarify my perceptions here.

Edited by SDG

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Two weeks in Seattle. That was more than I'd expected.

It's going to be held over for a third week here in St. Louis, which suprised me. That is very good news.

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Ron Reed wrote:

: Only two showings in Vancouver.

Actually, it won't be released here until January 6. Festival screenings are a whole other beast.

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Guess what I'm watching tonight or this weekend? :)

post-6-131973188737_thumb.jpg

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post-6-131973188737_thumb.jpg

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Jealous! Say, could you make a copy and distribute it to me?

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Saw this tonight on a great screen with EXCELLENT sound, and it blew. me. away.

I only have five or so films that can compete for a spot on a Top Ten list this year. I might not be able to come up with ten, and that's sad. Regardless, this is the first film that gives me an uneasy feeling about The Tree of Life in its number one spot. I don't think it will take the throne from the Malick, but it is a tough choice, let me tell ya.

Back to reading the thread now...

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Saw this tonight on a great screen with EXCELLENT sound, and it blew. me. away.

I only have five or so films that can compete for a spot on a Top Ten list this year. I might not be able to come up with ten, and that's sad. Regardless, this is the first film that gives me an uneasy feeling about The Tree of Life in its number one spot. I don't think it will take the throne from the Malick, but it is a tough choice, let me tell ya.

Back to reading the thread now...

Welcome to the club, Stef. :)

FWIW, in any other year, The Mill & the Cross would be a formidable contender for my #1 slot. This year, nothing is taking that slot away from Of Gods and Men, but The Mill & the Cross is currently very far ahead of all the competition for the #2 slot. (Yes, that includes the Malick. After two viewings, I'm still of two minds about that film. Of Gods and Men and The Mill & the Cross I've seen at least 3 times apiece, and their place in my esteem is secure.)

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Sicinski review via Tweets:

THE MILL & THE CROSS (Majewski 11) [7] Since not as many people have seen this as its acclaim would dictate, I'll note that it's much more

interesting than many of you are apparently expecting it to be. V. much in the Greenaway/Jarman/Watkins mold but far more pictorial, less

verbose. In fact, long passages of silence, as we observe scenes which morph btw reenactments of contemporary persecutions (of the Flemish

by the Spaniards) and Bruegel's interp. of them as the crucifixion. Hauer/York have brief discussions abt what it is Bruegel is doing, w/o

ever being pedantic or killing the momentum. Majewski achieves rare dialectic btw movement and stasis. Need to catch up; a major dude.

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And now, his full review:

Most narrative filmmakers have assumed — erroneously — that because "paintings don't move," the only way to adapt them to cinema is to ignore them altogether. Thus most films about art are really dramatizations of the struggles of men who paint or sculpt. More often than not, these narratives are cast in the light of bourgeois cliché regarding "genius," "madness," or just the Romantics' self-aggrandizing notion that artists feel more deeply than you and I, and are therefore entitled to a lot of very bad behavior (or at least some tony bodice-ripping). Girl with a Pearl Earring and Pollock are good examples of this guff.

On occasion, however, a filmmaker with formal acuity and intellectual rigor is able to use cinema to ask different questions about painting. Where does it come from? How does it register the social and political undercurrents of the society from which it emerged? What forces, such as patronage, impinge upon a canvas's creation? How are seeing, and forming a record of that sight, forms of labor as well as types of thought? How do we receive these messages across the ages? And how can cinema serve as a means of translation, rather than a medium of colonization?

Not many folks have risen to this challenge...

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My wife and I caught this film yesterday-- I can't remember the last time she and I saw something alone at, like, a theater and everything-- and were both really impressed by it. More substantive comments to follow, I hope, but two quick things:

1. Huh-- Rutger Hauer as the new arthouse go-to guy, between this and The Cardboard Village. His part in Olmi's film is smallish, but I recall wincing a bit when I saw him onscreen, thinking he'd subjected himself to some bad, Mickey Rourkesque plastic surgery. Here, he looks like an old version of the guy we knew, and his face is such a revelation. I think The Mill and the Cross has been in the can for a while, though, so maybe it was as I'd feared. I'd love to be wrong, though, because this could be the beginning of a pretty great second act.

2. The ending of the film with the playful jig and the dancers--is that the stand-in we get for the resurrection? It seemed a bit incongruous tonally to let those guys have the last word, but it's also not telling the full story to end the passion on Good Friday. The scope of Bruegel's painting limits us to that event, but the margins of the film expand to provide some musical representation of heart-lightening joy. Does that make sense?

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I was curious about that closing scene too, Russ. It felt a bit anticlimactic. I couldn't tell if they were reveling in frivolity and folly, or if they were celebrating something in particular. And maybe the question itself is deliberate. Whatever the case, it was the only step in the film that felt unsteady to me.

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Is it this dance?

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Is it this dance?

Good find, Beth. My guess would be that yes, that is what he is referring to.

I also haven't seen anyone mention the music in this thread, which I found to be one of the most remarkable aspects of the film. Particularly the use of Górecki's Op. 44, Miserere, considering the context in which Górecki wrote the piece and how it is used in the film. I'm trying to find time to finish up a piece about it, so I'll post the link here when I do.

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I got to see the film yesterday.

Initial thoughts: From an aesthetic standpoint the film was, quite obviously, stunning. I'm glad I saw it in the theater (which almost didn't happen, since I was still sick on its second-to-last day).

However, I didn't find myself particularly moved by the film. Did anyone resonate with the theme of religious persecution? Certainly not, I would hazard, in the same way it resonated in Of Gods and Men.

I’d hazard that’s because there’s no real sense of volition in the film. The characters move about their lives like they’re simply part of Brueghel’s painting. They have no sense of choice in the matter. Are they persecuted? Yes. But do they do anything about it? No.

In contrast, Gods and Men was so fascinating, because the characters did confront persecution. They did do something about it: they decided to stand fast. The point is, though, that they made a decision. Depending on your point of view, they may have been either heroic or stupid, but at least they struggled (like real human beings) with the situation. In The Mill & The Cross? People just stand around and die.

I’d also say Melancholia is a good reference point in that regard, since it also concerns facing death. But there, too, characters struggle with death. I was emotionally moved by the film, despite von Trier’s toying with the audience. There was something desperate, and fascinating, about Melancholia. Not so with The Mill & The Cross.

The film felt like watching an exquisite, but two-dimensional, medieval tapestry come to life.

I will say that the one place in the film where I began to feel something was after the crucifixion. I was struck, as the rain and thunder came, by the fact that I didn’t expect the resurrection. We had gotten the crucifixion, of course, but I expected the film to end there, with an exquisite shot of the mill. As the film transitioned to the storm, I began to expect the cathedral to crack in two. I began to expect the resurrection.

That was exciting. I felt that the film, which had been so dry and reserved, was going to offer something unexpected. It would end, not with death, but with new life.

Did it?

No: it ended with a rather silly dance.

Edited by Timothy Zila

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Streaming on Netflix.

No. Way.

Awesome.

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I'm spreading the news.

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Awhile ago, I saw that The Mill on the Floss was streaming, which was very disappointing and kind of cruel. But this makes up for it.

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Initial thoughts: From an aesthetic standpoint the film was, quite obviously, stunning. I'm glad I saw it in the theater (which almost didn't happen, since I was still sick on its second-to-last day).

I'm excited that Netflix is streaming it, but without surround sound and a HUGE image, people are really going to miss out.

However, I didn't find myself particularly moved by the film. Did anyone resonate with the theme of religious persecution? Certainly not, I would hazard, in the same way it resonated in Of Gods and Men.

Apples and oranges, in my opinion. I never saw this as a film primarily about religious persecution, but as a film about one man's efforts to portray on a canvas a vast spectacle of human behavior, putting it in a perspective that might lead people to humbling realizations. No, there's nothing like the emotional knockout that ends Of Gods and Men. But there was, for me anyway, a very rewarding experience of "looking closer" (an activity of particular importance to me) and learning something about a particular artist and a particular period of history. Plus, there were the rare pleasures of the mill itself, the faces of the characters, the lush visuals and clever blending of paint and photography... There was more than enough for me to feel very satisfied by the time it ended.

I’d hazard that’s because there’s no real sense of volition in the film. The characters move about their lives like they’re simply part of Brueghel’s painting. They have no sense of choice in the matter. Are they persecuted? Yes. But do they do anything about it? No.

I don't think it was the filmmaker's intent to insert a narrative where there wasn't one. I think it was more like a schoolteacher's effort, or a gallery tour guide's effort, to bring a painting to life in such a way that we step through and live within the time and space and ideas of a painting.

In contrast, Gods and Men was so fascinating, because the characters did confront persecution. They did do something about it: they decided to stand fast. The point is, though, that they made a decision. Depending on your point of view, they may have been either heroic or stupid, but at least they struggled (like real human beings) with the situation. In The Mill & The Cross? People just stand around and die.

Again, that was a true story, a historical event, and a narrative with a complete arc.

This is an invitation to understand a painting in which we see types, archetypes, and symbolic figures. By giving us something of the sensual experiences that might have inspired those figures, the filmmakers place the painting in context. I would not have appreciated Bruegel the way I do now without this very creative endeavor to... (how can I avoid the popular but annoying term "unpack")... open up the painting's ideas and reveal the "web" upon which the images are hung.

The film felt like watching an exquisite, but two-dimensional, medieval tapestry come to life.

I'd go farther. I'd say it's a one-dimensional tapestry coming to live. And what a pleasure to see it happen!

I will say that the one place in the film where I began to feel something was after the crucifixion. I was struck, as the rain and thunder came, by the fact that I didn’t expect the resurrection. We had gotten the crucifixion, of course, but I expected the film to end there, with an exquisite shot of the mill. As the film transitioned to the storm, I began to expect the cathedral to crack in two. I began to expect the resurrection.

That was exciting. I felt that the film, which had been so dry and reserved, was going to offer something unexpected. It would end, not with death, but with new life.

Did it?

No: it ended with a rather silly dance.

The resurrection isn't in the painting. The movie is about the painting. A resurrection would have been presumptuous on the part of the filmmakers, who are bringing Bruegel's work to life, not revising it to answer things that he left suspended.

And besides, isn't it enough to know that in our folly we go on crucifying Christ? That's a strong enough idea on its own. If the title of the painting is The Way to Calvary, the figures' behavior demonstrates the ways in which we deny, forget, neglect, or punish Christ. Sure, we know the story, that he rose again. But that doesn't stop us from partaking in his crucifixion daily.

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Streaming on Netflix.

Thank you! I spent the afternoon looking for it in my smaller hometown and found nothing. It's even in HD!

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I responded emotionally to the crucifixion in this movie in a way I never really have to The Passion of the Christ. I wasn't bludgeoned into numbness by the violence, but there's more to it; setting the scene in a space of such beauty and creativity made the non-action of God (the Miller) as he looked on stand out to me, as if he was emphasizing how such a brutal act can fit into a beautiful tapestry.

Two thoughts on the dance: (1) They're mimicking the movements of the troubadours/jesters we've seen throughout the film, who seem like the "holy fools" of the tableau, so there could be some kind of a spiritual dimension to it. (2) It reminded me of the beach scene at the end of Tree of Life, and I think that connection gave it a resurrection-y quality for me.

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