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Peter T Chattaway

Birth (2004)

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Bizarre film. Don't think it worked. But I can think of all sorts of minor, trivial reasons why folks here might want to check it out, if they have nothing better to do.

For one thing, it marks a reunion of sorts for Dogville co-stars Nicole Kidman and Lauren Bacall, who play daughter and mother here.

For another, it gives us another look at Danny Houston, whose performance in Silver City rather undermined that film, and who here plays Kidman's fianc

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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There's a Korean film with a similar plot that I feel is superb in terms of craftsmanship. It's called Addicted, or sometimes The Poisoning. (imdb) It doesn't raise quite as many questions as it sounds like Birth would, but manages to be both disturbing and touching at the appropriate times. It's probably hard to come across unless you're looking for it, but if you get a chance to see it, it's worth a watch.

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Wow, the three critics I've read so far are being a lot kinder to this film than I would have expected -- though one, the Vancouver Sun's Katherine Monk, does say that the film is fascinating to watch BECAUSE it is a failure of sorts.

Anyway, I just HAVE to pass on this one critic's description of the boy, from the Georgia Straight -- it's one of those uncannily-accurate-yet-bizarre descriptions that rings so, so true:

user posted image

Birth
has a marvellously ambivalent attitude toward Sean. As a kid, he's preternatural and malign. Bright is sort of handsome, round-faced, with a piercing stare. You wouldn't say 'cute' or 'boyish'. He's more like a Christopher Walken bobblehead doll.

'Tis true, no?

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Another Friday, another reincarnation movie. More specifically, another movie about a woman in her late 30s who becomes convinced that a long-deceased lover has been reincarnated in the form of a considerably younger person.

I don't know if Kidman's character ever says how old she is in Birth, but I do know that the actress is 37, and I also know that Laura Linney's character in P.S. says she is 39.

Kidman has just become engaged to another man, after years of resisting his advances, while Linney has been divorced for a couple years yet remains friends with her ex-hubby.

Kidman falls for a ten-year-old boy, who happens to have the exact same first name as her husband, while Linney falls for a 20-ish guy who's applying for his MFA at Columbia University ... and who happens to have almost exactly the same first and last name as the boy she loved when she was in high school (and who died in a car accident).

Fairly late in the game, one film reveals that Kidman's long-dead husband isn't quite the good thing that she seems to remember him as, whereas not quite so late in the game, the other film reveals that Linney's relationship with her teen lover was a little more complicated than we might have been led to expect.

I'm not reviewing either of these films, but I find the fact that both of these films are coming out so close together rather interesting. If there were a third film like this in the wings, we could call it a "trend" and start pitching stories on it.

Linney's performance, BTW, is really good, as are a few of the other performances, e.g. Gabriel Byrne as her ex-husband. Not sure what I make of Topher Grace as the possibly reincarnated lover -- the only other thing I've seen him in is Win a Date with Tad Hamilton, and already I'm seeing repeated characteristics that suggest to me it is the actor and not the character always coming through.

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Be sure to get that down. Dangerous, false, misleading, AND inane. And what's more, it deceives people.

There you go watering down the truth, Overstreet. That's MANY people.

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So, to be clear, this dangerous, false, misleading, and inane concept comes from a dangerous and immoral form of pacifism. (I challenge you to find a *moral* form of pacifism in Movieguide's commentaries.)

Not only is pacifism immoral, it's unpatriotic! dry.gif

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Finally saw BIRTH ... and I must say technically the film was absolutely beautiful imho. It really delves into how characters would/could react if something like this were to occur ... how Kidman may will herself into believing it. How a new fiancee would feel concerning a past husband, etc. Regardless of the story ... which I didn't mind either ... technically this is a good film. Loved the intro shot of the man running in Central Park and the 3 minute scene of a close up of Kidman's face where she reveals so much by doing so little.

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Um, I dunno. This thread dates to an earlier time on this board, pre-star ratings, when threads on multiple films were not uncommon.

If this becomes a just-Birth thread, would we create a separate thread for P.S.?

If this doesn't, would we move this to another forum and then create separate threads for both Birth and P.S. (assuming that the Film Club thread on Birth is temporary, as Film Club threads tend to be, and is therefore not meant to be the regular thread for that film)?

At the moment, only part of one post here is about P.S., so I would say this is basically a Birth thread.

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Nah, the post makes too many comparisons between the two films; that's why I said "part of one post" was about P.S., rather than the entire post. If anyone ever starts a thread on that film, we can just link back to this thread.

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For what it's worth, I finally saw Birth last night.

And I'm happy to say that I really loved this movie about a "dangerous, false, misleading, and inane religious concept that has deceived many people."

It felt more like a Kubrick film than anything I've seen since, well, Kubrick films.

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Moving Image Source has a great interview with Harris Savides, director of photography of Birth and many other notable films of the last decade (Zodiac, Elephant, American Gangster):

Let's talk about Birth. It's so exquisitely lit and photographed. The whole idea of looking at faces, and the mystery behind faces, is so important, because that's sort of the premise of the film: you're wondering, who is this person? I'd read that you had in mind certain paintings, in thinking about the film.

That was true of a movie I did for James Gray, The Yards. He walked me through a museum once and taught me a bunch of stuff. He wanted me to see things that he liked and appreciated, not only in regard to art, but more in regard to light and the direction of light. And it's really stuck, stayed with me.

Were there specific painters that stayed with you from that?

Yeah, Georges de la Tour, who uses a candle most of the time. And for lack of a better way to describe it, there's a kind of muddiness in the black, which is basically the fall-off of the lit part from the candle to the blackness. It's not a true black. And true black doesn't exist, really, in the world, nor does it exist in painting at all. Yet in our world, the technical world of filmmaking and video HD, black isreally black now. And that seems to be the benchmark for every kind of new technology that comes along is, "Look at how good these blacks are." They're almost like anime blacks. It's very unnatural.

Technicolor had that feeling, the old Technicolor. They were able to get really rich blacks.

But even there, if you go see any of these new restorations, that black still has something that's relatable in our lives, as opposed to this synthetic black that is very, very contrasty.

That murky black that you're talking about—it creates a sense of mystery?

Yeah. It's muddy black, it's purple-y black. Technically, it's wrong. But I don't want to discount the power of that in telling a story.

To me, Birth remains one of the most visually striking films of recent years. There's something about the texture of it that is timeless and yet, as the interview discusses, reminiscent of 70s' filmmaking. It's intoxicating.

(Aside: I was about to post a couple of screen captures to show the de la Tour influence in Birth, but stopped because I'm not sure if that would violate the copyright rules of the board. Would it? There doesn't seem to be much screenshot analysis going on at A&F, at least involving images posted here on the boards; is that because of copyright law or for other reasons?)

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I think more screenshot analysis would be FANTASTIC, provided that the screen captures were of a decent size and not reduced to thumbnails.

As for copyright issues, I believe it all falls under the category of "fair use", especially if we are providing some sort of commentary on those images. I seem to recall that Paramount's lawyers went after Star Trek fansites in the mid-1990s, when the internet was just beginning to take off with the public at large, but that was a long time ago, and certainly no one has ever complained to me about the screen captures on my own blog (with the possible exception of "leaked" images that I re-posted on my blog before a movie's release date).

FWIW, if memory serves, my brother-in-law, who works in the gaming industry and is much stricter about copyright issues than I am, told me once that you can legally copy a certain number of frames in a row, but no more. Two or three screen captures from the same shot, but separated by a few seconds or something? Not a problem.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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There doesn't seem to be much screenshot analysis going on at A&F, at least involving images posted here on the boards; is that because of copyright law or for other reasons?)

I think that's only because it's not particularly anyone's strength. I know I'd be quite interested in what you want to post. I love that kind of analysis; we don't see it in these circles often enough.

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Every time somebody mentions this movie, I want to see it again.

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Persona wrote:

: I think that's only because it's not particularly anyone's strength.

Oh, I don't know about that. I know that I, for one, have done a fair bit of screen-capturing at my own blog over the years. But Blogger doesn't let non-Blogger websites run its images, so I'd have to reload all those images if I were to use any of them at A&F, and that's just too much work. It's far easier to just link to my blog posts and redirect people there.

Plus, A&F has always had a limit in terms of how many bytes an A&F user can upload to this board; plus, when images are uploaded, they often get reduced to thumbnails or some such thing. Factors like these also discourage active screenshot analysis here.

But I think it would be great if we saw more actual interaction with the VISUAL side of film here.

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Screenshots, with a couple of de la Tours for comparison:

georgesdelatour_repentantmagdalen.jpg

"The Repentant Magdelene"

birth_savides_light_med.jpg

de_la-tour_dice_players.jpg

"The Dice Players"

birth_savides_light_2_med.jpg

Edited by N.W. Douglas

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In the end I believe that Sean was the reincarnation of Anna's husband.  I believe he was acting out his true feelings, that he loved Anna.  Once he found out he had a lover he also realized how much he would hurt the woman he truly loved and stepped back out of the picture.  

If he wanted to be with his mistress he would have been...but he did not make that move.  

I think Anna was in great emotional pain on her wedding day...she was still deeply in love with her former husband and could not move past that.  I do not think she ever will.

 

 

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