Thursday, September 23, 2010

Underrated Movie #92: Metroland

Title: Metroland
Year: 1997
Director: Philip Saville
Writers: Adrian Hodges, based on the novel by Julian Barnes
Stars: Christian Bale, Emily Watson, Lee Ross, Elsa Zylberstein

The Story: In 1977 suburban England a married couple is visited a wild old friend who makes them wonder about their bourgeois choices in life. Soon the husband is flooded with memories of his first girlfriend, in Paris ten years earlier.
How it Came to be Underrated: This was the only feature by a TV director, and it shows-- all of the Paris flashback scenes have a gauzy filter, which is tres annoying, but you get used it. The script and the performances are certainly big-screen-worthy.

Why It’s Great:
  1. Nothing flashy or edgy here, just a simple bittersweet story about growing up and moving on, haunted by regrets. Bale is great in a role that’s far more subdued than his recent work. He was so much older then, he’s younger than that now.
  2. The long Paris flashback that makes up the middle of the movie is its own beautiful coming-of-age mini-movie. His Paris lover, played by Elsa Zylberstein, is so impossibly adorable that we instantly understand why he fell in love and why it could never last. And the sex will make you blush
  3. Whatever happened to Emily Watson? She was in everything for a few years and then disappeared. She always had a lot going on behind her little smiles. She’s great as the passive aggressive wife here. Her husband assures her, “He really likes you, you know.” She responds with withering deadpan sarcasm: “Gosh. I feel somehow validated.”
  4. The movie has a fine score by Mark Knopfler with a great original title track. He even puts “Sultans of Swing”, his own 1977 breakthrough, on the soundtrack, but he’s got the self-awareness to admit that these guys wouldn’t be listening to it: it plays in a suburban café. These people may have sold out but they haven’t gone that soft: they still listen to punk.
If You Like This, You Should Also Check Out: The French are the masters of these small stories with big emotions. It’s a great compliment to say that this is reminiscent of Rohmer’s Chloe in the Afternoon.

How Available Is It?: It’s only on Watch Instantly but it’s unfortunately present as ‘Pan and Scan’.

Today’s Post Was Brought To You By: Commuter Widow!

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