'Here and There'
'Here and There'

From the sublime to the ridiculous: sometimes from the first shot of a film you feel like you’re in the presence of a stinker. “Berlin Telegram” begins with a scene of a woman singer fronting a rock band and crying as she sings.  It’s a semi-autobiographical story of a self-conscious (not to say narcissistic and solipsistic) woman who moves to Berlin after her boyfriend dumps her (i.e., the end of the world) and works through her pain until she eventually feels better.  Well, a little better.

I try to remind myself that I defended Nora Ephron’s novel “Heartburn,” about the breakup of her marriage to Carl Bernstein, by saying that she got art out of a messy situation, whereas some people just got the messy situation.  (But “Heartburn” is funny!)  I remind myself that Taylor Swift pleases (and makes) millions with similarly narcissistic and solipsistic works of art, about even less-deeply-felt relationships.  And I listen as the audience tells the director how brave and intimate her sharing was.  I’m still unconvinced.

Between “Berlin Telegram” and the last movie of the day I hang out in a huge and healthy-looking Borders bookstore – I guess they didn’t go bankrupt everywhere.  This one is stuffed full of toys and tchotchkes as well as books and more magaxzines than I knew were still being published.  It feels like the last century!  Here in Dubai it seems there are several versions of Time Out being published: one on Style, another for kids, and I purchase this week’s Dubai city guide, featuring the 101 Best Dishes in Dubai, packaged with a Home & Garden supplement.

Then I see “Here and There,” winner of the Critic’s Week prize at Cannes, a fictionalized, low-key story of a Mexican man who returns to his wife and daughters in a small village after years of living alone in New York in the hopes of establishing a band and making a living there, made with unprofessional actors.  The director, Antonio Mendez Esparza, got the idea for the film from the man who plays the lead role – his real wife plays his wife, but his two daughters were played by others (his two actual daughters were tested, but tended to hide from the camera!).

It’s a sweet, small movie, whose impact builds from its quiet repetitions and accretions of calm, almost monotonous dialogue, that still becomes heartbreaking.  It’s a nice way to end the day.