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Maudie

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

Maudie

Maudie is a beautiful piece of art that offers the perfect alternative to summer blockbusters. Director Aisling Walsh took elements from the work of writer Sherry White and stirred them gently until the whole quite literally silenced the theater. The elements: two astonishing performances by Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke, stunning photography of the empty countryside, and the deep sensitivity of director Walsh.

Sally Hawkins’ Maude is a woman in her mid-thirties who carries the physical effects of early onset arthritis and an early childhood illness that left her with a stooped posture. Fragile she may be, but she is otherwise sharp, shy, and uncommonly stubborn. Her brother (Zachary Bennett) has left her in the care of her poisonous Aunt Ida (Gabrielle Rose). Desperate to escape, Maud presents herself at the ramshackle house of fish peddler Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke) in answer to his advertisement for a maid.

Their prickly relationship develops through ups and downs as Maud paints pictures of all the bits of nature she sees on her walks. Her flowers will cover the walls, the stair risers, mirrors and all paintable surfaces in their house. In a relationship rooted in need, neither is willing to change. He gives her shelter and she keeps it clean. She has the freedom to paint the world around her as she sees it. He has a clean house and the uncluttered time to sell fish and firewood.

The needy couple walks separately and sometimes together along miles of a dirt road to town for the few supplies they can afford. It is then that director Walsh works more magic. The two on that endless road are small dots against the majesty of the landscape (Nova Scotia, but filmed in Newfoundland). Walsh’s camera teaches us quietly that no one in this area has money or material things. The glory of the landscape is not theirs to enjoy but to survive. With her silent camera, she captures the stark nature of their relationship along with the poverty imposed by the vast landscape. She never teaches. She simply gives us the beauty of the story in the quietest way. We are watching the power of serious creativity.

When Maud’s paintings begin to sell while Everett takes over a bit of her housework, she says quietly: “we’re like a pair of old socks.” In the simplicity of their surroundings, the only change will be the tenderness that creeps into their lives. Otherwise nothing changes the fact that they deal in basic necessities and with whatever lies unexpressed in their heads on those long, long walks. Maud sees the golds, reds, and whites that will become her flower paintings, Everett can’t say anything right, but we know he has mellowed just a little.

We watch two fine actors who absorbed all the subtleties used by their director. Together the three took us to a faraway place both physically and emotionally, and it’s a place we will all remember.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Maudie
Word Count : 497
Running time : 1:55
Rating : PG-13
Date : June 18, 2017

 

Paris Can Wait

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

Paris Can Wait

See Paris Can Wait when you’re feeling peaceful. It’s a lovely, subtle portrait of a quiet woman who begins to discover who she is. That portrait is delivered by Diane Lane in grand collusion with Arnaud Viard. The movie unfolds in such a way that its fans and foes will be predictable. Men over 60 may find it boring. Women of that age may find it an intriguing new key to middle age. The old among us will love comparing today’s rules for women with those of our day. The certainty: there will be a follow-up movie.

Anne (Diane Lane) and her movie producer husband Michael (Alec Baldwin) have arrived at the Cannes Film Festival on a typical wife-supports-her- husband business trip. When Michael is summoned to another city, he leaves Anne in the hands of his business partner, Jacques, who turns the short trip to Paris into a two day tour of his favorite vistas, historic sites, and towns. At every mealtime Jacques produces a magical meal in a beautiful place. “This is the best time of year to eat young animals,” he says as the American hides one under her napkin.

Jacques’ attraction to Anne is an immediate given but it also becomes clear that in his mind, that will be her choice, not his. His specialty is the seductive process. As they travel, Anne takes dozens of pictures of everything with increasing attention to close ups of art and tapestry. She is falling in love with textures, and when Jacques looks at her pictures, he realizes she is discovering who she is and who she wants to be. His desire for an affair is enriched by wanting to help her see more of what she is discovering about herself.

As Anne begins, in several ways, to grow beyond the supportive wife role into self-discovery, a quiet feeling rolls over us. She will enrich her life in a way women have never, until quite recently, been encouraged to do. The light in Anne’s eyes tells us not what she will choose but that for the first time, she sees options. She has begun to discover herself.

Eleanor Coppola has written and directed this movie with such quiet beauty that nothing seems overdone. Successful husband Michael still loves his wife; Jacques wants an affair with her and Anne, for the moment anyway, has, in an involuntary way, found out who she wants to become. Instead of seeker and sought, they are equals contemplating future pleasures. Arnaud Viard’s courtship via beautiful food and flowers provides comic relief and future possibility.

We all owe a salute to Eleanor Coppola who has made a small film say so much that we suspect she has been there herself. No sermons here, just the quiet certainty that yes, there is someone else inside a woman when she reaches middle-age. She is just beginning. Diane Lane delivers a beautiful and very quiet portrait of a woman finding her core.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Paris Can Wait
Word Count : 498
Running time: 1:32
Rating : PG
Date : May 21, 2017