Friday, July 27, 2012

Film Pairing — A Bad Day To Go Fishing & Young Adam

These are stories about how one unintentional event can change lives forever. While they are crime movies, A Bad Day To Go Fishing and Young Adam are not thrillers. They are not action films. They are not really suspenseful. And in both cases we, as viewers, are entering worlds that are very real but likely very unfamiliar.

A Bad Day To Go Fishing takes place in a small town somewhere in South America.  Since it is a Spanish and Uruguayan film, I suspect Santa Maria is in Uruguay, which is unusual enough.  When was the last time you saw a movie set in Uruguay?  When was the last time you used Uruguay in a sentence?  Critics call the film “quirky,” which means it is odd and not meant for everyone.  That, I suspect, is true.  But I’ve always liked “quirky,” and I really liked this film.

A con man, no doubt self-dubbed Prince Orsini, arrives in a small town with one fine suit and his prize possession, a former grand champion professional wrestler.  They rent a hall where the wrestler lifts things like tractor tires, bathtubs and other random heavy items as an act in a show of jugglers and fire-eaters.  But the real payoff is the final show of their stay, when the former champion of the world takes on a challenger from the village.  If the challenger can stay in the ring for three minutes, he gets a thousand dollars.  The fact is the elegantly decadent Prince doesn’t even have the thousand dollars. He flashes a few big bills wrapped around worthless paper.  If the challenger succeeds, it would be an embarrassment and most likely punishable by jail time. Though the wrestler is a bit past his prime and drinks heavily, he is what he is purported to be — a former champ.  And the Prince has never had to pay off.  No doubt you are ahead of me here.  Basically the con’s bluff is called.  A quality challenger is found.  Behind and beneath the plot is a story about love and loyalty, greed and desperation.  A fine, fine story, well acted and well worth your time if you can stand a little quirk here and there.

Young Adam is a Scot.  The film takes place entirely in Scotland, but not the Scotland that will get you on the next plane to Edinburgh or salivating at being on golf courses where the game was invented. Most of the time, you are in a barge.  What you need to know is that there is a barge and that there is plenty of sex.  For a non-porn film, there’s an immense amount of sex.  We see more of Young Adam (Ewan McGregor) and his women (among them Tilda Swinton and Emily Mortimer) than we are entitled to, considerably more nakedness than I saw in Nudist Colony on the Moon, when I was a teenager.  In the case of A Bad Day To Go Fishing, there is a misjudgment that is at the core of the drama.  In Young Adam, the drama hinges on a totally innocent, but tragic accident. What unfolds is a matter of character or lack of it.

Though the characters don’t live in a world where the subject of sex-addiction is likely to come up, Young Adam is a sex addict.  He’s not only a boy who just can’t say “no,” he is a boy who can always get the girl to say, “yes.”  The idea that he might settle down with the “right” woman is not part of his nature.  He travels light and can pack his bags in seconds.  But there some things you can’t escape, aren’t there?  Even if you find no value in the story — and I say that because the film is morally desolate — Swinton especially reveals a frightening ability to inhabit an empty being.  She is, as usual, incredible here.

Drink Scotch.

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