Thursday, November 22, 2012

Cinema Babble: A Unique View of a Familiar Man

The Flick: Lincoln

The Peeps: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Hawkes, Hal Holbrook, James Spader, Jackie Earle Haley, Bruce McGill, Tim Blake Nelson, Jared Harris, Gloria Reuben, etc, etc.

The Dealio: The year is 1865, and the Civil War has worn and beggared and exhausted both sides. That means that peace overtures will soon be headed to Washington City. But, before he entertains any proposal that would return the South to the flock, Lincoln realises that he's gotta work fast to get an emancipation amendment through and into the constitution. With that urgency on the table, and time running out, Lincoln must do what he can to make this happen: mollify, modify, improvise, charm, hector, invoke the wartime powers he is not entire sure he possesses, and, yep, even buy the votes he needs. This is not the  Lincoln we are used to seeing: aloof and staid, quiet and self-effacing. Almost a saint. What we get here is a Lincoln, though still folksy, humble, quaint and compassionate, is also passionate,  unyielding and, if needed, severe.  And, as time dribbles away, we find ourselves hoping that he does, somehow, prevail (while knowing that, of course, he does) and that, somehow, that he will wind up being far too busy or involved in affairs of state to go to Ford's Theatre. It says a great deal for a movie that moves you along familiar paths, but surprises you by a totally unpredictable detour. This film takes you on exactly such a journey.

The Grading Session: 4.991 pengies out of 5. Spielberg does not disappoint. Marvellously cast- down to the tiniest role, beautifully crafted and written, it is at times unnerving to see what uncanny images Day-Lewis evokes both in looks and speech, as he pulls us along with him in his frustration, grief, humor and empathy. But, Field's Mary also shines, as a woman torn between overwhelming grief and overwhelming love. No one dimensional cut-out, she is a living, breathing, spiteful, cautious, concerned and fully human participant. This is a masterful movie. And not just in the grand, sweeping scenes. Even the smallest, throwaway pieces are precious and attentive to detail, evoking shivers and nods of recognition. One scene has a very tired Lincoln, sitting  in a chair, his arms extended along the chair's arms, his fingers bent and held in the exact pose as the seated Lincoln  of his famous Mall memorial. Now, that's attention to detail. I can see I will have to go see this movie again. Then get the DVD. The Elite Edition...of course.

Lessons Learned: Just when you think you know everything about a famous person, you quickly learn that you have no idea of the demons and challenges that drove and tortured them. Too, if you were expecting to see a beatification of the man, you would be disappointed: Lincoln was a real hero, but hardly a saint. As he would be the first to admit. Lastly, this: if we can not learn from our history, we are doomed to repeat it. Let's never repeat this type of war again. Ever.

Noteable Quotables: (Thaddeus Stevens, in response to a knoock on his door): 'It opens!'

(Lincoln to his cabinet, advisors and others in the telegraph office): 'I suppose it's time to go...but I'd rather stay.'

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