Brad Anderson is a filmmaker I've been watching since his 1998 romance Next Stop Wonderland in which the destined couple don't even meet until the last scene. His follow up Happy Accidents put a lo-fi, s/f, twist to the rom-com genre. Vincent D'Onofrio plays the boyfriend of a skeptical Marisa Tomei. He claims he has come from the future to save her life. She wonders if he's insane.

Since then, Anderson's films have taken a darker turn. Session 9 was filmed at the Danvers State Memorial Hospital just prior to its residential redevelopment. This psychological horror film provides one of the few records of the hospital as a physical entity.

Anderson won critical acclaim (and notariety) for his film The Machinist in which Christian Bale starves himself in the role of a sleep-deprived industrial worker. The tag line: "How do you wake up from a nightmare, when you're not asleep?" is a perfect description of this disturbing and hallucinatory film.

What I like most about Anderson is his ability to evoke a mood. There is a fine curiosity behind his films, and it is that aspect, along with an elegant grasp of technique that keep me coming back.

Transsiberian )
Okay, so I've been on a Brad Anderson kick lately. I enjoyed watching Next Stop Wonderland so much several weeks ago, that last week I re-watched his other romantic comedy, Happy Accidents.

Happy Accidents is actually a s/f movie without any special effects. (Okay, minor special effects.) I saw this one in the theatre w/ Ex when it came out. The basic premise is that someone's rather strange boyfriend claims he's travelled from the distant future to save her life. Does she believe him? Is he insane? Really, it's just about the ride. (And Cheeseman's principal. I love the names they make up for their fake scientific theories.)

It was nice to find that having seen this movie before didn't spoil watching it a second time. And there was something rather charming about it, as well as slightly melancholy about the futurism contained within. I like it and recommend it despite the fact that it might bore some people.

Which brings us to this week's Brad Anderson feature, Session 9 which is set in Danvers State Memorial Hospital. As a horror film, this is a suspense film, not a jump film. It's all about the creepy atmospherics. I guess it succeeds (I'll tell you tomorrow morning when I have/haven't had a good nights sleep,) but the plot is absolutely secondary to the setting itself.

More about Danvers Memorial. )

Next up in the Brad Anderson film festival: The Machinist.
I had an appointment with my teacher today. I told her I've been feeling sad. Not depressed, just a little blue. And perhaps a little bluer than the situation demands.

"You've got 30 years of sad stored up in you," she said. "Just go ahead and feel sad. It will pass."

We went out into her garden and picked tomatoes and peppers. She's also growing datura---a hallucinogenic---which I found really amusing. I think the number one thing I appreciate about my teacher is that we have a similar sense of humor.

I had this moment, standing in the garden eating tomatoes off the vine, when I remembered life's sweetness. This summer has been kind of a wash for me, with not nearly enough moments just standing in the sun and eating fruit. She gave me some vegetables to take home. All the way home I smelled the peppers, tomatoes, and basil. Still tasting the radishy taste of nastiturtiums.

I came home and cooked. Then I watched Next Stop Wonderland, one of Brad Anderson's early films about about fate and romance. (He also did Happy Accidents with Marissa Tomei and Vincent D'Onofrio, which takes almost the opposite approach to fate. Do you believe a weirdo that your life is in danger, or are you endangering your life by putting your faith in a stranger?) I remember liking Wonderland, in part because he actually filmed it in Boston. What I couldn't remember was the point in my life when I saw it.

The movie came out in 1998. I would've been back from Boston. It would've been after Jason, before anyone else. I wonder what I thought of it then. Now, its basic premise seems to be that fate, if it exists, is a quiet hand. Not the heart or stomach wrenching drama of plane tickets to exotic places, but the quiet shared moments on a beach or strangers on a train.

Of course it is the nature of narrative to encourage the idea of fate. Narrative is about meaning and structure, it needs fate to work.

(Some people work very hard to manufacture 'fate.' Why? Death comes soon enough for us all.)

I found the movie comforting, especially the ending, which is as remarkable now as it was then, cut for spoilers )

Funniest, is that the movie is already deeply nostalgic. No one has cell phones. Part of the plot revolves around personal ads in the newspaper. These days the idea of meeting someone without having pictures and extensive profiling seems rather quaint. But so does the idea that you might meet someone you like when you least expect it, without even trying.

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June 2015

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