VIFF 2010 Mini Reviews: Poetry for The Sleeping Beauty

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La Belle Endormie (The Sleeping Beauty; Catherine Breillat) France. Princess Anastasia was cursed by a wicked fairy when she was born; as a result of her guardians' attempt to "protect" her, she was bound by a spell that would make her fall asleep for a hundred years when she reached age six. She would then spend that dreaming time traveling in her dream before coming to her 16 year old body a hundred years later. From the moment one of the guardian fairies claimed that "childhood takes too long," the film began to build a case against it. For certain, Anastasia - without a proper childhood experience - came to her teenage time as a child, even less self-possessed than ever before. Her tenacious, vivacious personality at age six gave way to a moody, uncertain teenager. Having aged in her dream while not really having actual growing up experience, she was a woman child who was not quite of any time. Childhood seemingly consists of frivolous things, and it may have led to the belief that it is "too long" ("for what it consists of," was what they really meant - 10 or 12 years of your entire life would not be nowhere near the time spent in adulthood). It was rather uncharacteristically unwise of god fairies to believe that - it would seem to reflect a precocious, impatient child's view of childhood rather than an immortal's. Childhood seemed, from the film, to be an important self-esteem learning period. It would've been a really good time to learn the ways of the world so Anastasia could come to the adulthood transitioning time (teenagehood) a bit more ready. By trying to shorten it in reality, they may have inadvertently cursed her with an unfinished childhood that may prevent her from growing up - and growing old - like she should. Anastasia did get some kind of deal for her hundred years of lost childhood (and so did we): her dream scape was hypnotic and magnificently beautiful, brimming with adventures and intense adolescent heartache. It was an interesting film, but, like Anastasia's childhood, remained a road meandering and unresolved.

Poetry (Lee Chang-Dong) Korea. (Cannes 2010 Screenplay winner). Mija lived with Jongwook, the grandson that her daughter had left in her care. While he worked out his angst in isolation and detachment, she sought meaning in the remain of the days by joining various classes and groups offered in her community. She stumbled her way into the beauty of poetry and found her creativity flowing unexpectedly in the tail end of her life. When a girl from Jongwook's school committed suicide and he was implicated in the process, Mija was torn between the sense of duty to protect him from the law and her sympathy for the young life lost. The hopelessness that led to the senseless death contrasted her own struggle for meaning in a beautiful scene in which Mija visited the suicide site, her familiar hat flown off in the rain. Jeong-hie Yun was an irrepressible spirit as Mija, her femininity enforced by her inner strength. Lee Chang-Dong deftly tackled the delicate subjects of meaning and mortality with much more humour and poignancy than you would expect. It would be worth your time to take a closer look at the script that won at Cannes last year.

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