Monday, July 31, 2017

Small Popcorn, Lots of Butter

I know why friends might not want to go to the movies with me: it's the movies I choose.

Tonight it was "Lady Macbeth" and while I suppose you could say that technically it was a chick flick, bodies (adult, child and equine) piled up like it was a Tarantino movie.

In either case, it was most definitely an adult movie and all four of the adults who showed up tonight to see it were of an age and not necessarily one you'd want to admit to.

On the other hand, it was very much a favorite genre: a period drama. It was set in England during the 1860s when women were literally tied into corsets and buttoned by a maid into long sleeved full-length nightgowns (except when your new husband demanded you take yours off and face the wall so he could pleasure himself).

Just looking at the layers of garments plus a hoop skirt frame made me uncomfortable.

As a film geek, my interest was piqued by "Lady Macbeth" because it was a first time effort for the director, the screenwriter (from an 1865 Russian novella) and the first major role for the actress who played Katherine, the lead, and I have a hunch we're going to see a lot more from all three once they do a more mass-appeal movie.

In one of the director's most brilliant strokes, the film has no music, so there are never any audio cues telling you how you're expected to feel. It was completely refreshing to feel so unsettled.

For a feminist, the film was an uncomfortable reminder of a time when a man could buy his shiftless son a wife (along with a tract of land so poor a single cow couldn't graze on it) and harangue her about her wifely duties despite the son having zero interest in her. A time when a husband could forbid his wife from ever leaving the house, even for a walk just to take the air, as a means of control.

Like Shakespeare's "Macbeth," there's non-stop scheming, conniving, killing, lying (and little lamenting), always with an eye on the long game, in this case, Katherine getting to live with her stableboy lover (who reminded me a lot of the singer Tom Jones, right down to his occasional smirk) in the husband's house.

Given the time period and the setting, I was impressed at the number of black actors and actresses in the film and not just as servants. Whether it's colorblind casting (hooray) or a nod to historical accuracy, I can't say, but rarely are period dramas set in England not all white affairs.

Then there's lust, which plays a huge role in the story and as the balance of power shifts between the two, the viewer has to decide who's taking advantage of whom.

I'm not going to lie, some of the violence was difficult to watch (not ashamed to just close my eyes), but in its own way, so was Katherine's evolution from wronged bride to master manipulator. Seeing blood on her hands and white nightgown only drove home the comparisons to the Scottish play.

By the movie's disturbing end, all I could think of was Lady Macbeth's words: what's done is done.

As long as you can live with yourself, honey.

I'm just sorry I couldn't talk anyone into joining me so I could discuss what's done in a little more detail.

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