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Ask any aging person and they’ll tell you, growing old is hell. Now witness a literally interpretation of same via this mostly forgotten 1990 French black comedy. The title character is an irascibly childless widow who is mean, cruel, and vicious. After dividing up her estate, she goes off to live with the family of her “favorite” grand-nephew. When they take a vacation, leaving her with an equally irritated young girl named Sandrine, our demented auntie meets her match…sort of. Oh, and let’s not forget the original housekeeper who died “accidentally” and that unintentional visit to the woods. Sure, sometimes the elderly are meek and friendly. Sometimes, they’re psychopaths.
Another forgotten film, featuring an unique “docufiction” approach. Eight older ladies take a bus trip into the Canadian countryside. When their transport breaks down, they spend time in an isolated cabin, reminiscing about their lives. The ‘actresses,’ all real life senior citizens, were given a basic storyline. From there, they adlibbed, each sharing memories from their own unique existences. The result is a remarkable record about the courage of being a woman and the hardships of living a long life as same. With its feeling of authenticity and relative unknown status, this is a minor masterwork that needs to be rediscovered.
Believe it or, this is a David Lynch movie…made for Disney. And it was rated ‘G’ as well. And that’s not even the most stunning aspect of this amazing film. Richard Farnsworth, partially paralyzed from bone cancer and barely able to walk, was a trooper throughout filming, startling0 everyone including the director with his intense work ethic. While he would commit suicide the following year, his turn as an aging vet off to visit his dying, estranged brother (Harry Dean Stanton) by means of a riding mower sounds like perfect Lynch fodder. But instead of turning the tale into another of his patented fever dreams, he delivered a soft, simple classic.
What would you do if your soul mate, if the person who’ve loved more than any other in your life and shared the most with throughout your many years suddenly…changed. Not much, at first - a little disoriented, a bit more needy - and then…BANG! Totally dependent and desperate to die. What would you do? How would you react? For controversial filmmaker Michael Haenke (The White Ribbon, Funny Games), the answer was this stunning cinematic statement which took home Cannes’ Palm d’Or and the Academy’s Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Frankly, the film deserved many, many more accolades. No one has captured the heartbreak and horror of facing the loss of love (“amour”) better…
...except, perhaps, Sarah Polley. As the feature film debut for this actress (The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, the Dawn of the Dead remake) turned director, we get the story of an aging couple who must face the terrifying truth that one member of the partnership no longer remembers the other. Fiona (a brilliant… BRILLIANT Julie Christie) has been with Grant (Gordon Pinsent) for what seems like an eternity. When she develops an acute case of Alzheimer’s, she is placed in a nursery home. Eventually, she completely forgets her doting spouse and takes up with another resident. The ending is as heartbreaking as they come.
At this point, they’re only 56. Many would consider them at the tail end of middle age, no more. Yet since we’ve watched these amazing men and women age every seven years since they were, themselves, seven, the transformation has been stunning. This brilliant documentary series, the best that there will ever be considering the time it was created and the eras it captures, argues that, indeed, sometimes, what we are as kids will be what we are as adults. On the other hand, many of the changes here are jaw dropping in their meaning and maturation. If you want the ultimate cinematic experience on what it’s like to grow old, this is it. Period.
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