[Weekend Roundup]

Apparently I spent the weekend at the movie theater. Here we go:

A Serious Man is the newest Coen Brothers film, a Job story set in the Minnesota town they grew up in, a Midwest Jewish suburban hell. As it ended, I couldn’t help but think of You, the Living. It has the same sort of grey-blue hope, in one full fable rather than a series of short ones. Michael Stuhlbarg is perfection in the lead (though not the title role), always amazed at what’s happening to him, wondering what he did to deserve it, what he can do to make things change, and what God might have to say about all of this. Ask the rabbi? Good luck with that.

Somehow it seemed to make perfect sense to follow it up with Salesman, a documentary in the 69 series by another set of brothers, David and Albert Maysles, who also filmed Grey Gardens. It follows a group of Bible salesmen as they travel their territories, and as one, Paul Brennan, tries to break his losing streak. Faith is being exploited everywhere — the company exploits the salesmen just as they exploit their customers — with the result that God is nowhere, but audience sympathy is everywhere. Rent & medical bills are due, and $50 for a Bible in the late 60s is an extraordinary amount of money, but as Brennan sucks down cigarettes in cramped hotel rooms and rented cars, you really want the poor guy to make a sale before the company sends him home to Boston and his wife who repeatedly reminds him not to drive too fast.

SIFF Cinema ran a mini Hitchcock festival all weekend, but I only made it over for one double feature: Strangers on a Train & Dial M For Murder which were a lot of fun to see with an audience, Robert Walker & Ray Milland making for a set of delicious villains.