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Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Writer's Life 2/11 - Innocents & Others

It's not often that a film or book is fresh. Almost always originality comes from personal spin on a common theme. The Innocents (2016), which I saw last night courtesy of Netflix, is as fresh as cinema gets. The time is 1945. WWII is winding down. A convent is overrun by Soviet soldiers. The nuns are raped repeatedly for a few days. As many as seven become pregnant. One enlists the aid of a female French doctor working for the Red Cross. The babies are delivered in secrecy to allay the shame and prevent a scandal that would force the closing of the convent. The tone is grim, somber until the final minutes. This is a tough, uncompromising look at the human condition. It begs the eternal question of how one maintains faith in the face of horror. Given its hardboiled feel, I would never have guessed it was directed by a woman, Anne Fontaine, who was born in Luxembourg. She collaborated with four others on the screenplay. It was her 16th stint at the helm. She also has 17 credits as a writer and 13 as an actress. The cast was completely unfamiliar to me, which is always a plus, as there are no preconceived notions attached to the players. They are first-rate, especially Lou de Laage, who plays the doctor, a woman ahead of her time. She seems destined for a long career. The pace is slow, the events grounded in realism. I was not bored during the less than two hours running time. There is an almost complete lack of sun. The settings are dark and bleak. It is challenging viewing but ultimately rewarding. Its appeal is restricted to those who prefer the most serious of stories. Anyone who cannot relate to the mindset of the religious should pass, as should those who  dislike subtitled works. 3500+ users at IMDb have rated The Innocents, forging to a consensus of 7.4 of ten. That seems right. My only quibble is the difficulty of getting the characters straight, since most are wearing a habit. Then again, that might reflect my own shortcomings.

The Golden State Warriors have a star-studded roster. Last night Draymond Green did something no NBA player had ever done. He scored only four points but had 12 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals, the rarest triple-double ever. Kudos... Also on the NBA front, it is sad but not surprising that former Knick Charles Oakley is being praised by many for his outburst at MSG the other night. He was yelling at the team's owner, James Dolan, whose reign has been a colossal failure. The frustration of fans is understandable, but backing someone who gets into a physical tussle with security is ludicrous. Oakley should have walked away after making his point.

I had no luck selling books on the street today. I was privileged, though, to be part of a three-way conversation. When Mayor Mike, a local super, professed his surprise at having seen a Hasidic neighbor walking a dog, which he thought a violation of the creed, Mr. Conspiracy asked if it had been circumcised, which really got Mike's funny bone.
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