Ask Dr. Ruth, The White Crow and Long Day’s Journey Into Night are three of the films that are currently playing in a theatre near you in the US. Two of the films are biopics and the third is a moody film noir from China.
Director Ryan White’s biopic Ask Dr Ruth makes for an interesting watch. The biopic of 91 year old Dr. Ruth Westheimer better known as Dr. Ruth traces the ups and down of her life. Dr Ruth is known for her relentless optimism and desire to help people learn the facts of life. But, behind that relentless optimism is a lot of sadness and loss.
Dr. Ruth was born in Germany and led a happy life. But, all that changed during World War II when was sent away to Switzerland to escape persecution in Germany. Her parents remained in Germany and eventually died in the holocaust. From Germany she went to Israel and from there to France and to the US, where she finally settled down.
The film underscores how Dr. Ruth refuses to give in to pity or blame others for the pitfalls in her life. Instead, she is fiercely determined to survive, make things happen and be happy and kind to others. How Dr. Ruth lives her life should inspire us to get out of our personal doldrums and learn to live and help others.
The White Crow is a biopic of the legendary ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev played by Oleg Ivenko. Ralph Fiennes directed, produced and acted in The White Crow that is a little over 2 hours long. The film’s narrow focus is on Nureyev’s defection at Paris airport in 1961 during the height of Cold War. In 1961 Nureyev was part of the Kirov Ballet that was on tour of France, and instead of boarding the plane to the USSR, Nureyev decides to defect.
While Fiennes does go back to Nureyev’s childhood and shows how be became a dancer, the film is largely focused on how and why Nureyev defected. The White Crow is a bit on the quieter side, which comes as a surprise when you consider Nureyev was famous for his fiery temper. What stands out in the film is Ivenko’s dancing.
The White Crow is Fiennes’s third film as a director. Coriolanus and The Invisible Woman were his other two films he directed.
Director Bi Gan’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night makes for an interesting and absorbing watch about a solitary man’s journey back to him hometown of Kaili in Southwest China. This is Gan’s second feature film set in his hometown of Kaili. Gan’s first feature film was Kaili Blues.
Huang Jue plays the role of the protagonist in Long Day’s Journey Into Night where his journey is told first in 2D and then it is re-told in 3D. Sadly, I watched the film online and missed the 3D experience. But, I did sit up and notice that it looks like Gan was retelling the story, and it seemed a little different in the way it was shot. I don’t see any cuts and it seems like one long shot I scribbled in my notebook. How can that be I silently thought? After watching the film I did some research to find out what I had missed. I discovered that indeed it was shot in one long shot and that there were 3 cinematographers for this film.
What is intriguing about Gan’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night is how you sit up and notice the influence of various filmmakers. For example within the first few minutes I went, “Wait, that music sounds like a David Lynch film,” or that scene reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock. I found answers to my question of who influenced Gan’s filmmaking style in this interview from The Criterion Collection.
Gan’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night needs to be viewed in an unhurried manner. If you are looking for an action packed, slickly edited film then Long Day’s Journey Into Night is not your film. But, if you are looking for a slow, moody and an interesting narrative about a solitary man’s journey to his past then this is your kind of film.
Photo credit of The White Crow by Sony Pictures Classics