Nov 6, 2014

Philip always tells the truth, and exactly what is on his mind.

Except when he lies.  But, his lies are lies of omission or plain thoughtlessness.  And, because he believes he is an open book and everything he thinks or does is so obvious, to be thought of as a given, any chance he might have to find true happiness in his life, with or without a lifetime partner, is suffocated.  

Philip is played by Jason Schwartzman in the film Listen Up Philip, which was written and directed by Alex Ross Perry, and is truly one of the best films I have seen in years.  (And, this comes on the heels of Los Angeles Plays Itself -- another masterpiece.  So, I am getting very lucky lately with the cinema.) 

There are so many things to love about Listen Up Philip.  I love the fact that there are no tidy endings, or serious romantic hookups; that real love in this universe is fleeting and might last no longer than the second it takes to throw a glance in someone's direction.  I love that there are so few likable people in the picture.  I am so tired of the maxim that films and novels and plays have to have likable people in them to be great or appreciated.  It seems such a lazy criticism.  I love that the story is constantly changing focus, moving from the country to New York City and back so haphazardly.  It makes it feel like a real novel.  That you are watching.  Which is just an astounding amazing trick all of itself.  I love the stylized, again novelized (if you will) dialogue. Everyone tells the truth constantly.  Insight and keen personal perception are never precious in this film.  Everyone seems capable of summing up their exact feelings and emotions in breathtaking devastating brevity.  There is absolutely no small talk.  Zimmerman's daughter susses Philip the instant they meet.  And, never once does a single character in this film refrain from expressing themselves.  Ever.  I love the fact that some characters disappear for long stretches of the film.  I love the novelistic voice over narration, which is normally a conceit in films that I do not like.  I love the end titles.  I love Elizabeth Moss, Jason Schwartzman, Jonathan Pryce, Krysten Ritter, and Joséphine de La Baume.  I love the way the film plays with our ideas about storytelling.  It is as if Alex Ross Perry has written a novel with film stock.  An experimental challenging novel in which no one wears a mask or hides their feelings about any gesture or opinion or emotion.  Which only goes to prove that in that kind of 'utopian' sort of life, where there are no lies, and everything is always on the table, there can also be no lasting love or real happiness.

These are my feelings.  And, I have already heard from a colleague who differs.  (Which did not take long, by the way, and seemed the perfect riposte that proves the point of this film.) But, this might just be a Michael thing.  I can definitely understand why others might dislike this film, even if I have bookmarked Alex Ross Perry's name in my own personal, never to be published, novel of the cinema.  He is a name to watch, and for me, Listen Up Philip is an absolute master work.

All my love,

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