“Quartet” and “War Witch”

Pauline Collins, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Maggie Smith in "Quartet"

Pauline Collins, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Maggie Smith in “Quartet”

Lately I have been having trouble writing about the films I have seen.  I am going to movies, but afterwards experiencing difficulty putting together the words for an article, or articles.  I always have an emotional experience (of some kind) at a movie.  The trick though is to translate that emotion into words. I do not know if my struggles to accomplish this count as “film burn out,” from having seen too many films (is there such a thing?), or general weariness from a busy schedule.  In addition to writing this column, I teach three college courses and work in the film industry as a post-production supervisor.   So, this past week, I saw two movies that I liked, “Quartet” and “War Witch.”  Granted, these films could not be more different from each another.  One is about a group of elderly singers putting on a show, while the other is about a child soldier in Africa.

“Quartet,” is playing locally at City Cinemas Village East Cinema, at 181 Second Avenue. I think it is a safe bet that I was the youngest person at the early morning screening that I attended this past Saturday. The film, directed by Dustin Hoffman, is part of what I think of as an emerging genre of films geared toward an older crowd (which does not preclude younger  audiences from enjoying them as well).  Recent examples include “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (2011) and “The Boynton Beach Club” (2005).  I am sure that there are others good examples that I am leaving out.

At any rate, it was a small group of us in one of the multiplex’s tiny downstairs theatres (By the way, all shows before noon are only six-dollars). “Quartet” is a film with a paper-thin story to be sure, but filled with interesting characters who live at a senior residence for opera singers and musicians, in England. Yes, the story comes down to the big show which will hopefully save the home from closing, but there is lots of great music, interesting characters and relationships along the way.   It is enjoyable without being earth shattering.  The cast includes Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins and Michael Gambon.

My favorite scene in “Quartet” involves Tom Courtenay’s character, Regi, explaining opera to a group of teen-aged students, one of whom is into rap music.  Regi shows a talent for getting their attention by meeting them at their level.  He tells them that opera began as entertainment for the common people, before it was appropriated by the elite.  Regi points out that, in opera, if someone is stabbed in the back he sings, while in rap he dies.  It is a nice scene, among many.

“War Witch” is a lyrical and beautifully made movie about a girl in her early teens who is forced into a rebel army in Africa.  The film is playing locally at Angelika Film Center, 18 West Houston Street.

Komona (Rachel Mwanza) is kidnapped from her village and forced to become a rebel child soldier.  The psychological trauma that Komona goes through is expressed in the form of ghosts representing those she has killed, including her own mother and father.

“War Witch” is not an easy film to watch. It does not go into the politics of the situation but simply presents us with strong characters in impossible positions to which there are no easy solutions.

So, two very different films about the human condition.  One concerns characters who are older, while the other is about a young character who has to grow up way too fast.


About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on March 6, 2013, in Comedy, New and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hey, Seth! It’s “Bubbles” here — an old teacher of yours! Your interest in films is akin to that of my niece and I’d suggest you look into her blog: Confessions of a TCM crack ho.
    Who knows — one day we may all sit around and reminisce!

  2. Alexis Rupert

    They both sound like very good films! Your reviews are always helpful. Sounds like you are very busy now.

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