One of the best movies of the year and one of the best re-discoveries of the last five years. Too much good stuff in this week’s Weekly.
First up, Martin Eden (playing virtual theaters now, and some select theaters next Friday), is a magnificently unmoored adaptation of a Jack London novel:
Directed by Pietro Marcello — who co-wrote the screenplay with Maurizio Braucci — Martin Eden is adapted from Jack London’s 1909 novel about a proletariat writer rising in rank both as a political figure and a celebrity. Both are by accident, and Martin desires neither. The wealthy liberals want to demonize Martin as a socialist, but Martin shakes his head at the socialists: Their struggle is in opposition to the law of nature. But the liberals garner no love either as Martin sees nothing but pilfering hypocrites in them. If Kurt Vonnegut was a man without a country, Martin Eden is a man without a class.Boulder Weekly Vol. 28, No. 10, “Good old-fashioned art cinema“
He is also a man out of time. Martin Eden takes place entirely in Italy, but it’s hard to pin down when. The 20th century seems as good a guess as any. There’s a war coming, but which war? Does it matter? Much like an endless class struggle, there’s always another war coming down the pike. Much in the same way filmmaker Christian Petzold lifted a play from 1946 and transported it to modern-day Europe for his 2018 film, Transit, Marcello takes a 1909 novel and equally unmoors it to great effect. Not knowing adds to the enjoyment.
Speaking of timeless works, Lizzie Borden’s 1983 Born in Flames is a work of sheer genius and hasn’t lost an ounce of its power in almost 40 years. CU-Boulder professor and filmmaker Kelly Sears spoke with me about why she loves the film and how it’s influencing her work:
“I think the moment we jump into this film,” she says, “is when it’s realized that the revolution has not changed conditions.”Home Viewing: Kelly Sears on Born in Flames
That leads Borden to imagine the grassroots efforts needed to continue the revolution.
“There are two pirate radio stations. There’s this rogue women army that’s taking justice for violence against women’s bodies into their own hands,” Sears says. “That next level varies across the film. Sometimes it moves into violence. Sometimes it moves more into community education and organization.”