Thursday, June 29, 2006

Movie: A Prairie Home Companion (2006)

I’m just going to admit it. NPR irks me. All those beige voices whispering over sound effects.

So I’ve never heard Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion. Now that I’ve seen the movie, I’m not sure that I want to. I’d prefer to remember it the way Keillor and director Robert Altman have captured it here in all its fractious, chaotic glory.

It’s a musical, a comedy, a backstage drama, an elegy for a bygone era, a lesson on how to conduct oneself in life, and there’s not another movie I can compare it to. All I know is that in its sheer oddness, it held me rapt from first frame to last. Pairing up Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly was a stroke of genius. Meryl Streep, preternaturally at ease in her own skin, can officially do no wrong.

In this Slate piece, Dave Kehr sings the praises of mature directors. He cites Companion along with a few other recent films that I’ve enjoyed (16 Blocks, Find Me Guilty). This means my mother was right: I was born an old man.

After the movie, I observed to Rosemarie that a scene between Tommy Lee Jones and Virginia Madsen reunited the two stars of the 1988 cable film Gotham. She stared at me for a moment and said, “Congratulations. You’re the only person who is not either Tommy Lee Jones or Virginia Madsen to point that out.” Made my day.

Fabian Bielinsky, R.I.P.

The Argentine filmmaker only directed two features. His latest, El Aura, swept his nation’s film awards this week and will be released in the U.S. later this year. His first film Nine Queens is an absolute joy, with a near-perfect ending. Thinking of it now brings a smile to my face.