A Useful Life (2010)
Movies Make the World Go Round
For a movie which clocks in at only 70 minutes "A Useful Life" has left me in turmoil because there is as much about it that I love as I dislike. It's hard to explain why I am left in this position of being torn because whilst not a complex movie you need to see it to appreciate why I find myself in a contradictory opinion. And here is the thing "A Useful Life" is a foreign language movie but trust me don't let that be an obstacle to your viewing because it is easy to understand.
Now "A useful Life" is about a man, Jorge, who has spent his entire adult life working at Cinemateca, an uncomplicated existence where he chooses what movies to show, makes sure seats work and generally enjoys the routine life of showing and watching movies from around the world as well as promoting them on the radio. But that all changes when the cinema is no longer financially viable and he finds his life detached from reality thrown into turmoil as his routine is shattered and has to contend with life outside the cinema's walls.
Now what I like about "A Useful Life" is that I can relate to Jorge, I may not be into world cinema or work in a cinema like he does but I know that feeling of security in having a passion for movies. And as such there is something touching and amusing about this tale as we watch Jorge initially struggle after leaving the cinema with still his life being played out via soundtracks playing in his head. A scene where he dances on a grand staircase illustrates almost the detachment from reality as he recreates a scene from a movie he has watched by doing so. This side of it works and also does a nice job of highlighting how independent cinemas struggle from dwindling numbers.
But then there is the side of the movie I dislike and this is where it seems to contradict itself. There is a scene where Jorge is hosting his radio show and his guest speaker is waffling on about cinema as art with Jorge looking bored senseless in the background. Now you could say that the scene is taking a swipe at the artsy nature of independent cinema and those who over analyze movies, yet the entire movie is done in a black & white artsy style. Maybe I missed the point, maybe the slow unhurried story lost me for a minute but it causes me to dislike it for trying to be artsy.
But then it is incredibly watchable and there is a beauty about it, which leaves me more torn than ever between liking and disliking it. In the end what truly makes it work for me is Jorge Jellinek as Jorge because he delivers a telling performance often more so in his silent moments that when he speaks. Although I had to smile at the scene where he is rehearsing what to say to a woman who he would love to ask out.
What this boils down to is that "A Useful Life" is a beautiful movie to watch but one which I like as much as I dislike. At just 70 minutes it isn't long and is well worth the watch especially if you are a film geek whose life revolves around movies.
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