Surprises at the Cinematheque

The Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque shows lesser-known films, including documentaries and foreign films that other theaters typically ignore.

However, one big draw is the opportunity to see older films on the big screen. The idea of watching both a more modern, obscure title and a classic in a theater setting interested me, so I went to try both. Over the last weekend, I saw two films: a 2015 Belgian documentary called “No Home Movie” and the 1949 classic “Late Spring.”

I arrived to the showing of “No Home Movie” early. The first shot was a simple branch blowing in the wind. I liked it at first, but this shot continued for what had to be minutes. “Oh God,” I thought, “the whole film won’t be like this, would it?”

I should explain: The context of the film is important. “No Home Movie” is a documentary by Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman about her mother, who recently passed away. Unfortunately, Chantal Akerman took her own life a few months after the project was completed. The film is edited together from hours of footage that Akerman took before her death.

Obviously, this was an emotional endeavor, and you can certainly feel it. The movie features multiple conversations between mother and daughter. These are the best parts, as we can partake in these real conversations and see our own relationships with our family in them. However, in between these conversations are many shots that lack purpose. They go on for far too long and show uninteresting material. One shot is just multiple minutes of looking out the window of a moving car. This definitely tested my patience, and multiple patrons in the theater agreed, very audibly in fact.

As a result, this film has a monstrously slow pace, and it felt like a genuine struggle to get to the next interesting scene. The long shots and heartwarming conversations do bring up interesting ideas about how people in grief remember those they lost. In that sense, this movie works better as a video essay than an event to go to the theater for.

Next up was “Late Spring,” a Japanese film by director Yasujiro Ozu. The negatives themselves were over 60 years old. It amazed me that I was sitting there watching a film on celluloid older than my parents. The film follows the story of a widower (Chishu Ryu) who lives happily with his daughter Noriko (Setsuko Hara), but now the father thinks that the time has come for Noriko to be wed.

The film is technically a drama, but there are many funny moments. The script is loaded with jokes about everyday life that anyone can relate to. The comedy is also helped by the actors, who have a natural charisma whenever they are on screen. However they also produce a somber tone when needed.

The main struggle in the film is that both father and daughter are content with their current situation, but feel obligated by tradition to enter a new stage in their lives. They are told that this is the natural cycle of the world and this is the way people achieve true happiness. They wonder if they could defy tradition and stay happy instead of taking the actions that everyone else says will be better.

This movie is a fascinating tale about families in transition, although it is a slow burn. If you can handle a slower pace, I have no problem recommending this.

All in all, at the Cinematheque, like all theaters, you will see movies you like and some you don’t. However, in an age where every major film is highly publicized, there is a joy in watching movies without preconceived ideas about them. It satisfies an old curiosity and allows going to the movies to be a surprise again.

Films: “No Home Movie” and “Late Spring”
Directors: Chantal Akerman and Yasujiro Ozu
Release dates: 2015 and 1949