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Junebug (2005)
Filmmaker(s): Phil Morrison

On the way to meet with an independent artist in the South, newlywed art dealer Madeleine is convinced by her husband, George, that they should stop to meet his family in North Carolina. Madeleine's affluent lifestyle clashes with the family, but she befriends George's wide-eyed and pregnant sister-in-law, Ashley, who is nearing her due date. Through the family, Madeleine gains greater insight into George's character.

Junebug (2005)


This is ostensibly a movie in the old, Cassavetes tradition. I’m not a fan of Cassavetes, because he wasn’t very good at being himself. But what he indicated was a certain honesty, a sure translucency of character, beings so open that we inhabit them instead of watching actors do so.

And that’s what this project presents itself as. Oh, there’s the old homecoming of the life partner to a strange and hostile family, that outside shape. But from the first scenes, the very first ones, we know this will be different. It suggests quirkiness in those first scenes, but their intent is only to force us to reset expectations.

And so we have the thing most people will see: two women in various stages of spiritual delinquency, of not knowing. One seems centred, the other almost (but not quite) comically uncentered. But there’s no mistake, this is about two bodies who don’t know their place in the solar system. So they revolve around two brothers, husbands.

Its territory that’s halfway between Sayles and Garcia, I suppose, but so raw and honest, it puts them to shame. Between these two actresses, and the opportunities the others provide, there’s lots of emotional value in this. Lots. I don’t usually recommend films that rely on this — and there are other attractive qualities I’ll mention in a minute.

But if you want a simple adventure into dangerous female territory, this is recommended.

There are two things that by themselves are engaging enough too. The first is the use of space. It is not unique, what he does. But it is rare, so very rare. And instead of sprinkled throughout, he bases the entire context on the notion of empty space that is sometimes populated with humans and their woes, only to soon again become empty. It is powerful, and used powerfully here.

The other interesting construction has to do with a special interest of mine: folding. One sort of folding has the effect of having a story within the movie such that the relationship of a character in the movie to that situation is the same as we are intended to have with the movie. Its a sophisticated device, commonly used by people who don’t understand it because it works.

So when you see someone who manages it so deftly and consciously, its worth admiration, a metaadventure.

This movie is wrapped around northern logic and poise meets the damaged, inadequate people of the south. It is a blunt stereotype that is acknowledged and then honestly exploited without humour or irony. One of our women, the one from the north, meets and admires an artist who is exactly as strange compared to the North Carolina world of the story as that world is meant to be from ours.

He paints pictures of battles and loss. Civil war. Blacks and whites, often the blacks with white faces. Swords and guns and also giant phalluses as swords and guns. Sad Angels, loss and the impossibility of being found.

Our designated lost ship is redheaded as required in deeply folded cinema. Don’t ask me why.

That’s three reasons to recommend this. I would rank it now as one of the two films of 2005 you must see. But I haven’t viewed “Cache” or “ History of Violence“ yet.

Posted in 2006

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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  • MJ
    Posted at 08:10h, 10 December Reply

    Funny, it’s the one that should’ve been called ‘anatomy of hell’.

    Dear Ted,
    If this comment seems like an attack, it might be because I’m angry with You for recommending this. Is there a key to how You pick reviews to revive on this site? Some sense of importance I imagine.

    So this one. For me the fold You mentioned has way less power than the fold carried by the arts dealer character, and mind, ‘outsider arts’ dealer, who must have had a blast living around these live works of art for few days. Or is it the same thing, put in another words? Well, this pleasure, although it provides the reason for the film to have been made, is not enough to ensure a worthwile experience.

    Neither does the presentation of a landscape that consumes and sometimes spits out the characters, simply because it has been done so much better elsewhere (Antonioni, duh, mentioning him feel so pedestrian I feel ashamed but yeah). I have never seen You comment on a Thai director Weerasethakul – he does that with more power than anyone, and have done it beautifully prior to this one in ‘Blisfully yours’.

    Now any liking to this director, who puts to shame neither Sayles or Garcia, evaporates, if You, like me (You see, I live in Poland and nowadays it’s damn hard to put your hands on decent cinema here. I ordered a wonderfull british release of the film with a shitton of extras which contain A COMMENTARY BY TWO LEAD ACTERSSES which I know You mentioned multiple times is a nono an lo, this needs to be heared to be believed, among other insights they comment on their hairdos I’m not kidding) study the deleted scenes. This guy was inches from making a dumb comedy. Nothing in the film made me trust him and these just proved me right.

    Side note: didn’t it strike You odd, that Amy Adams had way too perfect teeth for a redneck chick?

    Now, since we’re talking, I’m begging You to elaborate on this:
    “I’m not a fan of Cassavetes, because he wasn’t very good at being himself”.
    This is of course impossible to verify, but the words You put it in are obvious deliberate pinnacle on possible insults the late man would have zero pleasure of hearing. Which leads me to believe You met him in person and he have done something terribly wrong by You. By Jove, this must be a story of way more juice than meeting Malick at MIT.

    I know I have overstayed my wellcome with this comment, but I want You to know, that I think You’re a wonderfull human being, and I feel happy and privileged to be able to read Your thoughts on Cinema. You’ve opened me up to new dimentions of perceiving visual thought, I thank You and wish you all the best (even though I’m left with this beautiful double dvd release of Junebug which I’m not coming back to – perhaps You’d fancy I’d send it to You?).

    • admin
      Posted at 21:45h, 10 December Reply

      Thanks. You are the first non-spam comment on this new site. As you may know, the comments were originally notes to myself for a massive study for my “AI” work. As time goes on, I am appreciating how much early exposure at MIT and the Community influenced the concepts I still use.

      Then I started posting some on IMDB and became its ‘most popular’ for what was then called ‘comments’. Some MIT students scrubbed the IMDB comments and made a searchable archive, which I then built a little community around. For uninteresting reasons, that work migrated out of the foreground and different expressions now occupy me.

      My current work is successful, it seems, and I want to get back to the folding concepts very soon. So have started to collect the old and new ones here toward some yet unknown purpose. Today about a tenth — randomly selected — have migrated over, and no site design applied. I’m not sure just what to do with the public presence, as it takes a lot of work and that has to be subtracted from what I do with close collaborators.

      As to ‘June Bug’, I apologise. I write these while the movie is fresh in my mind and except for a few films pretty much forget what it was. So I couldn’t say what I liked other than what I wrote at the time…16 years ago!

      I was lucky enough to meet a few folks who later became notable.

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