Thursday, November 19, 2020

Bob's Cinema Diary: 11/20/20 -- 'The Last Vermer' and 'The Sound of Metal'

The Last Vermeer

In The Last Vermeer, Guy Pearce plays Han van Meegeren, a notorious Dutch art forger who famously sold a fake Vermeer to Nazi bigwig Hermann Goring during World War II. Director Dan Friedkin centers his movie on a post-war accusation: Van Meegeren, Dutch authorities argued, betrayed his country by selling a national treasure to Goring. Van Meegeren concocted an unusual defense: He hadn't sold a Vermeer to a Nazi: He sold a forgery that he skillfully had painted. The story focuses on a Dutch Jew (Claes Bang) who, at the end of the war, serves in the Canadian army. His job: to root out those among the Dutch who collaborated with the Nazis. Initially convinced of van Meegeren's guilt, Bang's character comes to understand that the man was a gifted art mimic who had engineered a colossal fraud. Sincere and stalwart, Bang's Capt. Joseph Piller gets crosswise with a Dutch investigator (August Diehl) who's eager to put van Meegeren in front of a firing squad. The movie flirts with issues involving the complex behaviors that emerged as the Dutch tried to survive the Nazis. Piller fled into the underground: His wife (Marie Bach Hansen) made compromises to survive. Though it veers from the real story, The Last Vermeer remains fascinating for Pearce's portrayal of a man of enormous ego and moral flexibility, a character who contrasts mightily with the dour Piller. It's 
also sobering to know that a gifted forger can fool even those who are recognized as experts.

 Sound of Metal
In Sound of Metal, Riz Ahmed plays a punk-rock drummer who may have lost his hearing as a result of exposure to ear-splitting levels of noise. The movie isn't definitive about what caused Ahmed's Ruben to lose his hearing, but a musician who can't hear obviously finds himself at a great disadvantage. A recovering addict, Ruben is intent on regaining his hearing by way of cochlear implants, which are expensive and beyond his immediate financial reach. Ruben's girlfriend (Olivia Cooke) insists that he check into a facility run by a deaf Vietnam vet (Paul Raci) who trains people to live with their deafness. Raci's Joe doesn't view deafness as a disability but as a gateway to different forms of communication. Director Darius Marder creates a sound design that frequently mirrors Rubin's perspective. Ahmed creates a character whose nervous energies  and anxieties give the story a jittery edge. The movie ultimately leaves it to us to decide whether implants or adjustment to a life of deafness makes the most sense for Ruben. Marder reaches for    metaphor as Joe encourages Ruben to find the still, quiet place in himself, something that clearly has eluded a life marked by addiction, drumming and frantic movement. Whatever you think about Ruben's choice, you find yourself wondering how much of the noise that surrounds us really is worth hearing.

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