Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving Break Hours

Monday, Nov. 25: 8:00 AM - 11:50 PM
Tuesday, Nov. 26 & Wednesday, Nov. 27: 8:00 AM - 4:50 PM

Thursday, November 28 - Sunday, December 1: CLOSED

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Watch This: Oldboy

A bi-weekly series featuring a recommendation of a movie available in the Reeves Memorial Library DVD collection

Oldboy (2003)
Directed by Park Chan-wook

With Spike Lee's American remake of Oldboy slated for theatrical release on November 27, it's worth revisiting director Park Chan-wook's acclaimed 2003 original, a violent, twisty masterpiece that has remained a hallmark of South Korea's recent filmmaking renaissance.  Oldboy is the second film in Park's so-called "Vengeance Trilogy" (alongside Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) and Lady Vengeance (2005)), a trio of films which share the central theme of revenge.  None of the three films is a straightforward revenge thriller, and Park demonstrates a knack for exposing the complex web of violence and unforeseen consequences that can spring from acts of vengeance.

Oldboy begins with a drunken man named Oh Dae-su being abducted on the street after calling home to apologize for missing his young daughter's birthday.  He is imprisoned without explanation in what appears to be a shabby hotel room.  The room has a television, and he learns from a news broadcast that his wife was murdered, and that he is the prime suspect, his blood and fingerprints having been found at the scene of the crime.  He is gassed periodically, awakening to find his hair cut and his room cleaned.  He keeps a journal listing all of the people he wronged over the years, a surprisingly long chronicle of his misdeeds, and he becomes obsessed with the idea of finding and killing the person who had him imprisoned.  He stays in shape and learns to fight by watching boxing on television, and then shadowboxing and punching the walls of his cell.

Inexplicably, after 15 years, he is set free, finding himself clad in an expensive suit and wristwatch, and in possession of a cell phone and a wallet full of cash.  He goes to a restaurant, where the young female chef tells him he looks familiar.  He says she looks familiar too.  His phone rings, and on the other end of the line is the man who imprisoned him, asking him to think back over his whole lifetime to solve the riddle of his imprisonment.  After passing out, Dae-su wakes up in the apartment of the young chef, whose name is Mi-do.  She has been caring for him, and as she helps him begin to track down those who imprisoned him, they fall quickly in love.  Dae-su locates the prison by finding the restaurant the prison's food came from, then following a delivery boy.  Soon after, the identity of Oh Dae-su's adversary is revealed, and Dae-su must race to find the reason for his imprisonment in order to save Mi-do's life.

I will refrain from revealing any further plot details, as one of the primary pleasures of watching the film is seeing the unexpected twists and turns that the story takes.  Suffice it to say that Lee Woo-jin, the man responsible for Dae-su's imprisonment, has his own plans for vengeance that extend well beyond simple isolation in a cell for 15 years, and that these plans are for more diabolical than anything Dae-su, or most viewers, would have initially anticipated.

Admittedly, Oldboy is not for everyone.  There are scenes of shocking violence (although no scene may be harder to watch than that in which Dae-su devours of a live octopus), and revelations that will make even the most seasoned viewer uneasy.  The film is also pervaded by a humor streak as black as they come.  However, there are numerous instances of dazzling technical virtuosity (the fight scene in the prison hallway was shot in a single take), and many viewers may be surprised at how affecting the film's third act is.  It is unusual for a work as violent and dark as Oldboy to explore such extreme emotional depths, and there are very few films that so effectively convey the repercussions of a life spent consumed by vengeance.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Watch This: Homicide

A bi-weekly series featuring a recommendation of a movie available in the Reeves Memorial Library DVD collection

Homicide (1991)
Written and directed by David Mamet

"What are you, then?"

Very rarely can the central theme of a film be summed up in a single, short line of spoken dialogue.  On its surface, David Mamet's Homicide is a murder mystery, concerned with a police detective's investigation into the killing of an elderly Jewish candy store owner.  At the film's heart, however, lies the detective's exploration of his own identity.

Detective Bobby Gold (portrayed by Mamet regular Joe Mantegna) is a secular Jew.  His Jewish heritage does not appear to be a significant part of how he defines himself, and only seems to be important to him when he becomes the target of anti-Semitic slurs.  Gold is respected by his colleagues, although there are inklings that he must downplay his Jewish heritage in order to fit in.  Still, much of his sense of self seems to come from his inclusion in the community of his fellow police officers.  "I'm a cop" is the way he identifies himself to others.

Gold and his partner, Sullivan (William H. Macy in a standout performance), have become involved in the high-profile case of Robert Randolph, a violent criminal in hiding from the police.  On their way to apprehend one of his associates, they happen upon a fresh crime scene, where an elderly Jewish woman has been shot behind the counter of her corner candy store.  The woman's family is convinced that she was the victim of an anti-Semitic hate crime.  After finding out that Gold is Jewish, they use their influence to get him assigned to her case.  Gold is at first uncooperative, preferring to work on the Randolph case instead, and dismissing their assertions that the woman was killed because she was Jewish.  However, as obscure clues begin to suggest that she was involved in gun running for a Zionist organization, and that she may indeed have been the target of an anti-Semitic group, the case becomes the catalyst for Gold's exploration of his own Jewish identity.

In a pivotal scene, Gold visits a library to ask a Jewish scholar for help in deciphering the meaning of a clue.  While Gold is waiting, he converses with a Jewish man who is reading at a nearby study table.  Gold says he is Jewish, but when the man asks him to read a passage in Hebrew from the Book of Esther, Gold responds with some embarrassment that he can't.  The man replies, "You say you're a Jew, but you can't read Hebrew.  What are you, then?"  Gold has no answer.  Determined to find the woman's killers, and more importantly to prove to himself and others that he is a good Jew, he becomes involved with a secret organization whose motives are not what they appear to be.

As a playwright and filmmaker, David Mamet is best known for creating works in which things are never what they seem, in which deception and duplicity take center stage.  Here, the deception lies not only in the machinations of the plot, but also in Gold's misapprehension that he can embrace his Jewish identity without sacrificing his standing among his fellow police officers.  As the case of the murdered woman and Gold's own journey of self-discovery begin to dominate his professional and personal lives, the Randolph case moves further and further into the periphery, and he risks alienating himself from his peers on the police force.  It seems that Gold must make a choice about who he is: cop or Jew?  The question is, if he alienates himself from both groups, then who is he?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Library Hours Nov. 4-6

Library hours will be adjusted for Monday, November 4th through Wednesday, November 6th for the services for Dr. Boyle.

Monday & Tuesday: 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Wednesday: CLOSED

Please keep the Boyle family in your thoughts and prayers.