Movies I’ve Recently Seen: One Sings, the Other Doesn’t; Downton Abbey; & Da Sweet Blood of Jesus

In the last few weeks, I’ve had few chances to see movies that aren’t playing at the Mill Valley Film Festival. But I got to see these:

A- One Sings, the Other Doesn’t (1977), Criterion Channel

Agnès Varda’s small epic sometimes feels like the best of the hippy era – as opposed to her Vagabond, which shows the worst). It follows two young women from 1962 to 1976 – not always in chronological order. Suzanne (Thérèse Liotard) is an unwed mother who struggles to care for her two children and eventually works in family planning. Pomme (Valérie Mairesse, the subtitles call her Apple) writes and sings feminist folk songs; she’s not a famous recording artist, but she gets by. They experience troubles and tragedy, but overall the film feels optimistic. A few scenes were filmed in Iran, only a few years before the revolution; Varda didn’t know that she was filming a country about to drastically change.

B Downton Abbey (2019), Shattuck

If you liked the TV series, you’ll probably enjoy the movie (I did). The King and his retinue are coming to Downton Abbey. The highborn Crawleys, and the commoners who married into the family, are delighted and excited and scared. Tom, of course, has negative feelings about the royals as he’s still an Irish republican at heart. Most of the fun comes from the servants, who can’t stand the arrogant domestics that travel with the royal family. Of course, the Downton folks take them down a peg. And Barrows discovers love and real friendship.

D- Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014), Kanopy

This vampire movie is easily the worst Spike Lee Joint I’ve seen. The characters’ motivations are on the level of porn. How bad is it? A man tells a woman that her husband committed suicide, and she immediately has sex with him. That’s how bad it is. The leading actors succeed in looking great naked, but that’s about it. The concept is that human blood is an addiction, and it’s never clear why some victims get the addiction, along with immortality, while others simply die. On the upside, the opening credits are fantastic.

The closing credits mention that Lee received the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize. There’s some irony in this, considering that Lillian Gish starred in Birth of a Nation and never really acknowledged the film’s extreme racism.