Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Film: Memory for Max, Claire, Ida and Company (Canada, 2005)


Continuing at the Sydney Film Festival...

This is a documentary about some residents at a retirement home. The director, Allan King, is said to be one of Canada’s great documentary makers. Cinematography doesn’t look great, in fact the film stock looks rather cheap. But the power in this film lies in the words of the old people themselves. A stirring work that puts the humanity into a group of people that are usually kept out of sight; a reminder that they are people, with memories. There’s a lot of humour, a lot of pathos – usually mixed together.

Despite the memory failures, the crankiness and sadness, you learn to respect these people, you learn that behind the fa├žade they had full lives (eg “she was an intelligent businesswoman”), and that they should be forgiven for their deterioration: time will do that to all of us.

It’s a Jewish retirement home, which adds a certain familiar flavour to the mix. And of course, there’s more women than men.

- “How do I look with these glasses?” from a woman old enough that it doesn’t make much difference.
- [A resident asked about Max, and was told “He passed away five days ago.”] “That I don’t remember.”
- [A resident asked why she was upset]: “I’m lonely as the devil. I can’t take it.”
- “You know you said that when you’re 80, you can forget what you like.” “How d’ya like that? I made it up.”
- If I can’t do that I’d go crazy.
- At least I’m not bothering anyone.
- Everybody here is confused. If you weren’t confused, you wouldn’t be here.
- You like the chocolate? - I hate ya. - I’m sorry.
- Will you keep quiet? Will you keep quiet? They’ll put you out of here. (Aside:) God forbid it should happen to any of us. It’s because she married a goy.

- I used to take blood. I learnt a lot. I’m sure there’s something here I could do. Cheer them up a little bit... and now I’m in that position myself. Life’s funny. But I can’t complain, I’ve had a wonderful life. The last years are not good... it’s very wonderful that I can think back.

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