29 Housekeeping

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Lost Highway
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Re: Housekeeping (Bill Forsyth, 1987)

#26 Post by Lost Highway » Fri May 18, 2018 12:32 pm

swo17 wrote:
Lost Highway wrote:Is it wrong to say that this doesn’t feel like a movie made by a man ? It’s just that i can’t say that about many films written and directed by men. There are many films by men with great understanding of their female protagonists, but the three female characters here are so subtly rendered here.
Well it was co-written by a woman.
It was adapted by Bill Forsyth from a novel by Marylinne Robinson. They didn't co-write the screenplay.

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swo17
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Re: Housekeeping (Bill Forsyth, 1987)

#27 Post by swo17 » Fri May 18, 2018 12:38 pm

Ah, I was going off IMDb's main page for the film.

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Lost Highway
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Re: Housekeeping (Bill Forsyth, 1987)

#28 Post by Lost Highway » Fri May 18, 2018 12:40 pm

swo17 wrote:Ah, I was going off IMDb's main page for the film.
Its a great adaptation and there is no doubt that many of the virtues of the film are largely down to the novel. I loved Forsyth‘s previous films but they all had male protagonists, so the way he deals with female characters here was something new.

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Roscoe
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Re: Housekeeping (Bill Forsyth, 1987)

#29 Post by Roscoe » Fri May 18, 2018 1:51 pm

Agreed -- HOUSEKEEPING is one of the most absurdly overlooked films ever made.

beamish14
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Re: Housekeeping (Bill Forsyth, 1987)

#30 Post by beamish14 » Fri May 18, 2018 4:13 pm

One of the most resplendent and richly rewarding films to have been produced by Hollywood in the last 50 years. It doesn't offer any simple solutions or have any moral platitudes. It's not surprising that Columbia was utterly clueless as to how to market it (they tried pushing it as a goofy comedy of all things, as evidenced by the terrible North American poster and trailer), and it was shamefully neglected by many critics. Sometimes you watch a film where every single element is completely aligned: the casting of the untested child leads and Christine Lahti, the perfect direction, and its magnificent rhythm.

Housekeeping was also part of a slew of films that really took advantage of British Columbia's scenery during this period, which also includes The Grey Fox, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains and My American Cousin.

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hearthesilence
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Re: Housekeeping (Bill Forsyth, 1987)

#31 Post by hearthesilence » Tue May 22, 2018 4:04 pm

I already posted quite a bit about this elsewhere on this forum - I wish I could revisit it now but my copy's still out on loan to a friend who's never seen it.

I first heard about this through Jonathan Rosenbaum - he gave a glowing review when it first came out (putting it at #3 on his top ten list of films that made it to Chicago in 1988) and then included it in his "alternative 100" list in response to the myopic 'Top 100 American Films' list from the AFI (protesting what the AFI seemed to define as a 'worthy' film - for example, no documentaries and no experimental films, but also a marked prejudice against indie films, B-films and even major studio films that didn't make a lot of money or Oscars). I didn't see it until 2009 when Film Forum screened a brand-new 35mm print, with Forsyth giving a long talk and even Peter Reigert from Local Hero sitting in the audience to both watch the film and listen afterwards. I eventually purchased the iTunes HD download but despite striking a new print, Sony never did anything else with it except release a MOD. Thankfully Indicator came along and I highly recommend their re-issue to anyone who likes this film - the bonuses are exemplary and certainly put the company on the map for collectors and cinephiles.

I knew the film came at a time when a new regime at Columbia notoriously sabotaged some exceptional films green-lit by the previous regime, doing everything from striking fewer prints to doing either a poor job or very little in terms of marketing. (Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen was the worst casualty, as Gilliam even compromised on the cut believing Columbia wouldn't properly distribute the film if he didn't - he was wrong.) As I learned from the extras, the head of Columbia who green-lit these wonderful films was none other than David Puttnam, Forsyth's producer on Local Hero (which was released several years before Puttnam ran Columbia). I imagine his presence protected Housekeeping when it was shot and completed, but he left the studio two months before it hit theaters, and one has to wonder if that had an impact on how it was distributed.

It was also startling to hear that Diane Keaton was originally attached as the lead, and given her clout she was pushing for a romantic interest in the film. Amusingly, Forsyth seems to suggest that Sam Shepherd was pushed as that romantic interest - eventually Keaton left the film to do Baby Boom which (in terms of money) was a much more commercial and high-profile production than Housekeeping and sure enough Sam Shepherd was her love interest in that film. Her departure nearly killed the film but when Lahti signed on, it was revived - for a smaller budget perhaps, but it's clear that Forsyth is much more comfortable with smaller budgets. He's been upfront that his later, more expensive Being Human felt wasteful compared to the leaner (and presumably more efficient and less bureaucratic) films he made before.

Coming a few years after her wonderful performance in Swing Shift (which should now be recognized as a masterpiece - it's finally been 'restored' if you know what I mean), she really establishes herself as one of the great American film actors of the '80s. While she did find television fame later on, winning Emmy's for Chicago Hope, part of what made her so effective in these films is that she didn't have a star persona - unlike Keaton who is clearly DIANE KEATON in everything she's chosen to do, Lahti disappears more into a character and feels much more organic to her surroundings. Granted she plays an eccentric here, but the dynamic would be very different if it was a star persona adored by the moviegoing public being dropped into a ordinary, conventional town.

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Lost Highway
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Re: 29 Housekeeping

#32 Post by Lost Highway » Mon May 28, 2018 7:45 am

I think Keaton would have been good in the role but it’s disappointing to read that leading ladies of that era insisted on romantic leads or on foregrounding romance.

Wasn’t it Goldie Hawn’s insistence on emphasizing her romance with Kurt Russell which basically ruined, or at least severely damaged Swing Shift ? And ironically Christine Lahti was the victim of Hawn’s demands, seeing her role reduced.

beamish14
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Re: 29 Housekeeping

#33 Post by beamish14 » Mon May 28, 2018 7:49 pm

Lost Highway wrote:
Mon May 28, 2018 7:45 am
I think Keaton would have been good in the role but it’s disappointing to read that leading ladies of that era insisted on romantic leads or on foregrounding romance.

Wasn’t it Goldie Hawn’s insistence on emphasizing her romance with Kurt Russell which basically ruined, or at least severely damaged Swing Shift ? And ironically Christine Lahti was the victim of Hawn’s demands, seeing her role reduced.
Hawn believed that Demme had made the film more of an ensemble piece, and in the process, significantly weakened the potency of her own work. Ironically, Lahti STILL got an Oscar nomination, but I think Hawn would've as well if she'd had the sense to leave it alone.

As an aside, it's interesting to note that both Peter Riegert and Christine Lahti both got Oscar nominations for short films they directed, and Lahti took home the award for hers. Lath's was made by the great Chanticleer Films, a production company known for producing live action shorts, which produced an astonishing number of Oscar nominees during its relatively short existence.

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Drucker
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Re: Indicator: Housekeeping

#34 Post by Drucker » Sun Oct 06, 2019 9:07 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Sat Jul 15, 2017 12:57 pm
An interesting film. I loved the first act, but liked the film less as it went along. I struggled to separate the mental illness of Lahti's character from the reverence the film gave her via her persecution and the wistful remembrances of Ruth-- fundamentally this woman should not have been supervising / caring for two teenagers, who are subsequently forced to raise themselves and her. Shades of Almodovar's recent Julieta, perhaps, but that later film didn't try to excuse the protagonist's behavior. It's hard to not see a film like this, with its outsiders vs the system construction, as dangerously bolstering the wrong side of the argument just because the close-minded town disapproves. There are so many individual elements the film nails and I am left with several positive takeaways and impactful moments, but this film started as an observant study of two young girls marked by the constant flux of tragedy and became an apologia for a third character I didn't much care about or for
Just saw this screened in 35mm with Forsyth and Christine Lahti in person and this comment stuck out in my head as a few questions were flagged about the film being a 'feminist' film. Lahti herself remarked about how contemporary critics of the film called out the problems of Lahti overseeing these children, and she always disagreed with that reading. Her reading is that Lahti's character provides an 'escape' and a 'way out' for Ruth. She clearly doesn't read the film as Sylvie being a crazy person that's endangering her nieces. Just two cents I thought were worth sharing.

It was a lovely discussion, she clearly had a great time making the film and both her and Forsyth exchanged accolades and praise for each other and their role in helping create the film. Forsyth pointed out that he provided a lot of space for Lahti to set the tone of the scenes and let her influence the takes once the cameras were rolling.

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hearthesilence
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Re: Indicator: Housekeeping

#35 Post by hearthesilence » Sun Oct 06, 2019 9:37 pm

Drucker wrote:
Sun Oct 06, 2019 9:07 pm
domino harvey wrote:
Sat Jul 15, 2017 12:57 pm
An interesting film. I loved the first act, but liked the film less as it went along. I struggled to separate the mental illness of Lahti's character from the reverence the film gave her via her persecution and the wistful remembrances of Ruth-- fundamentally this woman should not have been supervising / caring for two teenagers, who are subsequently forced to raise themselves and her. Shades of Almodovar's recent Julieta, perhaps, but that later film didn't try to excuse the protagonist's behavior. It's hard to not see a film like this, with its outsiders vs the system construction, as dangerously bolstering the wrong side of the argument just because the close-minded town disapproves. There are so many individual elements the film nails and I am left with several positive takeaways and impactful moments, but this film started as an observant study of two young girls marked by the constant flux of tragedy and became an apologia for a third character I didn't much care about or for
Just saw this screened in 35mm with Forsyth and Christine Lahti in person and this comment stuck out in my head as a few questions were flagged about the film being a 'feminist' film. Lahti herself remarked about how contemporary critics of the film called out the problems of Lahti overseeing these children, and she always disagreed with that reading. Her reading is that Lahti's character provides an 'escape' and a 'way out' for Ruth. She clearly doesn't read the film as Sylvie being a crazy person that's endangering her nieces. Just two cents I thought were worth sharing.

It was a lovely discussion, she clearly had a great time making the film and both her and Forsythe exchanged accolades and praise for each other and their role in helping create the film. Forsyth pointed out that he provided a lot of space for Lahti to set the tone of the scenes and let her influence the takes once the cameras were rolling.
Hah, I was there too. I'll just add that it was incredibly generous when Forsyth called Lahti a "co-director" after she talked about working with the other child actors and coming up with improvisations for their characters. He mentioned how they quickly came to an understanding that the zone in front of the camera was something he wouldn't intrude on, that it belonged to the actors (though to be clear, later on he mentioned that he could never let an actor, say, go off in a boat in the middle of a lake and be on their own - he understood actors trusted him to give them some concrete direction in terms of what to do). Lahti responded by saying Forsyth really deserved the credit because he gave them the freedom to do so many things.

It really was great to see Lahti because Forsyth had done a long Q&A in NY on this film before (albeit nearly a decade ago). Apparently Lahti heard about the screening with Forsyth and offered to come, to which MoMI happily agreed. (Apparently the last time they met was at another screening of this film, again nearly a decade ago, at Ebertfest. Amusingly, Forsyth initially estimated incorrectly it was 20 years ago, the same incorrect number Coppola threw out at his Q&A.) She talked about the research she put into her character, which was difficult given how much of a mystery she was in the script and even moreso in the novel. For example, she went to the zoo, thinking there might be something animalistic about her, and she actually was inspired by the baboons who would eat as if they were afraid something would steal their food. That felt right for her character given the way she had lived, so you'll see whenever she eats, she keeps the plate or food close to her mouth. Even Forsyth provided some unintentional inspiration when he came in with a poorly buttoned sweater, and she thought that was her character. (Of course they asked Forsyth if he still dressed like that, and he simply motioned to his well buttoned clothes.) Also, Drucker may remember the name, but who did she mention regarding the walk, about taking steps that felt like they were striding the Earth?

They both said the shoot was very happy and I think relaxed, with Forsyth mentioning that covering all four seasons helped because it extended their schedule (even giving them a few weeks off to wait for the snow). Lahti said it was her favorite of all of her films.

Beyond that, it was sad that Forsyth mentioned that he had been trying to make films for 15 years now - there was no shortage of scripts, but it sounded like any interest in his scripts were accompanied with a request to turn it into a series ("6 1/2 hours" so a British TV series I suppose, not American). He said he had one that might work, so let's hope. On the Indicator BD, one of the bonuses featured a Q&A where he was asked the same question, and he mentioned that he was approached about making a sequel to Gregory's Girl. You can hear the resistance from him and the audience, but of course, that project did indeed happen.

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Roscoe
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Re: Indicator: Housekeeping

#36 Post by Roscoe » Mon Oct 07, 2019 9:58 am

Drucker wrote:
Sun Oct 06, 2019 9:07 pm
Lahti herself remarked about how contemporary critics of the film called out the problems of Lahti overseeing these children, and she always disagreed with that reading. Her reading is that Lahti's character provides an 'escape' and a 'way out' for Ruth. She clearly doesn't read the film as Sylvie being a crazy person that's endangering her nieces. Just two cents I thought were worth sharing.
Yes, Forsyth himself dismissed that "Sylvie's A Crazy Person" reading as being "one-dimensional."

I enjoyed the screening a good deal, even in that unfortunately old and darkened print.

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Drucker
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Re: 29 Housekeeping

#37 Post by Drucker » Mon Oct 07, 2019 10:12 am

I found the print to look beautiful! In fact one of the better prints I've seen at Museum of Moving Image.

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hearthesilence
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Re: 29 Housekeeping

#38 Post by hearthesilence » Mon Oct 07, 2019 10:35 am

I didn't think that print was bad at all, exposure or color-wise, especially compared to the BD or my memory of seeing the newly struck 35mm print that screened at Film Forum 9 1/2 years ago. In fact, I wondered if it was the same print - it had a lot of wear in spots, so if it were, I guess they screened the shit out of it in the interim.

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Roscoe
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Re: 29 Housekeeping

#39 Post by Roscoe » Mon Oct 07, 2019 10:52 am

The print started out very beaten and scratched, gradually improving in quality in that respect. It just seemed very dark to me, darker than it has ever looked, and yeah, it's a pretty dark film already, and there were some framing issues early on -- tops of heads were cut off, that kind of thing, and that got better too. Not a deal breaker, the film still works beautifully.

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Re: 29 Housekeeping

#40 Post by whaleallright » Mon Oct 07, 2019 11:15 am

It was probably(?) the same print that showed at the Chicago Film Society a few years back, and I thought it was mostly quite nice, if obviously well-loved. Thanks for the recounting of the Q&A with Forsyth and Lahti; sad that we're at a point where the sorts of things Forsyth wants to make only make sense to producers as TV series. Cinema is dead, maybe....

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Drucker
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Re: 29 Housekeeping

#41 Post by Drucker » Mon Oct 07, 2019 11:54 am

Coincidentally, I saw Brainstorm in 70mm at MOMI last month, and Trumbull was asked a similar question and gave a similar answer. These guys don't generally seem to stop working by choice!

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MichaelB
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Re: 29 Housekeeping

#42 Post by MichaelB » Thu Oct 08, 2020 3:35 pm

The limited edition of Housekeeping is now OOP.

A standard edition (no DVD, booklet or reversible sleeve, and in an Amaray case) will be released in 2021.

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knives
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Re: 29 Housekeeping

#43 Post by knives » Mon Jan 25, 2021 3:57 pm

This was a really lovely film and seems to precede my favorite ‘90s dramas like The Ice Storm and Eve’s Bayou in a really pleasant fashion. There is just so much love to time and perspective making it a fool’s errand to try to accurately access the characters as anything other than what we’re presented with. It’s a tragedy that Sylvie doesn’t get the help she so clearly needs, but the subjective nature of the film also reassures of the positive growth from a neglectful situation Ruth seems to have experienced. The movie is clearly very complicated on the account of loving those who give you pain and understanding the wrong of those who give you joy. The desire of the other sister for conformity is a sign of that pain of abandonment that both girls feel with each having a small antagonism against the other for these small abandonments.

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Re: 29 Housekeeping

#44 Post by beamish14 » Mon Jan 25, 2021 5:36 pm

Marilynne Robinson's novel is one of the greatest American works of fiction from the last 50 years, and it's truly a miraculous adaptation. There are so many gorgeous passages in
it, with one in particular about Ruthie thinking about her body's changes as she enters adolescence, that will stay with me forever. Like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, the book extends just a touch longer after the film's final images, but he was so wise in stopping with that incredible final shot. Forsyth is never held us as a great visual stylist, but this film shows his incredible, painterly approach to British Columbia.

I really wonder what happened to the film's two young co-leads, who never appeared in other films again. Presumably Indicator couldn't track them down, either?

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