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The Subtle Pleasures of ‘Past Lives’

July 11, 2023
Notes
Transcript
On this week’s episode, Sonny Bunch (The Bulwark), Alyssa Rosenberg (The Washington Post), and Peter Suderman (Reason) ask why WB keeps stepping on rakes by doing things like demanding GQ rewrite pieces about David Zaslav and messing with critics by scheduling Barbie screenings on the same day as Oppenheimer screenings. (Late-brekaing update here: the studio seems to be adding screening dates for Barbie in at least some cities with Oppenheimer conflicts.) Then they review Past Lives, which is getting a lot of buzz as one of the best movies of the year. Is it? We’ll return to that topic on this week’s bonus episode, in which we judge the best movies of the first half of 2023. And if you enjoyed this episode, as always, we ask that you share it with a friend.

A brief aside: An episode like this one is particularly important to share if you want to see more reviews of indie films and fewer reviews of Indy (or Marvel or DC or whatever) films. We can see the downloads; we know what movies people are interested in listening to reviews of. We sometimes get complaints from folks who want more talk about movies for adults … but we also know what people actually listen to reviews of. (Spoiler: not movies for adults.) I always ask folks to share it with a friend and I’d love to see this one shared with many friends because, God knows, I only have so many more $300 million multiverse movies in me.

This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:11

    Welcome back to across the movie. I’ll present to my Bulwark Plus. I’m your host Sunny Bunch, culture editor of the bulwark like Napoleon. I’m the first to admit when I make a mistake. Simply never do.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:21

    I’m joined as always by Alyssa Rosenberg of the Washington Post and Peter Suiterman of Reason Magazine. Alyssa Peter, how are you today?
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:27

    Not as confident in myself as you are, Sonny.
  • Speaker 3
    0:00:32

    I’m happy to be talking about movies with friends, even friends who are frequently wrong.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:37

    Peter, I just wanna thank you for passing along the trailer for Napoleon, Ridley Scott’s new epic, which is of course where I stole that line from. I I assume maybe he said it or I don’t know. I I don’t know history. History movies, I know. History, I don’t know.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:51

    Alright. First up, in controversies and controversies, They say you should never pick fight with the folks who buy ink, buy the barrel. But the folks at Warner Brothers have decided to pick few fights over the last week or two that were eminently avoidable with such barrel of ink having people like ourselves. The first and dumbest of these altercations involve the effort by the studio to Swelcher piece in GQ magazine by freelance critic Jason Bailey about the dreadfulness of w b Hantro, David Azlov’s tenure. Bad tenure so far.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:19

    Everyone’s writing about it. After the SA went live, GQ at the behest of someone at Order Brothers pulled it, rewrote it, and cut a bunch paragraphs. Bailey, aghast, asked the magazine to take his byline off the piece. GQ said instead that they’d have to pull the piece altogether, which Bailey agreed to. The the most foolish part of all this was that there was nothing particularly new or damning in Bailey’s essay.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:39

    It was a pretty straightforward rehash of the beefs folks have with Zazla from his gutting of turner classic movies to the bastardization of HBO Max via the merger with Discovery Plus. There’s certainly nothing worth getting in a tizzy over. If you’re gonna be a mogul, you gotta have tough skin. But in a classic case of the Stryzane effect, more people than ever, saw the piece because it wound up on the Internet archive, handing w b another self inflicted injury. GQ, of course, actually probably looks worse here.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:06

    In this whole mess because oops, turns out the editor of the magazine who was consulted on what to do with the story is a producer on a w b movie. Holy Conflict of interest Batman. Elsewhere, the folks in the PR department decided to schedule Barbie press screenings in many cities, including DC Dallas and Boston, probably more, also elsewhere that I’m unaware of, on the same day as the press screenings of Oppenheimer. This despite the fact that Universal announced weeks beforehand, the day they were screening Oppenheimer suggesting that this was perhaps intentional. This is a small thing, and it’s really tiniest violin in the world stuff I know.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:39

    Like, oh, no. Don’t get to see all the free movies that we wanna see. Right? But it’s still kind of a dick move, and it’s one that hurts freelancers in particular because they rely on seeing these movies ahead of time. So they can write about them for pay to pay their rent, whatever.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:51

    It’s a needless provocation from a studio that could desperately use the smallest of p r wins. Peter, let’s tackle the first item first here. Who looks dumber in this whole mass, g q or Warner Brothers?
  • Speaker 3
    0:03:04

    Oh, man. This is this is a dumb and dumber scenario, and I don’t actually know whether Jeff Daniels or Jim Carrie is the is the dumb one or the dumber one. They’re both dumb and they’re both dumber here. Look, I never understand the big corporation press person impulse to try to get a publication to pull an article or heavily rewrite an article that has already been posted. It makes a lot of sense to me frankly for a flak to be pushing hard for an article to be different or not run at all before that article is published.
  • Speaker 3
    0:03:42

    Like, that’s the job in a lot of ways is to make sure that the stuff that you don’t want getting out there doesn’t get out there. But I guess, like, have people who work for the comms department at Warner Brothers heard of the Internet? Because the way it works is that once things are online, they exist, and they’re and they’re not gonna un exists. There’s no such thing as un existing. And so once stuff is out there, like, the the best thing you can do if you don’t want people to pay attention to it is just ignore it.
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:13

    Is just ignore it, and that’s not satisfying. It’s not what your boss who hates that article once because your boss is obsessed with that article because it’s about your boss. And about the bad job that your boss is doing. But you gotta just tell your boss that no one else is thinking about this in the same way you are because the article isn’t about them. And the best thing to do is just do your job and don’t worry about this because no one’s gonna pay attention to this article anyway unless you give them a good reason to, and one good reason to pay attention to an article is, oh my goodness.
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:47

    The article got pulled. The article got totally rewritten and here’s the original version, here’s the thing they didn’t want you to see. When you make it something that that they don’t want you to see that they being the big powerful people who, you know, run magazines or movie studios, then people become interested in something. We need just sort of shrug it off and say, this is not a big deal. We’re gonna continue to do our Bulwark.
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:08

    So nobody pays that much attention. And flax need to learn that and that that in twenty twenty three, decades into, you know, an internet that saves absolutely every single word that has ever been published or very close in which, you know, it’s just about impossible to fully eliminate anything that has been posted online from, you know, the digital world. The fact that they still don’t understand that and are still, like, trying to exist in a world where, oh, you know, if you just if you just help the magazines before they go out to subscribers, no one will ever know. That’s that’s just not the world we live in and they do in these cases. Just end up drawing more attention to the thing that they were trying to bury.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:49

    Yeah. Alyssa, I mean, I I was talking to our mutual friend, Rich Rashfield of the Anchler about this whole situation. And he said, look, you know, what studio flags do is they they yell and scream and they they tell you that the piece was unfair and they they demand you pull it down and you you you listen and then you play we say, no. Go away. And they go away, and then you do the whole dance again a week later.
  • Speaker 1
    0:06:10

    I mean, what on Earth is the person at g q who actually pulled this thinking? I I just like as an editor, there are pieces, you know, that I have worked on that I haven’t loved how they turned out, but I would rather burn the whole website down than have some flack get rewrite something that ran on my website for me.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:30

    Yeah. And I would also say that I think good press people know how to mediate between their bosses and journalists in these kinds of situations because they’re playing for a long game. Like, I hear all the time from Flax who and it’s often something really little. Right? Like, I mentioned an event that sort of has its own branding and column but not the sponsoring organization and sponsoring organization is like, can you go and add it back in?
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:56

    And what you say to them under those circumstances, like, it’s up. I’m sorry. We don’t make changes once something’s in print. I’ll keep that in mind for the future. And then the flag says, like, can go back to their boss and say, like, I extracted a small concession, etcetera.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:10

    And full disclosure, I’m friendly with Joanna Fuentes, who used to run Warner Brothers Communications. I know her back from when she was running communications for Showtime. And she was very good at sort of play like, playing the long game and not being defensive and sort of, you know, and was confident when you didn’t like something. There was a set always a sense with her that you were like building a relationship. And so, you know, you could pan something that she worked on or, you know, disagree with some aspect of corporate strategy.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:40

    And, you know, she is a professional. And if I was working in communications at w b Discovery, like, I would be counseling Zathlete to lean into his supervillain summer. Right? Like, the absolute best case scenario for him in this scenario is to be completely un bothered when people are mad at him, and then turn the place around, have it be a huge success, and have everyone talking in three years about, like, how smart he was to you know, trim a bunch of unprofitable content and take, you know, like, the write down on batgirl and everything else. Like, I mean, for all that Zaslav is already unpopular right now, he again, and I’m not a professional business analyst here, although I think my common sense taken me pretty far in this arena, everything he’s doing seems fairly sensible to me.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:28

    Right? I mean, the content and streaming boom were the product of cheap money as we’ve talked about on this podcast a lot of times before. The, you know, there’s gonna have to be a lot of belt tightening and consolidation. And the stuff he’s doing is not popular. But it is definitely aimed at trimming things where, frankly, they probably hurt the least to the Mac’s user base and everything else.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:50

    And so the absolute best move for him would be to just play all of this stuff incredibly cool, be totally unbothered, and then enjoy it when everyone says he’s right in three years.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:02

    I guess this is what I I as somebody as somebody spends a fair amount of time getting yelled out on the internet, and, you know, some pe who some people don’t like, I have long ago figured out that the best thing you can do is just either ignore or lean into what people are saying. And I it it really strikes
  • Speaker 3
    0:09:19

    you there. Are you saying that your whole shtick is an act?
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:22

    No. I would never that I would never say something like that because that’s not true. It’s just who I am. Again, like Napoleon, never been wrong. The issue here, again, is like picking dumb unnecessary fights.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:33

    I mean, like, again, let’s look at this Barbie Oppenheimer situation. Right? It was very clear from the get go that this was set up to be a big conflict between Universal which, you know, stole away Christopher Nolan, Warner Brothers, you know, House Genius, after the Warner, you know, moved to to streaming during the pandemic. And that’s why we have Barbie and Oppenheimer coming out on the same day. You know, it’s a it’s a big head to head fight.
  • Speaker 1
    0:09:57

    But right now, the mood in Hollywood is like one of kind of comedy. Right? It’s it is you got Tom Cruise out there with like I’m here with Christopher McCorian. We got tickets to Barbie and Oppenheimer. It’s gonna be great.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:08

    Gonna do a double feature. And, like, that’s kind of the the mood of the right now. So when you when you do these dumb little petty things like schedule the press screenings on the same day in every market except for New York City in Los Angeles, You antagonize people unnecessarily. Right? It’s just it’s just dumb.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:24

    I don’t get it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:25

    Yeah. And to be clear, I mean, I think those of us in DC are not gonna be able to see barbie early, not merely because of the conflict, but because they’re limiting, you know, press access pretty rigorously to the Barbie screening. Which is weird to me. But, you know, hey, if they’ve got us a lot of demand for Greta Gerwig’s take on Barbie, I I am all for that.
  • Speaker 3
    0:10:45

    I will say, in in defense of the folks who scheduled screening here in DC, my understanding from in which we both heard is that the demand was so high that that’s why they’ve limited it. So it’s not necessarily that the that they’re not letting people see it. It’s it’s that there’s very high demand, and so they’ve tried to sort of manage the the very high demand by by putting some limitations, which is to say, there will be a lot of people who get to see Barbie in advance here in DC.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:12

    Yeah. At the same time, if they if Warner Brothers had not done this sort of larger petty thing where they were trying to make critic choose between Oppenheimer and Barbie, they could have done, you know, flooded the zone with half a dozen Barbie screenings, let everybody who wanted to see it, see it, and then sort of win the press cycle with Oppenheimer, which might have been sensible as well. And then it would be much easier for the local press reps, like our folks at Allied who have been very good to everyone on this podcast over the years, to, you know, to do their jobs as well. So, it’s kind of unfair to everybody except actually, not even except, including the folks at who made this movie for Warner Brothers, and very gamely getting out there to promote it.
  • Speaker 3
    0:11:54

    So I will say, like, maybe a month or two ago, I tweeted that the funniest possible thing that could be done about the Barbie Oppenheimer release date would be to schedule the advanced critic screenings on the exact same day at the same time forcing critics to choose. I meant that as a joke, but I do think it’s a little bit funny. Right? If we’re gonna think of this as, like, as a kind of a rivalry between, like, two schools of, you know, movie fandom, then forcing critics to pick one or the other is at least a little bit abusing. It’s not ideal, actually, from a practical and, you know, perspective.
  • Speaker 3
    0:12:27

    For people trying to do their jobs and write about this stuff. But but it is as a as a sort of a cultural artifact and gimmick, I don’t know. I find it a little bit amusing.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:38

    I will say the the actual funniest thing of all time, and I’m stealing this joke shamelessly from Twitter is someone actually outfitted, like, in Malibu, Barbie, like Dreamhouse, Airbnb, in Malibu, and the actual funniest thing of all time would be for the Oppenheimer people to nuke it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:54

    Okay. Alright. This is getting out of hand. It’s getting out of hand.
  • Speaker 3
    0:12:58

    We don’t support the use of nuclear weapons on this podcast. Just no. Well, it’s bad.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:04

    We want
  • Speaker 3
    0:13:04

    no no nukes. No nukes, guys.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:07

    And we are not gonna stake out that position. You can you can argue whatever you want. But when we get
  • Speaker 3
    0:13:12

    to the oftentimes, we’ll have a ambiguity for me.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:14

    I’m sure we’ll have I’m sure we’ll
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:16

    have a are we anti are we anti first strike?
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:18

    Well, I mean, look, again, I think we should save all of this discussion for the Oppenheimer episode in two weeks because we’re gonna do Oppenheimer first because we’re gonna go to the Oppenheimer press screening, and then we’re gonna Barbi the week after that. It really backfiring on Warner Brothers. Alright. Alright. Where this is getting out of hand?
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:33

    We’re getting we’re involving nuclear weapons and everything. Alright. So what do we think? Is it a controversy or an controversy that Warner Brothers seems to be going out of its way to annoy the working press, Lisa.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:44

    Controversy, and also we didn’t discuss this at all. But g q is dumb as hell for having given in on this. Yeah. It’s just incredibly embarrassing.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:51

    So stupid. Peter, it’s
  • Speaker 3
    0:13:53

    a controversy that GQ pulled the article that the that Warner Brothers thought that they could get away not that they could get away with this that they thought they could get the article pulled and no one would notice and that GQ complied. Definitely a controversy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:07

    It’s a controversy, dumb, dumb things all around. Everybody’s being dumb up being dumb, everyone. Be smart like me. Alright. Make sure to swing by Bulwark Plus this Friday for our bonus episode.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:16

    We’re gonna look at the first half of the year, best movies, favorite favorite stuff. What did we love from the first half of the year? Six months down, six months to go. It’s gonna be gonna be a great show. Alright.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:26

    Now on to the main event. Past lives. The featured debut from writer director Selene Song opens with this really wonderful Shot. It’s almost a a depama esque aside about the voyeurism of the cinema. The camera is focused on three individuals.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:43

    There’s an Asian man, an Asian woman, in the middle and then a white guy on the right hand side of the screen, and they are on the other side of the bar from where the camera is. And as the voice over kicks in, we realize this is actually a PoV shop. There are two people who are trying to figure out what their story is. Are these three people co workers? Is the guy at the end, the white guy, the translator for the first two?
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:04

    There’s something inherently exotic about the trio, particularly given that they’re out in four in the morning. In New York City, what’s what’s their story? And as we push in, the woman looks camera and we cut to twenty four years in the past. The woman is a girl whose family is about to immigrate from South Korea Canada. Her anglicized name will be Nora.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:21

    She is friends with Hayesung, who is a a little boy in her class, Nora’s mother, wants the two children to go on a date before she leaves for the West. They have a nice little moment. And then we flash forward twelve years later when He sung and or a reconnect via social media, the wonders of Facebook. An old friendship rekindle turns into something like a romance. The two speaking via Skype as they begin to find their footing in the post collegiate world.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:46

    While the emotional distance between them shortens the physical distance remains. And eventually, Nora needs a break. Shortly thereafter, she meets the other man we see at the bar, Arthur, at an artist retreat, and we take Hayeseng to be dating somebody else. He meets when he is working in China. Twelve years later again, we skip ahead twelve years later.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:07

    Arthur and Nora are married. Hayesung is coming to New York City, where Arthur and Nora live for a vacation. He is newly single. Will he try to rekindle the brief love that they shared? Or has that time passed?
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:18

    Past lives is it’s a very nice little movie. It’s a nice kind of slight movie. Some wonderful performances here. Greadily is Nora, Tioyo, as hey, Song. But I really love John I can never pronounce his I don’t know if it’s Magaro or Magaro, whatever.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:35

    Either John Magaro, that’s what I’m gonna go with, as Arthur. He, in particular, is just very, very good in this movie as the third wheel in the whole relationship. Like, he he has this kind of pain to look on his face all the time. He’s very obviously threatened. By the connection between Nora and He sung, but is equally obviously constrained by his own kind of progressive worldview and sensibilities.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:57

    Right? He feels uncomfortable fighting For his woman, he even vocalizes at one point that he feels like the villain in the story, the the dumb white boyfriend who’s getting in way of the childhood sweethearts falling in love all over again. But honestly, that that little bit there is my my problem with the story. I simply never really bought hey, song and Nora is this great lost love reuniting years later. I just it it didn’t do anything for me.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:22

    Somebody who has spent a fair portion of his childhood kind of hopping from city to city. My my folks my dad was in the military. We moved around a lot. It was a kind of constant, you know, making friends leaving them, whatever. It’s the sort of thing that feels like I felt like I should have had a greater connection to this than I did.
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:40

    And it just feels falsely convenient for plotting purposes. Nothing nothing else. Again, past lives, it’s a nice movie with very, very fine formances. It’s a nice breath of fresh air in the CGI wasteland of summer. But I would argue that it’s not even the best movie released this year by a twenty four about a female writer living in New York City and dealing with marital strain.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:01

    For the record, that’s you hurt my feelings, which came out a couple months ago. It was really, really good. Alyssa, everyone else seems really blown away by past lives. Like, I numerous people, you know, saying that it’s that if they see a better movie this year, they’ll be surprised. And that strikes me as kinda nuts frankly.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:17

    Even though again, I liked it fine. It’s fine, but I did not I was not blown away about it. What have I what have I missed here?
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:24

    I don’t know that you’ve missed something. I mean, it’s it’s basically, like, naked longing, the movie, and I think to a certain extent how much that affects you. I mean, I just I think whether it gets you in the feels kinda depends on where you are in the moment. I you know, I’m in a place in my life where I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship and maintaining friendships and you know, sort of what goes into that, what’s possible. And so I think I was particularly primed to be affected by this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:57

    But, I mean, I also I think I also found just the sort of I found the acting and the shot selection, very, very affecting here. I don’t know if you guys noticed this as well, but song does something repeatedly in the movie, where she’ll start a shot with one character or sort of a pair of characters, more in the center of the screen, and then like very, very, very gradually shift it, so the perspective and sort of who’s at the center, whether anyone is at the center, changes over the course of the shot. And she does this sort of three or four times over scenes that last a couple of minutes. And I love that as a way of very slowly shifting the emotional energy in a shot along with the dialogue and the characters. And, you know, it’s it’s something that I think a lot of other directors might have done, you know, you do it with the two shot, you switch perspectives, and she’s using sort of the same camera the whole time, but just gradually shifting the weight and the emotional balance of this scene.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:02

    And it’s not just that the movie is a refuge from the CGI wasteland, but that, you know, there are a bunch of thoughtful things happening with shut framing and camera work. Right? I mean, the scene, for example, where Nora and He sung say goodbye as children in Seoul, and there are paths literally divert at a corner, and both paths are angled upwards, but hers more dramatically than his. Right? I mean, there’s this sense contained in the shot that her life is going to change more radically and sort of at a sharper pace than his is.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:41

    And the movie doesn’t necessarily return to that particular kind of shot or that idea, but it’s sort of the whole trajectory of the film, you know, in one image. And, I found it so thoughtful and yearning that I was very affected by it. I don’t again, I don’t think it’s a major movie. I think it’s small but very, very, very, very well done. And sometimes, just sort of taste and care are will take you very, very far, I think.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:12

    In a way that sloppy or tasteless special effects in spectacle will not. And this movie. This movie is just a very good sort of expression of film grammar. It’s clean, it’s clear, and it’s just about fundamentals performed really, really well.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:30

    Peter, what did you make of past lives?
  • Speaker 3
    0:21:33

    I loved this movie, and I think Alyssa is exactly right. This movie is not just a great little kind of quasi love story. It is a movie of incredible visual sophistication. Simple visual sophistication, you know, but but just incredible shot design and camera movement and color and just a couple of shots that’s that’s stood out since I know Alyssa has already listed a couple, but there’s this great bit where Nora and Hysung have met up in New York finally after all of these years and they’re just walking along the water with the giant New York bridges in the background. Is it the Brooklyn Bridge or the Williamsberg bridge or but anyway one of those.
  • Speaker 3
    0:22:16

    And they’re just sort of framed against the grandeur and the vastness of New York. As they discuss their lives, you know, and sort of go over what they’ve been up to and what they’ve done. And it is it’s a perfect and cap calation of this idea that then later comes up in in conversation between them where he tells her, you know, that that Korea was too small a place for her ambition. Right? She has cut She has immigrated to New York and to America because only America is big enough for who she wants to be and for the ambitions for her life.
  • Speaker 3
    0:22:49

    It’s also just beautiful in the way that it just kind of rests. Moves very slowly and slightly you know, but lets you just sort of linger in in the grandness of this little moment. You know, and then there’s like there’s there’s connecting stuff that comes out of just out of that sequence in that shot where they end up, you know, near a carousel, and and there’s this crate bit that I just loved. Right? So okay.
  • Speaker 3
    0:23:14

    So they’re they’ve got their their their first time they meet up together after all these decades in New York. And she goes home and, of course, talks to her husband about this, and we find out that he’s obviously awkward and uncomfortable about the whole thing. And they have this conversation in bed. And then as that conversation is ending, and it’s sort of the closer to the second act is right, oh, man. We’ve really kind of come this has all come to a head.
  • Speaker 3
    0:23:37

    The movie cuts back to now a nighttime shot of that carousel and the lights just go off. And it’s again, it’s this incredibly simple shot. It’s not like wow. This is just so technically complicated. Man, how did Martin Scorsese spend six weeks designing this thing?
  • Speaker 3
    0:23:53

    No. Not like that. It’s that every shot has a a great underlying idea. And they’re also, like, they’re they’re beautiful. They’re just really pretty.
  • Speaker 3
    0:24:02

    And so I there’s just so much of that in this movie. There’s a there’s a little shot at the very end that it won’t broke me as as too much I just sort of like I was so entranced by the movie at this point. But we’re I don’t know, almost ninety minutes into the film. It’s like the next to last scene there in the bar. And there’s this shot of a pen on a receipt, you know, like after you sign your receipt with the tip at a bar.
  • Speaker 3
    0:24:26

    Right? And it’s just a still little shot that captures something specific and physical about the moment in a way that you almost never see on film, but that when I when I come across these these like, oh, this is just a beautifully and subtly captured moment of something like real life that you have forced me to focus on and you have heightened. And the movie is just it’s like I just it really kinda hit me weirdly hard. I was like, holy crap. How did how does that even work?
  • Speaker 3
    0:24:56

    How does a pen on a piece on a receipt on a bar top, like how does that oh, it’s closure. It’s this idea of, you know, this is where the night came to Right? It’s all of these things, but it’s also just moody and evocative and the whole movie has stuff like that. That final shot of the two of them walking down the street in the low the East village so that he can get his Uber. If you notice as they walk along the street at first you’ve got all of these red doors and this red light that is sort of flashing between them.
  • Speaker 3
    0:25:27

    Right? And it’s this heat that’s sort of that’s just building tension and they finally get to where he’s gonna get his Uber and maybe, like, you just like, the movie is sort of teasing. Are they gonna kiss? Is this gonna be the thing and, you know, I I won’t tell you what happens, but the door that they’re standing in front of is blue. Suddenly, it has cooled.
  • Speaker 3
    0:25:45

    The moment has changed. Like, I could just go through and do this with every shot in the movie, and I’ve only seen it once. The visual sophistication I will like, is just is just the kind of thing that I I I live for as somebody who loves movies is, like, that’s that’s what I what I wanna see is our our shots that have incredibly clear ideas that are sort of mystifyingly beautiful, even if they’re not technically complex in the way of like, oh, it’s so cinema bros. I love these, you know, the Copa Kibana scene. Like, I love that stuff too.
  • Speaker 3
    0:26:17

    But this movie has something different which is just a visual intelligence that you almost never see. It’s also the other thing that I would just that I wanna point out here is I loved this movie because it is the exact opposite of almost everything, not almost, but of so much of what we’ve been watching over the past year or two which is multiverse movies. This is an anti multiverse movie. And if you’ve been watching all these multiverse movies, even the good ones, everything everywhere all at once, the Spiderverse films, even the good ones, they do have a little bit of a problem or like a a the like at the the base of the multiverse concept, which is well, you know, if you’ve if you’ve got the multiverse, if every choice is possible, then no choice matters. What this movie is about is there maybe were other choices possible, but you made one specific choice in your life.
  • Speaker 3
    0:27:04

    And that was the choice that mattered, and that’s why it mattered is because ultimately you can’t go back and do it again. You can’t live two lives You can’t date two guys and get married to two different people and have two totally different nope. That’s it. You’ve made one choice. And that’s the hard thing about life.
  • Speaker 3
    0:27:20

    And it’s also the beautiful thing about life. And this movie captures that linear choice driven sensibility like that that idea that that life is choices that you have to commit to. That you can’t undo, that there’s no way to go back on. This movie captures that in a really nice and powerful way that is just works very well on its own but is also a great antithesis to all of the the the multiverse choice kind of doesn’t matter because we can just go back and redo them stuff. That we have seen over the past couple of years.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:53

    Well, and I would also note that part of what makes this movie appealing is that It’s about people who are fundamentally decent and honorable and make the right choices. Right? It argues to a certain extent for the value of restraint and decency for Arthur John McGarrow’s character, not being the sort controlling weird guy who’s like, you know, no, you can’t see this, you know, this friend who you’ve had this sort of long standing relationship with. And you know, but also for, you know, he sung to say sort of very explicitly to Arthur, it’s like, it’s a good thing that, you know, she married you and you know, I see why you two are together. And, the decency of these characters is not without cost to them personally, but The movie really is rooted in a sort of respect for them and their goodness.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:47

    It’s I mean, on a small level, it’s a movie temptation. Right? And, temptation successfully resisted. And, it is a rejection of the idea that you can sort of have multiverse within your own life that you can sort of blow up everything without consequence and make a different set of choices without that detonation, that defenestration, sort of seeping into everything. Have either of you read Kazo Ishiguro’s remains of the day?
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:12

    Yeah. Yes.
  • Speaker 3
    0:29:13

    Though, not for a while.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:15

    Yeah. I mean, this is a very sort of ishagurant movie in terms of restraint and longing and, you know, very much in terms of the ending too, which I will not discuss in great detail. But it’s if you if you enjoyed that vibe, I highly recommend ruins the day as as some summer reading.
  • Speaker 1
    0:29:36

    It strikes me talking to you guys. One one thing I might have like just a little more to to delve just a little into, is the way Nora feels about being a child of two distinct cultures are being pulled in two separate ways, which we don’t really get a lot of except for in her conversations with He sung, where it’s it seems obviously she feels like she’s missing something, but what that is exactly isn’t entirely clear. Again, maybe it’s better left unsaid. Maybe it’s better left subtly kind of hinted at. But it I get this distinct feeling we were supposed to feel that she was torn between two places and it does not feel that way from her life or her actions at all.
  • Speaker 3
    0:30:18

    I didn’t get that she was supposed to feel torn. I got that she was supposed to feel as if there was another path she could have taken. And I think that’s true at least for a lot of people. I certainly can imagine different versions of myself, even radically different versions of myself, including versions that didn’t leave, you know, my where I where I grew up and how that would have changed me. And being confronted with somebody from her childhood who then she had for a period of time an intimate though distant relationship with.
  • Speaker 3
    0:30:52

    It forces her to think about the alternate path she could have taken. And that’s different than feeling conflicted about it. I’m not particularly conflicted about the alternate paths I could have taken. But I do sometimes think about them and think about the ways that my life could be very different in in the ways in which my specific life is contingent on a bunch of things about me and on a bunch of choices that that I have made and on a bunch of things, a bunch of choices that were made for me. That I didn’t that I had no choice in.
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:22

    Right? And this is the the the movie gets at a lot of that very well. And and I would just also note that there’s that section the second quarter of the movie in which Heisong and Nora are having the long distance relationship. And while it’s not super super super detailed. It’s not in as children that they fall in love.
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:41

    It’s as young adults having a very intense early online long distance relationship. And that’s when they got actually very very close to each other was at that period which was you can kind of think of as as a a moment where they could have come together or ultimately could have been apart and they ended up apart.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:03

    Don’t think that’s precisely right. I mean, I think that the the way the the opening sequence with them as children works with him, you see the shot of them in the back of the car driving, you know, away from their date and she is holding his hand and he looks very happy. And then you see you see him basically heartbroken when she’s saying in the classroom, you know, oh, it’s my choice to leave. I’m getting out of here. I I don’t wanna be here anymore.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:28

    And again, at that that moment that Alyssa mentions where they they split paths. He’s clearly very distraught, I think.
  • Speaker 3
    0:32:34

    He he misses her, but it’s not they I said
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:38

    one who seeks her out. On Facebook.
  • Speaker 3
    0:32:40

    They had an adult closeness that was reinforced by that that was built on that long distance relationship.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:47

    But it’s I mean, this is an interesting movie with the way it treats gender. In the sense that Nora is has like a kind of coolly masculine energy that is reflected both sort of in her ambition, but also in the way that they dress her for the film. Right? I mean, She, you know, she doesn’t wear a lot of makeup. You know, they often dress her in sort of like loose clothes.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:11

    Get at this. She’s wearing this sort of loose pants in college. For her day around this today with Hay sung. And the one point at which she sort of dresses up in a way that is kind of sexy and feminine is when they go to the bar and she’s wearing the dress like long slits off the side, but she’s still wearing, like, sort of combat boots with it. And there’s this scene with Arthur when he tells her, you know, he confesses some anxiety about her friendship with a song and also explains that he’s learning Korean to understand what she’s saying in her sleep.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:40

    Right? Where he is the more sort of vulnerable and open and kind of head over heels person in that partnership, where she’s the person who, you know, sees the relationship as, like, a little bit contingent, like, good for her to have the green card. But that’s not sort of emotionally inauthentic to her. Right? And so this is a movie where both of the men are experiencing a lot of yearning and longing and sort of, like, conventionally feminine, you know, anxieties and attachments.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:14

    And the woman is this sort of cooler, more pragmatic, more in some ways ruthless character. And none of it again, none of it’s harsh. None of it is done as sort of like an explicitly gender swapped thing. But it definitely lends the movie an interesting vibe.
  • Speaker 3
    0:34:29

    Bros’s got feelings too.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:31

    So I’ve heard. He also feels trapped in his kind of the standard patriarchal norms of Korean society. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:40

    He — Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:34:40

    — he has to he feels pressured to abandon a relationship because he has not made enough money, he has not made enough name for himself, he’s the only child, he is supposed to be doing greater things before he gets married, which is, again, it’s an interesting there’s like an interesting way in which both both Heisung and Arthur feel trapped. And forced into various positions.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:04

    It is hilarious that Arthur’s book, which we see at the signing, is called Boner.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:09

    Yeah. Yeah.
  • Speaker 3
    0:35:11

    Yes. I I laughed at that detail.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:13

    It’s the one little sort of mean spirited, like, jail, but, you know, sort of New York literary stuff, but it’s very funny.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:20

    Yes. Yeah. And there is a very different way all could have gone this whole movie. I mean, there there are shades of kind of jewel’s a gem here and and other stuff. But anyway, alright.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:30

    So what do we think? Thumbs up or thumbs down. On past lives, Alyssa.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:35

    Thumbs up.
  • Speaker 3
    0:35:36

    Peter. Thumbs up in a preview of the bonus episode. It is my favorite movie of the year so far.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:42

    Yeah. Thumbs up. It’s fine. It’s fine. Alright.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:45

    That is it for this week’s show. Make sure to head over to Bullworth Plus for our bonus episode on make sure to tell your friends, strong recommendation from a friend. He’s basically the only way to grow podcast audiences if you don’t grow, will die. He did not love today’s episode. Please complain to me on Twitter at Sunnybunch.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:58

    I’ll convince you that in fact, best show in your podcast feed. See you guys next week.
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