“I guess it’s kinda hard to be good at something nobody wants, huh?”
An off-kilter story of big, ‘Icarian’ dreams and an unlikely, yet tightly knit friendship, coming-of-age in the late 50’s Philly, and coping with a serious post-war trauma gets a visually handsome and aurally immersive treatment in Alan Parker’s tautly directed (melo)drama Birdy which stars Matthew Modine and Nicolas Cage, the former giving a poignant performance as the titular character – a quiet, avian-obsessed and highly sympathetic introvert whose real name is never revealed, and the latter being admirably restrained in the role of an impulsive, extrovert athlete, Al.
Part fractured, borderline surreal soap-opera, and part theatrical tone poem of dense, melancholy-infused atmosphere, The Murdered House exposes the rot of traditional family values in a wickedly lyrical story of unrequited love, repressed desires, ‘disgraceful’ secrets, suicidal characters and incestuous affairs. Paulo César Saraceni directs it like Buñuel on sedatives (with a hint of Pasolini in his Teorema element?), so it takes some time to attune oneself to his bizarre wavelengths, and the patience is rewarded with a ‘grotesque truth’ coming to light in the tragicomic finale of farcical proportions and amped-up histrionics. The film’s only setting – a country mansion surrounded by a lush garden – appears like a well-concealed micro-paradise dewy with human imperfections, acting like a mentally troubled protagonist in its own right.