Friday, March 31, 2017

Movies for Lent

Andrew Greeley believed that God discloses himself to us in the objects and experiences we encounter every day. He saw the artist as a potential creator of sacrament and saw movies as particularly suitable for creating that “sacramental” moment. In The Catholic Myth, Greeley writes, “The most striking image of the womanliness of God in recent years was presented in Bob Fosse's film All That Jazz, a story of Fosse's brush with death during a massive heart attack. . .”

At Greeley’s suggestion (and years after the fact), I decided to watch All that Jazz as a Lenten practice to see for myself how God shows up at the movies. I made a trip to the Homewood Library to find a DVD of the film It is indeed a well-crafted film. We see a life of glitz, glamor, show-biz and sex. In the midst of that life we have those questions of life’s meaning. A Lenny Bruce-type comedian steps in throughout the film with commentary about God and death. Though the film was not the type of movie I am drawn toward, I attended to it as if it were a classroom assignment from “Professor Greeley.” To me, in addition to Greeley’s observation of the archetypal image of “the womanliness of God,” the movie was an effective commentary on what is true in life and relationships and what is mere frivolity. It also demonstrates how the comedian has taken on the role of priest in our modern society.

While I was at the library looking for All that Jazz, I came across a movie I was not aware of called An Unfinished Life. The cover notes sounded appealing, and it starred Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman, and Jennifer Lopez, so why not give it a try?

I actually found An Unfinished Life to be much more my speed and truly a welcome reflection on life for this Lenten season. Directed by Lasse Hallström, the film is about forgiveness in the wake of unfortunate tragedy and after years of being stuck in a bitter life routine. The movie also takes a unique look at masculine friendship and nurturing in the roles played by Redford and Freeman.

Remember back when Hallmark made really excellent movie specials for television? That is the kind of feel I got from An Unfinished Life. There is beautiful photography, excellent acting, a well-written and moving story line, and ominous encounters with a fearsome bear! What’s not to like? It is the kind of movie that allows you to take stock of life in general and to reflect upon your own life in particular. It does all the right things in cinematic storytelling.

Here are the movie trailers for All that Jazz and An Unfinished Life:


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