Today readers, we are proud to present a conversation about the new Julian Schnabel film called Miral. Both of us live in the USA – one in college town in a southwestern state, and the other in a coastal town in southwest Florida. Schnabel filmed in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, not all that far from the West Bank.
So this discussion will have a distinctly ‘western’ flavor to it. That’s in the geographical sense only – in case you were wondering. Political inclinations hopefully won’t enter into this talk about the film.
While the actual location of the meeting shall remain a closely held secret, what was said will have no such protections. Without further preamble, I’ll ask our friend Didion to introduce herself and tell us a bit about Miral’s director Julian Schnabel.
Didion: I’m a college professor and film fan, and on my blog [feminema.wordpress.com] I usually discuss issues related to feminism, cinema, and pop culture — so Miral seemed a perfect film for conversation, for it tells the tale that focuses on three generations of Palestinian women.
Putting women at the center of a film is a shift for Schnabel, whose (brilliant) earlier films drew on artistic men’s biographies and autobiographies to create extraordinary films: Basquiat (the story of painter Jean-Michel Basquiat), Before Night Falls (the autobiography of Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas), and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (based on the memoir of fashion magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, written during the time he suffered from locked-in syndrome after a massive stroke).
An initial response: I admit, I’d read just enough of a couple of mixed reviews about Miral to go in with low expectations (there was a grand total of 5 people in the theater). Sometimes that stance can allow me to appreciate a film all the more because I don’t expect it to be a masterpiece. But I walked out of this one annoyed. Its politics were naive, the story was split awkwardly between four different women’s lives and political inclinations, and I never felt for any of them the way I did with Schnabel’s previous protagonists. Was it just me, or was Miral a bit of a dog’s breakfast, as the English say?
JustMeMike: Wow, I’d not heard that one before – a dog’s breakfast – nor have I consumed a dog’s breakfast. I’m a transplanted New Yorker living near the golden shores of the Gulf of Mexico. My blog (The Arts) discusses film, art, travel, and I even dabble in foreign television.
My experiences with Schnabel, prior to Miral, consist of knowing that he was director of Basquiat, an artist whose name was often overheard in bars and restaurants on West Broadway in lower Manhattan years back. But I never saw the film, so Schnabel was an unknown for me.
I too had low expectations for Miral from reading a few reviews. I knew of Freida Pinto from Slumdog Millionaire, and I knew of Alexander Siddig from Deep Space Nine, the TV Series, who portrayed Miral’s father in this film. As I exited the theater with the sole other person who caught the matinee, she asked me if I liked it. I answered that yes, I did like it, but that it disappointed me, and that it was flawed. My first disappointment came from the fact that Vanessa Redgrave and William Dafoe, were each named on the film’s poster, but combined for no more than five minutes or so in the film. Do you think that was a bit of gimmick to create interest for American viewers?