People typically make home movies to preserve their experiences—and their loved ones—for memory, not, as filmmakers do, to reveal hidden traits. But, in “Dick Johnson Is Dead” (coming Friday to Netflix), Kirsten Johnson, a prominent documentary cinematographer and the director of the cinematic self-portrait “Cameraperson,” does both at the same time, and more. A few years ago, Johnson learned that her widowed father, Richard, a psychiatrist in Seattle, was experiencing short-term memory loss and could no longer practice, drive safely, or live alone. She decided—and he agreed—that he should move in with her in New York, and she filmed the process of joining him to close his office and empty the family home, and of getting accustomed to their new life together.
The film does more than record and preserve their relationship; it transforms it, as their collaboration becomes the pretext and the mechanism for Dick to search out and give voice to his memories and for Kirsten to ask him about them—and to help him continue to live, despite increasing infirmity, in a way that honors them. Yet, in a voice-over that runs throughout the film, over a first scene in which she’s filming him playing vigorously with her young twins, she explains, “I suggested we make a movie about him dying; he said yes.” She wasn’t exaggerating: the remark cuts to a city street where Dick is hit in the head and crushed by a falling air-conditioner. The macabre scene—just as quickly revealed to be a fiction, the trickery of which is eventually displayed—is only the first, and neither the least gruesome nor the least antic nor the least mournful, of the movie’s preënactments of Johnson’s death. (In the very next sequence, Kirsten installs a coffin in the church where Dick worships and has him climb into it—in the presence of friends and the crew—and, amid much cheerful and jibing chat, play dead.)
The warmth and complicity of the bond between father and daughter, the strength of Johnson family feeling, the mutual respect and devotion on which it’s based, emerge from the start of the film as well. The same is true of the sincere interest and good will that Dick appears to generate among all who come into his field of attention—a quality that Kirsten conveys cinematically, starting with the tender intimacy of the way that she looks at him through the camera. Presenting him in loving closeups early on, she declares, in her candid and vulnerable voice-over, that the thought of losing her father is “too much to bear.” The dramatizations of his death have a therapeutic aspect, a sense of self-preparation, a staging of a theatre of grief for her own private rehearsal of its impending real-life emotions—as well as the filming of that theatre to replay it for herself, like a home movie for public consumption. (There’s also an element of regret that underlies the movie over all—Johnson has only scant footage of her mother, in her later years, when she had Alzheimer’s disease.)
These scenes remind me of the young child’s game of “fort/da” (“gone” and “there”) that Freud describes in “Beyond the Pleasure Principle”—actively throwing a toy to the other side of the room in order to experience getting it back. As Freud says, the whole game is “disappearance and return,” in order to turn a sense of loss into an anticipation of pleasure—and to do so repetitively, even obsessionally. It’s a mover named Mike, visiting Dick’s office and preparing to remove the furniture, who, hearing of these scenes, names them aptly: “The resurrected Dad.” Kirsten renders the religious aspect of these scenes—no less than those of Dick’s life—explicit. She includes fantasy visions of Dick in Heaven, replete with cascading sequins, floating feathers, beatifically glowing lights, the healing of Dick’s infirmity (a deformation of his toes), and even his reunion with Kirsten’s mother, all under the gaze of the resurrected Jesus (played by an actor). The Johnson family is Seventh-day Adventist, and Kirsten briskly explains the church’s interpretation of Heaven in view of her parents’ ascension—in light of the resurrection.
There’s giddy comedy along with the sublime adoration in these sequences, and they mesh with the poignant and intimate documentary work to set Dick’s worldly goodness in a cosmic and transcendent context. No less than a wry vision of Heaven, “Dick Johnson Is Dead” presents Kirsten’s own life, lived in the light of such a man, as a sort of Heaven on Earth, as a worldly blessing. (She even reveals the cinematic aspect of that blessing—her introduction to movies, despite the church’s ban on them, thanks to her father.) Each step of the journey—from the packing of the office and the home to the selling of Dick’s car (a significant trauma that represents the loss of his independence), the farewell to his friends, his arrival in New York to join Kirsten and her family (her two children and their two dads, the filmmaker Ira Sachs and the artist Boris Torres, who live next door), and his increasing episodes of forgetfulness and bewilderment—is filmed, by Kirsten, with a resolute but respectful candor and an overwhelmingly intense emotional immediacy (heightened by the attentive editing of Nels Bangerter). Even the metafictional sequences that show the stunts and the props involved in the staged death scenes are a part of Dick’s and Kirsten’s shared lives, and they play a key role in the intensification and the demonstration of their mutual regard.
Along with the personal feelings that emerge with expansive power in “Dick Johnson Is Dead” comes a similar medical specificity, a view of the particulars of Dick’s impairment that also show the ferocious resistance of his faculties, the fierce lucidity that emerges, with grand and good humor, even in times of difficulty. Dick Johnson’s bodily death (however theatrically staged) is one thing; the loss of his selfhood through the diminution of his formidable faculties is another. Dick describes the death of his late wife as a “long goodbye,” because of the many years that her body lived on when her mental life was gone. In “Dick Johnson Is Dead,” Johnson confronts a sense of loss with a teeming, exuberant sense of life. In its unwieldy, risky, manifold funerary joy as well as its fervent grief, the film is an affirmation, beyond particular religious beliefs, that the rituals of mourning are celebrations not only of a life as lived but of an afterlife on Earth, in the love and the memory of family, friends, patients, associates, and acquaintances—and in art.
Radhika Apte reveals real reason why she got married
Radhika Apte needs no introduction to Kollywood fans after her appearance as Superstar Rajinikanth’s wife in ‘Kabali’ directed by Pa Ranjith. The intense actress impressed with her performance of a meek girl to a mother of a grown-up and especially her reunion scene with Rajini took the audience on an emotional ride.
Radhika is happily married to her British boyfriend Benedict Taylor who is a singer and she shuttles between Mumbai and London to balance her personal and professional life.
Radhika Apte in her most recent interaction with Vikranth Massey on social media from London has admitted that she does not believe in the institution of marriage. When asked why she got married the talented performer replied that it is easier for married people to get a British visa and that’s why she and her man opted for it in 2012.
Radhika is currently chilling with Taylor in their London home during the lockdown and will soon start filming her next English film ‘Noor Inayat Khan’ in which she plays a spy based on a true story.
Jacqueline Fernandez shares picture of her being in ‘happy place’
Actor Jacqueline Fernandez is working on a secret project where she found herself in a ‘happy place’. Taking it to Instagram on Sunday, the 35-year-old actor shared a picture dressed up like a traffic police officer as she is seen laughing her heart out.
“How was everyone’s Sunday?? Fun project coming up soon! #myhappyplace,” wrote Fernandez along with a picture where she is also seen holding a coffee mug. The ‘Kick’ actor also shared a few Instagram stories of her getting ready for the upcoming project.
Recently, the actor extended gratitude to her fans after the number of Instagram followers hit the 46 million mark.
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Why an ‘active’ approach to risk modelling is key to navigating markets today
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