Stanley and Iris

I am a big fan of Martin Ritt’s Norma Rae, and this week, I saw his Stanley and Iris for the first time.

I loved this film.  Ordinary people who do extraordinary things.  It’s also a film about the unlikely connections we make in life.  It’s a simple story.

This simplicity is evident in Ritt’s directing.  The film is elegantly shot in an invisible style.  While use of angles and camera movement are part of the storytelling, they never call attention to themselves.  Clint Eastwood is a contemporary master of this brand of seamless filmmaking.  We can tend to think because we don’t see the choices, the director didn’t make any choices. That couldn’t be further from the truth.  In the future, I would like to employ this style in my films, though I appreciate the difficulties of mastering it.

Some choices I enjoyed in this film?  Setting some of it in the cake factory and having scenes throughout that depict life on this assembly line.  Also, Ritt uses movement, dollying and showing trays and carts in the foreground while the main action takes place further back.

Ritt is great at depicting the working class.  And Jane Fonda and Robert DeNiro are believable here.  Sometimes Hollywood stars are shown as working class and it looks totally ridiculous – like Tom Cruise driving a bulldozer at the beginning of War of the Worlds.  But Fonda and DeNiro fit perfectly in this factory world of people living paycheck to paycheck, trying to get by.

Made in 1989, the film comes just two years after Deniro’s performance as Al Capone in The Untouchables and just on the eve of Goodfellas.  Here, he is in territory very different from those films.  And he gives a beautiful, quiet performance.  In fact,  the entire film has a quiet quality that I enjoyed very much.

Fonda is brilliant, too.  Her spirit and her generosity carry the film.

The film is a great date movie. It has a romantic side to it that I think couples will enjoy.  We see two strangers looking for a second chance in love and in life.  Fonda was 52, DeNiro 47.  How refreshing to see lovers that are not in their 20’s.

Stanley & Iris is life-affirming.  That’s what I love most about it.  How interesting what happened just after.  It would be Ritt’s last film – barely a year later, he was dead.  Meanwhile, Jane Fonda went into retirement and would not make another film until 2005.

Check this film out and send me your thoughts.

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About kartiksingh

I have been living in Paris, France since 1996. I was born to Sikh parents who immigrated to the USA. I grew up outside of Kansas City, and at 18 went to Washington DC with the intention of becoming a diplomat. Five years later, I arrived in Paris and found my life purpose: to make films that bring hope, insight, and inspiration to the world. My debut feature film Callback premieres in September 2010 in New York. For more details on where you can see my films, look for me at http://www.facebook.com/#!/kartik.singh
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