The cast of actors involved in this film would be enough to make me want to see this but something on the trivia section was even more instigating and then I went ahead. There, it was quoted about how the movie was incredibly overlooked by audiences and awards in the year of its release despite receiving favorite reviews from top critics who put this film as one of the top 10 best of 2005. Is it all that good? No, I'm afraid, I've seen better films that year. It is a good film but it doesn't fit such bill.In the sense of avoiding old conceits, the vignettes of "Nive Lives" are above the average, which is always good in a world where repetitive stories become box-office hits immediately because most audiences like to know where they're stepping. But, when you see the film as a whole there are times you start to feel out of the experience, left out, trying to comprehend why all the stories doesn't have an ending and why would you embark in such journey if it never puts a dot in its discourses?The nine lives of nine female characters are presented in nine short stories of 12 minutes approximately (filmed in one take each, no cuts), sometimes connecting with each other throughout its characters, other times they're just there, forming an emotional connection between them all. There, powerful and moving stories like the sudden encounter between a former couple (Robin Wright Penn and Jason Isaacs) in a supermarket, trying to restart from the point they ended (my favorite segment of all); or the meeting between mother and daughter (played by Glenn Close and Dakota Fanning) talking about things of life and death; the woman (Kathy Baker) fighting against the cancer, being faithfully supported by her husband (Joe Mantegna); and many others stories. What writer and director Rodrigo Garcia makes with all of this is to present a clear and real portrayal of how tough is to be a woman, their desires, fears, wishes, worries and how all of this are perceived in different worlds going from a prison (through the eyes of a female prison inmate) to the simple housewife, mothers, daughters, sisters, etc.In a way, I found "Nine Lives" reduced to an certain simplicity, quite shallow, since the director haven't extended that to more possibilities and realities, I mean, where's the powerful women of the world? Where were the hard working professionals or even the ones who go through a lot of trouble dealing with abusive husbands, uncaring sons, that kind of characters? To me, he reduced some of the characters to the extent of being romantic figures coming out of an average literature. However, this wasn't the worst problem with this film. The thing that bothered me most was how wearing this film could be as it unfolds with all those vignettes, some very interesting to see, others thoroughly tiresome, boring to the point of asking yourself what you're doing there watching this, a purpose. This movie would be perfect if Garcia would select three stories presented here, make them longer and with a conclusion just like the ones Rebecca Miller presented in "Personal Velocity". Some stories were so engaging, so brilliantly created that when it ended I was like "No, keep going. Why stop here?" and I'm sure this infatuated lots of viewers (I had a similar experience in "Paris Je t'aime" but that's a different story and a better film).I can and will suggest this film but only go after if you like the actors involved with it (cast includes Aidan Quinn, Ian McShane, Amanda Seyfried, Sissy Spacek, Lisa Guy Hamilton, Miguel Sandoval, Stephen Dillane, Holly Hunter and others) or if you like film in this style. "Nine Lives" could have been more than it is but it's poetic message and its themes certainly are good enough to be appreciated by its audiences. 7/10
Some of the effectiveness of this film comes from the camera taking a single shot for the entire segment. The camera follows the main character, occasionally panning to persons or sets to give context. It left me curious as to how many takes were required to get the vignette just right. The actors had to know their lines to get from beginning to end, something of a rarity these days except on-stage.Every segment was believable, if occasionally over-wrought; that is, the viewer could agree with the writer/director that someone would act a particular way, but it was not always the most obvious way to act. As with many films, the plot line was often more about persons acting from their impulse rather than acting from their reason. Most of life is not that way, Sarah Palin excepted, but it IS that way for some, and I suppose that makes their lives more interesting than the lives of the folks that live logically. Film makers choose, fortunately, the interesting and sometimes thought-provoking story line over the banal.
Need the sins of the father be visited upon the son? Not if the terrific- nay, great, little 2005 film, Nine Lives, written and directed by Rodrigo Garcia, is Exhibit A. Garcia is the son of famed Nobel Prize winning magical realist fictionist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, of Love In A Time Of Cholera and One Hundred Years Of Solitude fame. Yet, despite that fame, the father's work, in novels and short fictions, is usually baroque and anomic in narrative, and hollow and superficial in characterization. In this film, his son, however, shows how quickly and deftly a whole life can be sketched and distilled- if not contained, in just ten to twelve real time minutes, doing something his father never did- create complex and compelling characters and situations. He has a human touch in his art that his father has always lacked with his magical realism.This hour and fifty-two minute film is, in short, antithetical to everything Garcia's father's art stands for. And, as a film-goer, you should be very thankful for that! I'd never heard of this director, but heard good things about this film. However, I never take such recommendations too seriously, because for every great film like this I am told I need to see pretentious trash, like Crash, this past year's Oscar winner, an ensemble film that only wishes it could have a fraction of the hyper-realism this film does. Prior to this film, Garcia had directed commercials, some television episodes, including The Sopranos, and two prior low budget films- 2001's Ten Tiny Love Stories, and 2000's Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her.The film that this most reminded me of was Jill Sprecher's great 2001 film, 13 Conversations About One Thing, save that that film wove all its character's plights into a single loose thread, while this film is simply nine short films with a few crossover characters. Jim Jarmusch's recent compilation film of related short subjects, Coffee And Cigarettes, also mines this territory and style, but with nowhere near the success of Nine Lives. Of the nine segments, all named after the lead female character within, for Garcia seems to have a reputation as a woman's filmmaker, seven are brilliant or great, and the two weaker pieces are still good, solid films that experiment with the medium. However, any short story collection that was published, with seven of its nine tales being great would become a classic
. Other films, like Magnolia and Grand Canyon, try this overlapping technique, but they all tie things up at the end, often with all the characters meeting. These films are merely moments that will be big memories in the minds of each of the protagonists, in years to come. The backstories are implied so well, subtly and quickly, that it's not at all difficult to get into each scene within minutes of their starting. Yet, to know everything in those backstories would beg triteness and lengthen the film so that only two, perhaps three, of the stories, could still fit within.Garcia shows great command of his medium with his objective Chekhovian writing and zero endings, for what could have easily become a New Agey or Chick Flick piece of schlock. Unlike such films as Time Code, this experiment in filmic narrative works, and is a worthy descendant of the filmic experiments that Ingmar Bergman pioneered in the 1960s. It should have been one of the films nominated for an Oscar, along with other under-appreciated films like The New World, Match Point, and Shopgirl. But, Hollywood keeps on churning out schlock like Brokeback Mountain and Crash instead, while films like this are shunted aside. Fight back, watch this film, talk about it with others, and make sure that the powerbrokers know that there is a market for such films. It's the only way there will be more of them.
edittmer-1, you are right on target about the final vignette with Glenn Close and Dakota Fanning. If one doesn't get the point that Close is visiting her own daughter's grave, then the whole segment doesn't make too much sense. The three clues I noticed that showed this was what the filmmaker intended: 1) Close casually uses the word "f*cking" when talking to Fanning, which is inconsistent with being the kind of nurturing parent she obviously was. Fanning responds to this word with indifference, which would also be inconsistent with the precociousness her character shows throughout the scene--if this were really happening, the child would have no doubt reacted to it and called out her mother for using such language. 2) As another poster pointed out, at her age, Close seems like she should be the child's grandmother rather than mother. This is because the child died many years ago. Close's character has aged, but her memory of her child is frozen at the time when she died. 3) Close leaves the grave alone, no child in sight.Once I realized what happened--my wife instantly pointed it out to me as we watched, the poignancy of this part of the film really hit me. I don't know how many times I could re-watch it, because the pain and tragedy evoked by it is too much to take, but it is extremely well done and a great achievement by the filmmaker.