A note: This is the ninth entry in the Cinépathétic series, an interview-style back and forth between me and the interesting people in my life, jabbering about movies and why we love them so damned much. This week, I’m interviewing Arturo Rodarte, owner and operator of Charming Courier Collective, and one hell of a great guy. We discuss (in enthusiastic bursts) just wanting Amélie to be happy, underestimating Matt Damon, and believing in the Bogeyman. As usual, be wary for spoilers throughout, and please, enjoy.
Arturo: Jarrod. It’s really a treat. I’ve been pretty excited about this. It feels like just yesterday you mentioned starting DoomRocket.
DR: (laughs) Days not so long ago, comparatively quaint in retrospect. Do you have your list ready to go?
Arturo: Brace yourself; this list has been ready to go. It’s been kept tightly under wraps.
DR: I haven’t said a goddamned word. What’s first?
Arturo: Amélie . Brought back a lot of great memories.
DR: Ah, yes. Amélie. Jean-Paul Jeunet’s gorgeous valentine to anyone with a beating heart. (sighs) We talked about this a little not too long ago. I seem to remember you getting all keyed up about it. Why is this on your list?
Arturo: I think I first saw this in a color theory class. Blew my mind. The color pallete, cinematography, it was all overwhelming in such a wonderful way. The storytelling is just wonderful and every character that comes on screen… So well crafted.
DR: Well crafted, but still kooky. I remember being assured that Jeunet was maintaining his aesthetic from Delicatessen when the director introduced the characters in the café. Where Amélie works. They’re some of my favorite parts of the film.
Arturo: Those are some of the most interesting parts of the film, all of these tiny little vignettes into all of these characters’ lives. Its great to see how all of these lives that these people live are interconnected. I feel like the film has a lot of the techniques Jeunet used in Delicatessen, but I think of Spring when I watch Amélie. I think of blood in my mouth when I watch Delicatessen.
DR: (laughs) Is it the visuals of the film that elicit those feelings? It’s a very upbeat film, and Amélie is such a plucky minx, but there’s some melancholy there too, I think.
Arturo: Audrey Tautou, every fine art college boys crush. Was this written for her in mind? ‘Cause she plays it with such ease. She just pulls you in with her charm, cleverness. Visuals are just part of it. It’s more of the feeling of atmosphere. The way he moves the camera eliminates a lot of boundaries for the viewer. It feels like I’m just floating in this girl’s imagination throughout the film.
DR: You’re not wrong about Audrey Tautou. Whoever coined the phrase “manic pixie dream girl” obviously had this film in mind when they coined it. But when she’s staring at that painting – you know the one, the one that’s been re-painted like twenty times – and she keeps looking at the girl drinking water and feeling really lonesome, that crushed me, just a little bit. No amount of charm salvaged those feelings for me. I wanted her to be happy. So bad.
Arturo: Isn’t it strange? Her character can be so selfless and yet she felt so lonely inside. The dialouge and the relationship that she builds with the old man through that painting is beautiful. These two souls that have such solitary lives help each other overcome a lot of internalized fear. You were very correct when you described it as “melancholy,” a lot of the time I felt sad for what some of the characters around her were going through. Just the story line of her father left me feeling crushed.
DR: It’s a gorgeous film. Let’s move on to your next film. What’s next?
DR: Hah! I was just talking about Wes Anderson’s films with Samantha last week. I love this movie. It’s hard to meet someone who doesn’t. Why, out of all of Anderson’s films, did you pick this one?
Arturo: Because It’s about an incredibly eccentric and dysfunctional family, which I am very familiar with.
DR: Dysfunction is something I can relate to, as well.
Arturo: When I watch it now, I get tense. Family is a unit of individuals that has to get along because when it comes down to it, we are family. It’s inherent to want to do everything you can to help or just be with your family no matter how hard it is to deal with them.
DR: Something the Tenenbaums, a family of people that excel in everything they do, seem to be unable to accomplish.
Arturo: Its hard to live with family again after you have moved on and started to forge a path for yourself.
DR: So it’s safe to say that you relate to Richie Tenenbaum, in some way?
Arturo: Not entirely, I can relate to the pressure that Richie felt when he had his breakdown. All of the Tenenbaum children were really successful at a young age, which didn’t make them happy. Just left them all a little dull to reality later on in life. We all hit that point in life where it’s all just overwhelming and we try and do something dramatic to change it.
DR: These are all themes that Anderson fleshes out exquisitely in Tenenbaums. It’s a daunting balancing act that he accomplishes, where he keeps this internal strife with each individual member of this family, immediate or otherwise, alive and potent. Then there’s the idiosyncratic nature of the Tenenbaum home, and the habits that come from living in such a home. It’s so lived in. It feels so real.
Arturo: A balancing act he pulled off flawlessly. I wish I lived in that house. I could just smell the veneer, that wonderful musk that only a house a family mired by being the best can have. The relationship between Ritchie and Margot is like that of two children on the playground, when he walks off the bus and walks towards Margot,These Days, by Nico, is playing. It was too beautiful. I replayed that over and over.
DR: That has to be one of my favorite scenes in any film. Ever.
Arturo: It would be impossible to find someone that didn’t like that scene.
DR: The relationship between Margot and Richie shouldn’t work, but really, it’s the impetus to the entire picture. If nothing else, it represents how you can know everything there is to know about art, science, history, etc, and know absolutely nothing about the many facets of love. I relate to Richie more than any other character in any of Wes Anderson’s films. What’s your favorite character in The Royal Tenenbaums?
Arturo: I think Richie makes it for me, but that’s not fair to say because they all compliment each other. Without everyone else being so perfectly imperfect.
DR: Gene Hackman kills it in this film. I mean, Royal Tenenbaum has to be his finest performance. I kind of wish I grow up to be like him. But with, y’know, compassion.
Arturo: Even without the compassion, he would still be the most intersting person in the room. He makes you not mind the fact that he’s lying to his family about dying, because you know what Gene Hackman does: makes it fun.
DR: Yeah. And fun rules.
Arturo: You have to give ‘im credit for following through on faking his death. Went through a lot of effort.
DR: It was the hardest he ever worked at for anything. And it was for his family. He got in just under “too little, too late.” What a guy. What’s next?
Arturo: The Departed. I’m excited to talk to you about this one. After all, you had nothing but great things to say about Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street.
DR: (laughs) Me and Birdy watched this one again the other night. We were both still coming down from Wolf Of Wall Street, three weeks after the fact. Why did you pick this one, Arturo?
Arturo: Because it’s a crime opera. Good vs. Evil. The evils that are necessary in order to pursue justice. Jack Nicholson Crime Boss. Do I need to say any more?
DR: We could leave it at that, sure. But fuck that. Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, with these two films – Departed and Wolf of Wall Street – have finally made good on the potential of their pairing, I think. The Departed was such an unglamorous role for DiCaprio, but he nails every scene he’s in. But the unsung hero of this film, I think, is Matt Damon. Believe it or not.
Arturo: I don’t really think I cared for anything Matt Damon did before this, but damn did he do something special with this role. He’s spineless and slimy, but I love him. Just watching these two characters lives develop, from the second the film starts is genius.
DR: At the end, when blood is gushing down his face, and he and DiCaprio are taking that elevator to the lobby, and he’s going to finally face justice for every shitty thing he’s ever done, he goes from “try pulling this one off, you cocksucker” to damn-near weeping and begging for death. I was beside myself. Matt Damon was, as Bird puts it, “acting the shit out of that movie.”
Arturo: Matt Damon’s character just gets it all from the beginning and that is such an amazing build-up to the void. And that comes full circle in that final scene. He has no idea what to do, because no one is holding his hand.
DR: Did you notice the narrative bookending in this film? Where Damon is in the academy at the beginning, and his instructor is talking about what a bullet does to a human skull, and the end is just brain matter, all over the screen. Magnificent.
Arturo: Everything in this movie was cyclical, it all comes back to you in the end. And what better medium than the mob to portray that.
DR: So true. Want is the necessity to put a price tag on a human life. And Jack Nicholson’s character, Francis, is Death Itself, in its most hypocritical form.
Arturo: That scene between Nicholson and DiCaprio, where he is trying to flush out the rat and he is sketching on the tablemat, is beyond tense.
DR: A lot of that was improvised on the spot. I think Nicholson was actually drunk. I can’t prove it, but it sure is terrifying. Then later, when Francis tells DiCaprio to go home, and his arms are elbow-deep in blood, that was an improvised idea. All Jack’s idea.
Arturo: Have you ready anything about Mr. Bolger, the man that inspired the story?
DR: Whitey Bolger? Not too much. Why?
Arturo: There are real people that don’t view humanity with the same eyes. The fact that eliminating a human being is the cost of doing business.
DR: The Bogeyman actually exists, kind of thing?
Arturo: Yeah, and that the cops conspire with the Bogeyman
DR: There’s a goddamned thought. What’s next?
DR: Man. I want to try to talk about this without me bitching about Spike Lee‘s remake. Think we will make it?
Arturo: Yeah. And I was about to joke about the the Spike Lee thingy. But I won’t.
DR: It’s so easy. Too easy. We’re above it. I hope.
Arturo: Lets move on.
DR: Why is this on the list?
Arturo: Because it’s such a fucking twisted revenge movie. That I can’t – but want – to keep watching.
DR: It can be a tough film to watch, for so many reasons. This isn’t a fucking date movie, that’s for sure.
Arturo: It could be.
Arturo: I think a lot of films in this genre are overacted or just overly brutal. But this is done with a lot of grace.
DR: You’re not wrong about certain action/gore fests being simply that. OldBoy has a mired sophistication to it. It disgusts and entices in the exact same moment. No small feat.
Arturo: Park Chan-wook does such a good job at giving you these scraps that just build. It culminates to a more sinister kind of gore. When he finds out that it’s his daughter and he loses it… That was harder to watch than any other scene in the movie.
DR: My god. That scene. It reduces Oh Dae-su to a simpering beast. That scene is of the grandest, most tragic opera. It still fucks with me, what he does for tribute to his nemesis, in his shame.
Arturo: “Nemesis,” thats a good way of putting it. But he was shamed in his own way, and he himself was seeking revenge.
DR: The film – about two men both seeking absolution in their vengeance – is an ouroboros of evil. Evil acts predicate evil acts. And the deeper Park goes with his narrative, more layers become apparent. By the end of the film, we’re all lying in the filth of it all. But we can’t pull ourselves away.
Arturo: I think it touches on the primal instincts that lay dormant in all of us. These characters both get pushed beyond their limits mentally, which leads them down this path of carnage. Two lost souls tearing apart those around them for some kind of peace. It’s fascinating, and makes the viewer question how far they would go. But that scene at the end where he is getting hypnotized is chilling.
DR: And the “smile” at the very end is telling, but not, at the same frustrating time. Does the hypnosis work, do you think?
Arturo: I don’t mind the hypnosis. I think that is the only way for his character to escape the evil that he has become. He has no tongue and what he has done throughout the film is unforgettable. Can’t have all that eating away at you and no one to talk to about it.
DR: See, I don’t think the hypnosis works. I think he’s damned for the rest of his (presumably) short life. But nobody knows for sure, obviously. And Park Chan-wook ain’t talking. What’s last on your list?
DR: I’m swooning with you, buddy. I was defending this film to someone yesterday who just hated this movie. You might have been proud.
Arturo: I wanna hear the details. I just can’t understand what is going on in that person’s head. Such amazing material that is executed beautifully by the Coen Brothers.
DR: The guy – remaining nameless (until I totally tell you tomorrow) – didn’t “get” (his words) the bleakness of the film. Because the film was so dark, this movie – again, his words – “sucked”. I maintained my composure. As if I don’t already know, why did you pick this film?
Arturo: As far as I’m concerned, they did such an amazing job with the source material, that one day Cormac McCarthy said, “hey I should start writing screenplays!” and then he came out with The Counselor. The Coen Brothers inspired him with this film.
DR: I wouldn’t want to burden this film with The Counselor. Oof. But you’re right. The Coens kept practically everything in the book for the film, plus or minus some narrative milemarkers. The book reads like the screenplay itself. At least, it did to me. This film is a juggernaut in my mind, and completely eclipsed the book. Which is not how it’s supposed to work.
Arturo: It’s hard to find a place to start with this film. The Coen Brothers have an amazing gift when it comes to making a movie feel timeless. The details in the environment, the lack of score is what is so attractive to me. They relied on that gasp, that weight you feel on your chest when you know something bad is going to happen.
DR: Which happens often, courtesy of Anton Chigurh.
Arturo: We talked about the Bogeyman earlier. Anton is the Bogeyman. Javier Bardem, played a man with no soul, and how he was able to breath life into a character like that is amazing. It is a very minimal movie and puts us in the middle of this world that these characters themselves have no place in.
DR: Javier Bardem is so terrifying in this film. You’re absolutely right about the Bogeyman. It’s Anton. And if you see him, you’re dead.
Arturo: It’s his ingenuity and skill that make him and his character so menacing. But the sweetness of Josh Brolin’s character. You know he is doing his damndest, but he is beyond his means. You know his fate is sealed from the second he is introduced in the film.
DR: He’s such a dunce. He’ll never make it.
Arturo: But the film makes you want him to make it. Tommy Lee Jones’ character was such a wonderful balance.
DR: That ending monologue haunts me. Like, for real haunts me. I stared into open space for a good long while after that film ended. He’s wisecracking and dry and world-weary, but Tommy Lee Jones has not seen it all. Not yet. This case gives him one fuck of an existential crisis.
Arturo: It’s a beautiful monologue and a very somber closing scene. He has no idea what to do with his life, not only because he is retired, but because he has witnessed something beyond what he has learned. He had to stop because it was beyond his ability to reason with it.
DR: But somehow he always knew that this creeping emptiness was always there. It’s in his dream. And there’s no answer for it. Not ever.
Arturo: That dream comes up quite a bit.
DR: That’s one hell of a note to end this conversation on.
Arturo: It really is. The air was sucked outta the room. I hope that I was useful.
DR: Arturo, you nailed it. Thanks again.
Arturo Rodarte was born and raised in Chicago. He somehow found the time (in-between being an incredibly nice guy and making everyone he ever met completely happy) to study photography at Columbia College. A few various jobs and six years later. he is the owner and operator of Charming Courier Collective.