Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
"The Eighth Day'' teaches a lesson that everybody piously agrees with and nobody practices: We must embrace simplicity and freedom, give ourselves room to breathe, and shake off the shackles of the lock step world. In the movie, evil is represented by a faceless giant corporation, photographed in cold shades of gray and blue. Goodness is embodied in a character who has Down syndrome, and approaches life directly, with great delight. During the course of the story he will teach the lesson of freedom to Harry, a harassed executive.
There is nothing to quarrel with here, but we must be careful before we sign up for freedom. I applaud it, but in a movie review that has a deadline and a recommended length. If I miss too many deadlines while embracing joy and freedom, I will find myself without a job. You, dear reader, can read my review and likewise subscribe to freedom. But if you are like me, reading the paper is a blessed oasis of private time in the morning before you must race out of the house and rejoin the rat race.
I've seen a lot of movies where simple characters teach complex ones how to relax and enjoy life. "Rain Man'' is an obvious example. Offhand, I can't recall a movie where a character starts out unfettered and free, and the movie teaches him that he needs to punch a time clock. I guess nobody would buy a ticket to that movie.
The hero of "The Eighth Day'' is Georges, played by Pascal Duquenne, a professional actor in Belgium who has Down syndrome. Since the death of his mother, he has lived in an institution that looks like a pleasant place. He has a sweetheart there, and some friends, and in his dreams he's comforted by his mother. One day a lot of the patients prepare for visits. Georges has no one to visit, but he packs his bag and sets off across the fields, his destination uncertain.