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American Fable

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Overheard exposition, Part II

Seeing a series of exquisitely subtle films that includes Jeff Nichols' "Shotgun Stories," Eran Kolirin's "The Band's Visit" and Bill Forsyth's "Housekeeping," you become sensitized to how clumsy most movies are about unloading their expository details. These Ebertfest films and filmmakers know how to reveal what needs to be revealed indirectly, without the audience necessarily even realizing that it's being let in on a wealth of information.

So: A real-life example of efficient, semi-oblique expository dialog overheard in a restaurant in Champaign-Urbana on a stormy Friday night. A young couple have just arrived and are about to be seated.

Hostess (smiling): "Oh, it's just the two of you tonight."

Man: "Yeah, we popped in a Disney movie and slipped out the side door."

See, that's a little movie right there. Filmmakers, take note: How much do we know about the lives of this man, this woman, and their history with this restaurant from these two short lines?

More about this subject (and others) in further catch-up Ebertfest posts...

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