In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb wildlife

Wildlife

One never senses judgment from Dano, Kazan, Gyllenhaal, or Mulligan—they recognize that there’s beauty even in the mistakes we make in life. It’s what makes…

Thumb can forgive

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Can You Ever Forgive Me? comes from a place of understanding and love that few other biopics do, and it makes this difficult character a…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

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…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives

Reviews

Dirty Dishes

  |  

"Dirty Dishes" tells the story of a woman who begins by feeling trapped by the routine of domestic life, and who ends by being trapped within her own madness. Did housework and motherhood drive her mad? The movie doesn't take a position, although some of the women who have written about the film take it for granted.

The movie itself is more open-ended, as if to say, this is the sort of thing that can happen to you if your life is besieged by children, vacuum cleaners, supermarkets, hairdressers, auto repairs and lecherous men on the street.

Advertisement

The movie stars the French-Canadian actress Carole Laure as Armelle, a beautiful young Parisian woman who was forced to support herself after her father died, who dropped out of school and worked as a nightclub dancer, and who left dancing and married her somewhat older husband because she wanted a life of security and parenthood.

Now that she has her wish, it's driving her crazy. But what else can she do? She cleans. She scrubs. She listens to sex-advice programs on the radio. She goes to a porno movie with three girlfriends. She makes secret visits to a gay hairdresser who gives her sensuous shampoos and then she washes her hair again so her husband won't know. She applies for a few jobs, but without success; one commercial casting director tells her she just doesn't look like the kind of woman who would wash dishes, and she allows herself just one short, bitter little laugh.

The world she inhabits shows signs of bursting at the seams, and for this we can probably credit Joyce Bunuel, who wrote and directed it. Bunuel is the former daughter-in-law of Luis Bunuel, the great Spanish director who made a specialty of allowing anarchy to disrupt everyday life. Joyce Bunuel seems to share something of the same spirit.

Her film opens with an unexplained, sinister event in which a strange man threatens Armelle and her family. Throughout the movie there are other little moments that are just a shade too strange to happen anywhere except in real life.

Bunuel also has an interesting strategy for photographing Armelle's daily life. She stays close. She uses close-ups of household tasks and labor-saving gadgets, vacuum cleaners and orange juicers. And she allows Armelle's two small children to intrude noisily into the frame, disrupting the movie as they bounce excitedly through life.

The husband, on the other hand, is a detached, reasonable, quietly maddening person who never quite understands why his wife is unhappy. Some of the reviews of "Dirty Dishes" have criticized it for taking such a negative view of the daily domestic life of a young mother. I'd approach the movie from another point of view. Since the film is manifestly about this particular mother, and since she is a little mad as well as a little frustrated, it's doubtful Bunuel even intended "Dirty Dishes" as a general view of domestic routine. Like the other Bunuel, she lets a little insanity and a little poetry into the frame. It makes for a more interesting picture.

Advertisement

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Netflix’s Terrifying, Moving The Haunting of Hill House is Essential Viewing

A review of Mike Flanagan's new horror series based on the Shirley Jackson novel, The Haunting of Hill House.

Always Leave 'Em Laughing: Peter Bogdanovich on Buster Keaton, superheroes, television, and the effect of time on movies

Peter Bogdanovich, film historian and filmmaker, talks about Buster Keaton, the subject of his new documentary.

Why The Godfather, Part II is the Best of the Trilogy

A look back at one of the best films of all time.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus