Saturday, July 02, 2005

Alexander the Great

Jane Alexander, though she's been around longer, has never gotten as much face time as Meryl. Pity.

While in the throes of a post-War of the Worlds adrenaline rush, I sought to continue the theme of the apocalypse by Netflixing Testament, which I hadn't seen in a while. I watched it last night. Probably the saddest, darkest, and most affirming movie I've seen.

Testament premiered quietly in 1983. It was supposed to be a PBS made-for-TV movie, but the rumor was that the producers were so impressed they released it theatrically. I hate giving away the fundamentals of movies, but suffice it to say that Testament confronts global destruction in the simplest, most domestic way possible.

Alexander plays a mother who must see her family through the destruction, which creeps into their small California community like a fog. How she does and why she does are unimaginable, but are made perfectly accessible by Alexander's brave performance. She must live with death while imparting to her children the joys of life they will not grow up to experience. It's a frightening prospect.

The DVD has a feature called "Testament at 20," a documentary filmed by the movie's director, Lynne Littman. It awkwarldy reunites the children, but has thoughtful insights by the filmmakers, including composer James Horner, who was on the cusp of becoming Hollywood's go-to scorer.

Alexander (who headed the National Endowment for the Arts in the '90s) hasn't been in much lately -- some stage work, The Ring, a nice cameo in Sunshine State, Warm Springs on HBO. Next is Fur with Nicole Kidman, set for release in 2006. Maybe she'll be discovered then.


Middento said...

I remember seeing Testament way back then, if you can believe that. This is long before I was a fim geek. My mom worked for a nuclear waste disposal consulting firm and she wanted me to know about the dangers of nuclear war. (We also watched The Day After as a family. I remember both movies freaked me out immensely (at the tender age of 10) and have instilled this life-long fear of nuclear war. But I remember Testament as quietly impressive then. I should go back (braving the possible PTSD) and watch it again.

Oh and yes, Alexander is great. (Oh wait, you aren't talking about my son?...)

J.J. said...

No, not Xanimal (as I will take to calling him whenever we meet). You should definitely watch Testament again, though it's tough to find in D.C. area video stores. Instantly available via Netflix, though, God love it. Would make a nice addition to a Critical Approach class -- how movies have the power to suggest situations (in this case global destruction) without showing it.