RR Films: Dialogue

Donny the blessed peacemaker is trying to get all these Middle Eastern folk to stop making waves, mainly by encouraging dialogue about how awful Iran is (particularly apt now they have re-elected the moderate guy). I do hope Jared and Ivanka find his pills in time and keep him away from Twitter.

But I suppose dialogue is better than just shouting at them or bombing them (see below). It’s good to talk, I seem to remember being told by Bob Hoskins a long time ago, and there are some great films out there that have talking in them!

I’m looking for films this week where talking is at the heart of the experience, where action and even plot are secondary. I thought of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight trilogy but instead I’ll pick his talking-head-spinning, Rotoscoped Waking Life.

What films centred around dialogue would you recommend?

I prepared this before the deadly explosion five miles away from here last night. Should I ask instead for films about murderers? About idiots? About brainwashing? About settling scores? About unbearable loss?

I decided to stick with dialogue because, as humans, it’s the best mechanism we have for modifying thought into, hopefully, more sociable patterns. The IRA entered into dialogue with their enemies and that has been pretty successful. It is more difficult with this lot though; at least the IRA gave Manchester a warning first.

25 thoughts on “RR Films: Dialogue

    • Btw, that Jared is an odious little shit. Trump is the vile blowhard it says on his tin. Jared is a creepier brand of serpent.

  1. This is a really tough subject, not least because there are so many ways of interpreting the meaning. I can think of quite a few films where the turning point of the plot depends on a dialogue between characters, or films where the verbal relationships are the most important aspects of the way that the plot is developed.

    For example, “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind” ultimately comes down to the climactic encounter between the human researchers and the alien mothership and that depends on the ability of the two sides to communicate, everything else that happens in the film builds up to that one moment of dialogue between two utterly different species.

    Similarly, and this is my choice, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” is all about dialogue and communication. The story really unfolds in meetings, in secret trysts, in soundproofed conference rooms, in interviews. and so on. You can take all of the action and none of it serves any purpose except to put the dialogue between the various players into a visual context. George Smiley talks to people who all have snippets of information, people who don’t even know that what they have to say has any significance and to people who have crucial pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. Only Smiley has the whole story, and even then he can only assemble the narrative by talking to people. In this particular world of shadows, betrayal, double cross and mindgames only the dialogue matters, getting it from the horse’s mouth is key.

    • I think that a big part of what makes the Smiley books and films so great is what isn’t said. So much of that communication is non-verbal, or implied. I first read those books in college, and i’ve read (and watched the Alec Guinness ones) them all a few times since. Every time i glean something new from them, and the first time i read them, i doubt i even grasped what was going on at a deep level, because so much was left unsaid. The reader is left to fill in a lot of blanks, and that’s all to the good. Between Smiley and his wife, Haydon, and remember the interrogation scene with Patrick Stewart, where he’s dead silent. But he takes Smiley’s lighter. And tosses it back at the end of the last film. LeCarre is such a great writer, unortunately he’s coasted on his formula ever since. I don’t even bother to read his books anymore, as beautifully written as they are, i can tell you pretty much exactly what’s going to happen and how.

      • I’m not sure that I agree that his books are predictable or that he is coasting. I am a fan, I’ll happily admit that, but I think that he is a great novelist, not just a great spy writer and his books hold up a mirror to the modern world and expose the dirty laundry that our political and economic masters would prefer to keep hidden.

        • Total agreement! I’ve recently re-read/re-seen almost everything by and about LeCarre, to my mind one of the most significant authors of recent times and I’m looking forward to the release of his new book.
          Re. the current topic the first that comes to mind is My Dinner with Andre, it’s almost total dialogue, here’s Wiki’s comment.
          “My Dinner with Andre is a 1981 American comedy-drama film directed by Louis Malle, and written by and starring Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn. The actors play fictionalized versions of themselves sharing a conversation at Café des Artistes in Manhattan. The film’s dialogue covers such things as experimental theatre, the nature of theatre, and the nature of life, and contrasts Shawn’s modest humanism with Gregory’s spiritual experiences.”

  2. Mmmmm tricky one

    I will go with ” A Taste of Cherry” the Abbas Kiorastami film from 1997 in which an Iranian man drives around Tehran trying to persuade various passengers to bury him after he has commited suicide ! I know it sounds like a bizarre plot but it works brilliantly as a manifesto for all that humanity should be about but often isn’t (see above) and the lead actor (Homayoun Ershadi) gives a stunning performance

    • Although I think my actual pick will be Dogville. As it has no set and takes place almost entirely in one location. It also has a lot of dialogue and a narrator (John Hurt) who tells you about the characters and their motivations. Normally I’m not keen on voice-overs but this film would not really work without it.

  3. That ’81 film would be My Dinner with Andre. I like the suggestion of TTSS and particularly nice to see somebody who actually liked the film version.

    • ….and we have a winner!

      There’s another Graunfave that has a famous 17-minute dialogue at its core, and which also has a connection with my additional morning thoughts.

      • I’ll leave that for someone else, if it’s the one I’m thinking of I haven’t actually seen it.
        On reflection probably my favourite film for dialogue is the Marx. Bros. Duck Soup, Rufus T. Firefly also in many ways a proto Trumpean figure.

      • Would that be Hunger by any chance? If not, that definitely had a lot of taking. Great Steve McQueen film starring Fassbender as the IRA prisoner Bobby Sands who leads a hunger strike and other dirty protests at the infamous Maze jail. The scene I’m thinking of is a conversation between Sands and a priest about the philosophy behind the decision to protest, don’t know if it’s 17mins long tho.

        • Yes, that’s the one I was thinking of. I must confess that I’d become so numbed by then that the relative peace of that conversation allowed me to drift off to sleep a little, so I didn’t really engage with it. And I haven’t had the stomach to watch it all over again.

      • I mentioned Paris, Texas, the other week but this scene fits this topic. A movie that I saw after hearing the music first.

  4. Btw @chris7572 I went to university in Manchester and ended up staying on. I lived in the city for 13 years in total. I bought my first house there. My first child was born there. After a nomadic childhood it was the first place I had stability and readily called it home. I was in the city centre in 1996 at the time of the Corporation Street bomb. The city and its people were resilient then and bounced back bigger and better. What happened last night is different. I have been carrying around this feeling of distress all day and yet I am not personally affected. I therefore also feel a bit of a fraud. I hope Manchester can recover from this appalling attack on generations coming together to enjoy music. Gutted of (now) Surrey.

    • We’ll be as fine as everyone else, Sarah. It wasn’t an attack on Manchester specifically; it’s just where the murderer lived.

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