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Avalon – 1990 Levinson
- Avalon is the third film in Barry Levinson’s Baltimore trilogy (which became more than a trilogy when he added 1999’s Liberty Heights). Levinson was coming off of Rain Man in 1988 and had the juice to make just about whatever he wanted.
- The name of the film is their family home in Baltimore. Armin Mueller-Stahl plays Sam Krichinsky- the family patriarch- “I came to America in 1914” in voiceover.
- The story has the detailed specificity of good autofiction. This is a family of immigrants who are wallpaper hangers. There is a fair amount of family drama and bickering in this multi-generational home.
- The film is about family- the extended cast includes Elizabeth Perkins (coming off Big in 1988), Kevin Pollak, Aidan Quinn, and the young Elijah Wood. The major scenes surround holidays like Fourth of July and Thanksgiving. The warehouse burning down is the closest thing to a climactic event (this is the director/writer behind Diner after all).
- At the 20-minute mark the four older brothers are captured in a medium long shot on a bench with a painting behind them- a composition of a composition
- This is just a few years after Radio Days from Woody Allen in 1987 and Avalon is nostalgic for a specific time and place- the “old days” in post-World War II Baltimore.
- At the 32-minute there is a left to right tracking shot along the market. The audio from the television programs carries over into the street for this 60-second shot.
- A strong shot at the 101-minute mark as the fireworks hang over Quinn’s head as he watches his department warehouse store go up in flames.
- At the 117-minute mark there is an Ozu (or Hou Hsiao-Hsien) doorway shot- a frame within a frame of the family at the table. There is the passage of time in this sequence as the Sam character gets Alzheimer’s and time passes. Sam’s story is moving- the brothers stop talking, his beloved home is gone.
- Recommend but not in the top 10 of 1990