3 items from 2004
Turner Classic Movies opened a new exhibition of classic movie memorabilia combined with a retail outlet on Monday at the Grove shopping center in Los Angeles. The network said the temporary storefront called In the Picture will feature the largest collection of memorabilia from the film Casablanca ever assembled in one place and will sell books, games and other classic movie-themed merchandise. The retail outlet/exhibit is scheduled to remain open through Dec. 31. »
Fate is the hunter in this romantic drama, covering the tumultuous '30s and early '40s in Europe, which wants to mix character study with historical context but winds up with unconvincing melodrama. As an infamous playgirl winning and breaking hearts with reckless abandon, newly crowned Oscar winner Charlize Theron delivers an eye-catching performance, while Penelope Cruz contents herself with an offbeat supporting role with homoerotic overtones. Evoking Hemingway's fiction and movies ranging from Casablanca to The English Patient, John Duigan's Head in the Clouds, for all its attentive period details, glamour and music, is a hollow exercise.
The film should appeal to older adults, who fondly recall old Hollywood tales of clandestine activities and affairs set in the crumbling social mores of a world at war. Dollops of nudity and kinky sex spice up what otherwise might pass for a Warner Bros. patriotic programr, circa 1942, about World War II and the heroic underground Resistance.
What perhaps distinguishes Duigan's version from those films is how the movie, its plot and characters pivot around the notion of fate. In the opening scene, a palm reader refuses to tell a young girl her fortune because I saw your 34th year. This ambiguous fate not only causes that girl, Gilda Besse (Theron), to lead a hedonistic life devoted to mind-numbing pleasure and multiple sex partners, but also seems to bring people together and thereafter intricately intertwine their destinies.
One night, fate directs Gilda, a French-American heiress already notorious for her affairs, into the quarters of Guy (Stuart Townsend), an Irish-born student at Cambridge. There she hides out until morning to avoid compromising her lover, a university don. For his chivalry, Guy gets invited to a party with the decadent aristocratic set, where he falls further in love with the madcap heiress.
Three years later, she pops up again in Paris and in a fit of nostalgia summons Guy to her studio/apartment. Here she lives with the beautiful but lame Spanish refugee and model-cum-striptease artist Mia (Cruz) and dabbles in avant-garde circles as a neorealist photographer. Soon all three live together, forming an interesting menage that passes for normal in Paris between the wars.
Unlike Gilda, though, Guy and Mia possess social consciences, so the Spanish Civil War beckons them both to the Republican cause. Gilda feels betrayed since she believes in living for the moment. There will always be wars, she pouts.
A brief interlude sums up Guy and Mia's civil war experiences, in which fate allows their paths to cross only for fate to snuff out Mia's life. Guy then returns to Paris, only Gilda coldly rejects him. Six years later, he parachutes into occupied France as an Allied spy. A pretty bad one, apparently, for he cannot resist returning to his old haunts, where everyone knows him, to confront Gilda, who has taken up with a Nazi officer (Thomas Kretschmann). One more surprise awaits us before Gilda faces her fateful 34th year.
In truth, there are no real surprises. Things follow the predictable course of most World War II movies. Unlike, say, Casablanca, where personal and historical destinies are masterfully intertwined, the two seem on parallel tracks in Head in the Clouds: Shallow lives superficially examined and brief snippets of 20th century history interrupt one another, with neither illuminating the other. The only real surprise is how little chemistry there is between Theron and Townsend.
Theron does suggest what might have been a fascinatingly complex and ambiguous heroine had Duigan chosen to focus his movie on her.
But Guy is the focus and, frankly, he is the least interesting person in the movie, more narrator than actor. Even Steven Berkoff as Gilda's father and several of her lovers come across with more elan.
Period music and decor are excellent, demonstrating what can be done on a modest budget.
HEAD IN THE CLOUDS
Sony Pictures Classics
Writer-director: John Duigan
Executive producers: Julia Palau, Matthew Payne
Director of photography: Paul Sarossy
Production designer: Jonathan Lee
Music: Terry Frewer
Costume designer: Mario Davignon
Editor: Dominique Fortin
Gilda: Charlize Theron
Mia: Penelope Cruz
Guy: Stuart Townsend
Maj. Bietrich: Thomas Kretschmann
Charle Besse: Steven Berkoff
Lucien: David La Haye
Lisette: Karine Vanasse
MPAA rating: R
Running time -- 120 minutes »
Revered actress Ingrid Bergman's greatest regret during her illustrious career was turning down the opportunity to appear in Planet Of The Apes. The Casablanca star was offered a part in the 1968 movie opposite Charlton Heston and, according to her actress daughter Isabella Rossellini, was keen to appear so she could "disregard her regal bearing". Rossellini tells London's Time Out newspaper, "She badly regretted turning down a part in the Planet Of The Apes franchise. I remember going to see one of those monkey movies with her and she was astounded at how well it had turned out. I know she was tired of playing roles which wouldn't allow her to discard her regal bearing. I think she realized that all those putty muzzles the ape actors would have liberated her from her image in an instant. But she hesitated, the part went to someone else, and she and Charlton Heston never again came as close to working together." »
3 items from 2004
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