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I don't know how this ended up with such a middling rating. It stands out as one of the wittiest, strangest and well-constructed films I've seen in years. Well photographed, with many characters wonderfully and unexpectedly acted. Appropriate for almost any mood, occasion or atmosphere.
Wonderful characters, glib and meaningful dialogue, a portrait of theater
and its denizens so complete you believe the film is a
There are no small actors here because there are no small parts. What might have been a cameo becomes a pivotal role.
It has been said that the film was missing direction. Not at all. What was happening there was style. This guys loves women and shape and color, and what he likes best is wit.
The entire cast....and that is everybody, was wonderful, so good you could smell the sweat. Camera and sets were so good you could hear floor boards creak. Music, well and tastefully done.
Recommendation: see it once for the discovery, twice for the appreciation, three times for the education. You will not be bored.
Great bawdy fun! This has a lot to enjoy and we did. If you like
delightful actors letting out all the stops as they clearly enjoy going
over the top, or good, often excellent wit and writing, see this movie.
They had lots of fun with humorous sexuality, very interesting sets,
costumes and visual moments that stay in the mind.
If you've ever taken an acting class, wanted to be on stage or known an actor with a larger than life ego and personality whom you couldn't help but love (even when you wanted to throttle him/her), this movie is for you. "Illuminata" is a real treat that we had never heard of before borrowing it from our local library. I hope you enjoy it nearly as much as we did.
Superficially about love (isn't everything?) this effort really concerns
itself with a recurring question in theater: how important are the
In recent years, there have been a dozen or so movies by actors that deal with this and insist they are paramount. The most entertaining (in a camp way) is "Wag the Dog," perhaps the most intelligent "Vanya on 42nd St" and the most interesting Branagh's "Midwinter's Night." The most financially successful is "Shakespeare in Love."
This is not a sex farce, nor about love. That's all just grist for motion. Here we have a message from the "puppets," underscored by pleasant framing of the film by puppets. What the writers of this work have done is suggest that the life of any play comes from the lives of the actors. This is in contrast to plays written by genius playwrights like Ibsen, that are merely "performed." For this troupe to have to participate in such an enterprise is seen as hell.
Thus we have their (thinly distilled) lives appear on the stage. Along the way we have an audience that is purely incidental since they don't know what's good anyway. We have the theater owner who likewise is ignorant, but married to a failed thespian who suspects. We have the all-important critic whose real interesting characteristic is not his flamboyant gayness, but his views on art: he values writing, values the fulfillment of the author's intent. So he is particularly vulnerable to being abused. The character is a parody of Wilde who came down strongly on this controversy.
We have the vain celebrity (Sarandon) who does not have the commitment to the art of acting. She briefly tempts our author who really in his heart loves and respects the actors, here represented by the head of the troupe. Sarandon has a speech where she claims she loves the art, but it is clear she loves herself only. Is she a parody on Ellen Terry? Walkin and Sarandon clearly as actors believe in the supremacy of the actor, so in playing the "bad guys" they overly ham it up so that we know where they really stand. In so doing, they undercut their purported honor somewhat. Rather unsettling, especially so since they are amusing at it.
And we also have the troupe itself. They do double duty here: first showing honest commitment. Second providing the material that appears in the play, each representing a distinct stereotype. Wheels turn, people love and not, die and not. This strange crew (and any like it) we are told is worth it despite the strangeness. Along the way many writers are quoted from the Greeks through Chekhov. This is not new stuff, as noted above, but once you know what it is about it is well enough done. However, there is only so much reward one can get, the work can only go but so deep when it is turned over to actors. See where I stand?
If you come looking for a sex farce where the theater is incidental, your mistake will lead you to disappointment as it clearly did many who commented before me.
This is something to watch! A beautiful soundtrack, an excellent cast,
and untouchable screen writing! Comedy and drama are woven inextricably
well together in it--though I'm of a mind to throw it into the comedy
category as it is quite the gut-buster.
Tuturro is indefatigably adorable (literally) as per the usual custom, while his lovely long-time partner Borowitz achieves an austere yet at the same time sensual sort of emotional anchor in the film. Sewell, gorgeous as always, makes for an excellently vain and superficial thespian. Hilarity, however, takes the stage before all else, spinning itself into and around the players and the plot. Spinning around like clandestine lovers, 5-foot bureaus, and pale-faced Pieros--all swirling about between worlds behind and before the red curtain.
Old-timers Sarandon, Walken, D'Angelo, & Gazzara (a theatrical whore, a Wildean "macaroni queen", a stuffy unfulfilled power-wife, and an Old-Father Hubbard respectively) seem to enjoy taking a break from the rigmarole of Hollywood blockbusters and relaxing into the comfort of off-beat but positively unforgettable roles. Least forgettable among them, however, is Walken and his dance of seduction, which will most undoubtedly sear itself permanently into the back of anyone's brain.
Cates, Irwin, Bassi, Behar, Aida, Sussman, and McCann are all indispensable as well, even though I list them in shameful lump here; due time for each would have the film extended another 2 hours, but what is given of them still allows each thespian to shine superbly nevertheless. They are simply smaller gems in the treasure chest this film is.
Too many people have compared it to Shakespeare in Love and other mainstream films--but mainstream it is not. Don't bother to comment on it if you confuse it with them and disdain it insofar as it does not compare with them; you only show that you don't understand it. Understand in its stead that "not getting it" is okay. For those who say, "Poor Tuccio: he was so young, and so untalented," (:-D) know that for the rest of us, the film is almost flawlessly styled, each and every moment an essential thread of a tapestry, silk and gold studded in emeralds and rubies. Yeah, a lot like that.
Much like the play it centers on, Illuminata, it is hard for most people to understand it seems; one of its primary themes I would say, if it must be stated overtly, is that the imperfection of life prevails. But don't read too hard into that either, friend; the film "goes in the wind, like someone that knows their way," which is to say that it 'floats' along. But what many mistake for meaningless meandering is really its fluidity, its subtle weaving. It is a film meant to be enjoyed thoroughly, like fine wine, to use a cliché; an opportunity to cut loose and laugh at the absurdity of it all, life that is. Even the tragic heroine played by Borowitz, whom we all agree is most noble and flawless in the beginning, in the end we see, is flawed. Each of them: flawed. And that's okay; in fact, that's the point.
Thus, I give this a 10 out of 10 because I am satisfied in all respects with the film. Its soundtrack (which I bought), its cinematography (ooh la la), its cast (magnifico), plot (incandescent), and dialog (hilarious)--are all artfully interwoven, making it a gem unfortunately overlooked or misunderstood by the general public.
Oh, and by the way: the puppets are just meant to be pretty, friends. Representative in some instances of the scenes to follow, but for aesthetic effect mainly (kudos on the puppeteering & puppets themselves).
"Tuccio! Tuccio! Tuccio!"
This film shines from the loving direction that Tuturro lavishes upon
Brandon Cole's screenplay. The entire cast is delightful, with Katherine
Borowitz's loving and tormented Rachel and Christopher Walken's sexually
aggressive Bevalaqua truly standing out. It was great to see a film about
the theatre done so passionately, after the dull and trite "Shakespeare in
I was mesmerized by the performances. Tuturro, Borowitz and Sewell moved so seamlessly in and out of characters that you often felt that you were in "Illuminata".
This film reminded me with an equally remarkable film, Louis Malle's "Vanya on 42nd Street". I'm going to have fire up the laser disc player on that one tonight.
If you are a fan of the theatre or works on the theatre, then "Illuminata" is certainly going to work its magic on you.
This is the best film I've seen this year. I'll go further than that:
better than all but a few films I've seen in the last two years, including
"Shakespeare in Love." Does this mean that I am giving "Illuminata" a
universal recommendation? Well, no.
If you love the theatre, go see this film immediately. Travel hundreds of miles to see it, if you have to. It will be a transcendent experience, and your faith in motion pictures will be strengthened (or restored).
If you don't feel one way or another about the theatre but enjoyed "The Golden Coach" or "Les enfants du paradis," you'll enjoy "Illuminata" just as much.
On the other hand, if you don't like the theatre, or if you want your movies to have something to do with Real Life...well, let's just say that "Illuminata" will be wasted on you.
On that note, it's worth pointing out that "Illuminata" takes place at an important moment in the history of western theatre. The screenplay doesn't dwell on it, but the film is in some ways a chronicle of the struggle between symbolism and naturalism that took place during the last quarter of the 19th century and the first years of the 20th. Our hero, Tuccio, has written a symbolist drama reminiscent of Maurice Maeterlinck's "Pelleas et Melisande," while the owners of the theatre want to produce "Hedda Gabler," by the naturalist Henryk Ibsen.
On film, a compromise is reached. In life, naturalism won out. Our stages are dominated by the likes of Ibsen, Chekhov, and Miller; contemporary plays look oddly like sitcoms.
Support the fight against naturalism -- see "Illuminata."
John Turturro has created an intelligent, witty (and funny!), movie. Christopher Walken's Bevalaqua will become a classic role in film. There's so much going on - nods to literature, other films, music and theater. We found ourselves talking about it again and again. Even if everything that Turturro attempts doesn't work, you're happy he tried it. If you like a movie where there are many interleaved themes, this is for you.
Brilliantly directed and acted, although not very popular movie. For those who don't now how it's like to work and live in the theatre this movie explains it all. It's charming and bewitching, incredibly funny and romantic and above all very truthful. This is a masterpiece! Made by a man who knew what he was doing and who obviously spent a lot of his time on stage. The most important thing in one actor's life is love, which inspires him to create. Tuccio is in his middle age crisis and he wrote a play about a husband who leaves his wife for a much younger woman. The play is very modern for that time and nobody seems to understand it, except Tuccio's wife who knows about his affair with popular actress Celimene. Christopher Walken is terrific in his role of gay-critic Bevalaqua! In few words - YOU MUST SEE THIS FILM!
Does Turturro want to say something about theatre? Does he want to say something about love? Does he want to make a brilliant film like Woody Allen? Does he want to do all of these things? Probably. But he fails abysmally! The film is the most self-indulgent, pretentious piece of you-know-what I have ever sat through. The DVD version features a director's commentary. This one thinks will provide some glimmer as to what he thought he was doing. But no! Turturro and his young son chatter on in the most inane, inept, and ineffective babble ever recorded. Turturro should open a pizza parlor and leave film to artists. Who ever annoys me most this year will get this film for Christmas.
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