Reviews written by registered user
|6 reviews in total|
I feel I must speak about this film with more heart than I see in some
comments. I do not believe the plot summary comment should be allowed
to go unchallenged in its short vision.
This film is beautifully written, constructed, cast and acted. The pace, photography, color, soundtrack, costumes and sets all move with depth, nuance and a continuity remarkably faithful to the pace and way of idealized Amish country life. The film presents the Amish not as characters in a melodrama, but rather spreads out the entire Fulham County Community in the complexity of a spiritual, ethical parable without preaching, or judging, or trivializing the deep human values at odds in an incident, which becomes a crime, which becomes a complex balance of "relative rights and wrongs," which the film is scrupulously careful to articulate in terse dialog, exceptional acting, and sincere beauty.
This film has become a trivia footnote in Brad Pitt's filmography, since it is one of his earliest performances. It deserves to be elevated from footnote to Exceptional Acting by a Juvenile. His performance is brief, heart-breaking, and some of the best work he has ever done. Likewise those who know Ron Perlman only as a "heavy" character actor will marvel at the finely graduated and sincere beauty of his revelation of the heart of Job. By the time the film concludes, truth and amity prevail notwithstanding tragedy, there are no shallow winners or losers, and Life itself is the summary memory. Some film buffs may perhaps muse to themselves that they have been touched like this, with this power and restraint, in only one other film: "To Kill A Mockingbird."
With a murder mystery of this caliber, it is easy to spoil the
suspense. I will just speak of the magnificent courtroom magic worthy
of a combination of Poe and Earle Stanley Gardiner, with the elegance
of Agatha Christie. Sir Michael Redgrave, Leo Genn, Ann Todd and Kieron
Moore are spellbinding in no way hammy or over the top as some
self-important professional critics try to say today. In the 1950's and
early 60's this film was CONTINUALLY SHOWN on New York's Million Dollar
Movie, 4 times a day for a week at a time, every six months.
I do not know what to say or do to reach and convince the holder of copyright to release this great film on DVD. The time and mix of contemporary film elements are perfect for the restoration of this classic. If no one has copyright, but does have a broadcast copy, may I ask on behalf of a great many film enthusiasts that you make it available. I cannot help noticing that "The Paradine Case" is being heavily marketed even though Hitchcock himself panned it. "The Green Scarf" belongs on the same shelf with "Witness For The Prosecution," the Poirot and Marple series, the Rathbone "Sherlock Holmes" (all right, Jeremy Brett as well . . . but if so, "Without a Clue" with Sir Ben Kingsley and Sir Michael Caine, "Perry Mason," and the wonderful modern "Sherlock" BBC series with Benedict Cumberbatch.
Surely someone who reads this knows how to get a film as widely shown as this, albeit 50 years ago. Please make an effort to help bring this film back before the public.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Obviously this film is not intended to be a realistic rendering of
Wilde's text, too often talked about by those who have never seriously
read it. Nor does this film even intend to bear comparison with one
classic and several abysmal "more faithful" interpretations. If Jarman
were being credited with this film, reviewers would labor far more
carefully to make some artistic and spiritual justification for the
choices. It seems fashionable to bash this film, while tolerating and
even praising far shallower interpretations. I have seen them all.
So, what is this variation attempting to accomplish. It takes a true innocent of breathtaking beauty, and shows that such innocence is constitutionally unable to defend or heal itself. It is a Beauty every human so envies and hates, that uncontrollable malice arises in each person to destroy and ruin the Beauty of Innocence. Every character in the piece carves, distorts, spoils and overpaints the original innocence of Man with doubts, fears, questions, and most of all judgments, until Dorian Gray becomes a collection of wounds, scars, defacements and ugliness which have literally driven out the innocence, life and Beauty, leaving only a corrupted husk. The theme is Man's "fall from innocence," universal ingratitude, and unmitigable envy. The core of this variation on Dorian Gray can be found in one line uttered by literature's most evil character, Iago: "He hath a daily beauty in his life/That makes me ugly."
I think Josh Duhamel's Dorian is simply beautiful in its simplicity and transparency. This young actor is more generous and less vain in his own physical beauty than any other interpreter of the role. He "gives" that beauty to you, the viewer, without any withholding or judgment of your worthiness to receive his radiance. He IS innocence and beauty, therefore he IS simplicity, wonder, and total vulnerability. Not since Terrence Stamp debuted as Billy Budd has innocent beauty been so unfailingly personated.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Like others, I have seen and studied most of the books and films
concerning the Clutter Killings, including a few dramatic works
thematically based on the actions and psycho-mythology of the
participants to the crime -- including Capote himself. As to Capote, I
cannot forgive him for willfully withholding Perry Smith's confessions,
intimacies and writings from even the defense counsels. I believe
truths and facts Capote "reserved" for his "book," which required for
Capote two guilty verdicts and capital punishment, would almost
certainly have sustained a successful insanity defense for Perry Smith
even under the old McNaughton Rule. Capote himself could never write
another major literary work after "In Cold Blood." Shame and guilt. In
my opinion, he willingly encouraged and planned the brutal capital
punishment to provide the spectacular ending he required for his
book/drama. To him, both men HAD to die for his book to succeed. The
book had to justify itself by pretending it was about the horror of
capital punishment. His actions and silence assured that ice-cold
Capote's book is not truth. It is not factual or journalistic. It is drama and melodrama spiced with his own creatively psychotic imagination. What most people consider the virtues of the contemporaneous first movie are stark images of Capote's mind, which may have been the most cold-blooded aspect of all. No wonder viewers ironically but necessarily prefer Blake's performance. That actor IS the nightmare from Capote's dishonest imaginings.
So who is to say how the two killers should be played? Who is to judge what could make an essentially poetic psychotic snap from excessive courtesy and kindness to "do it now" killing? I agree with the few who see in Eric Roberts' work a magnificent performance, Shakespearean in its range, yet played with heartbreaking sincerity. Anthony Edwards takes a much safer "attitude mode" to create a smarmy Hickok; but he is one-dimensional and boring, with only a few notes in his television range. Roberts is almost four-dimensional, adding physical weakness and agony to a powerful animal body, a Frankenstein Creature who thinks in poetry and knows exactly what NOT to do. Like Leopold apropos Loeb, Robert's Perry Smith is hopelessly in love with an evil man. Without Hickok or a man of his particularities, Perry Smith would not have brought his psychotic mind into a world of horrors. He fears himself more than he fears anything else in life.
Given the freedom from Capote's death grip on the consciousness of the Clutter killings, Roberts and Edwards are free to create original personalities and psychoses to craft a different and new production of the drama. Same facts, some of the same lines from the case record, but deeper, more complex, with clearly titanic psychotic stresses -- indeed Roberts is so good at this fluidic madness that he physically and facially demonstrates in every moment how little awareness he has of where or who he is.
What many of our reviewers dislike about this film, Roberts in particular, is that cold-blooded killing isn't shown the way they expect and have been manipulated to demand. That is because here we are seeing a far more profoundly realistic "interpretation of life and death" than Capote could ever create -- a real Tragedy.
The actual cold-blooded killer, Mr. Capote, and his hypocritically artistic "non-fiction novel" do not control these interpretations and performances.
If "In Cold Blood" and Capote's effect on life, literature and truth matters as much as scholars say, then it takes guts as well as talent to portray the truth, or a version of the truth, that is not the rank, cowardly lie drawn up from the fathoms of Capote's own abyss.
One would suppose Christopher Lee would have the strength, stature,
talent and experience to deliver at least a credible performance as
Rasputin, in an utterly incredible, historically inaccurate thriller-
farce. Not so. His performance is so ham, uncontrolled, silly,
embarrassing and clearly undirected that it has not one minute of
interest to either scholar or film buff. The "plot" is hopelessly
inaccurate, as are the so-called characters. Lee has said he considers
this some of his best work as a truly classical actor. Rubbish. "Lord
of the Rings" this is not. Further, clearly Lee knows absolutely
nothing about Russian history, Rasputin's role in it, the Romanovs and
the Russian Revolution. There is in fact a great deal of detailed
biography concerning the real Rasputin, none of which appears in this
film. One would think the producers were terrified Felix Yousupov was
going to sue them as he did "Rasputin and the Empress" -- the libel in
that case involving Irina Yousupov, not Felix or Grand Duke Dimitri --
none of whom appear as characters in this non-effort.
Why bother writing this urgent "Ham/Dishonesty Alert"? When one tries to keep track on eBay and other sites of all serious work, film or literary, one sees hundreds of offerings for this terrible movie, with Lee's mug shot on the cover. And when one looks at the other comments here on IMDb and sees earnest questions about history from students, something just has to be said. If you are willing to read, see Edvard Radzinsky's recent books.
Squirm through this unintentional horror if you have motivation to see all 30 +/- films on Rasputin (the best is Harry Baur, the most enjoyable is Alan Rickman), but PLEASE do not pay a brass farthing for this trash.
This film is available from Criterion. It shows up on eBay with some regularity. Expect to pay $25 plus postage. Raymond Bernard's films have been released in four sets. Les Miserables is contained on a 3-disk set. It is number 4 in the Bernard series. I have just bought one at auction. There remain 3 other listings as of this date, January 4, 2009. The original Pal Secam films with Baur are harder to find, such as the "Rasputine." I am considering buying the region-free, Pal Secam converter, which can be found for under $300, and with which the old VHS PAL Secam tape can be burned to any DVD, and can play on any television. Hope this helps.