Reviews written by registered user
xenophil

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34 reviews in total 
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Passionada (2002)
2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Beautiful people, tinny romance., 18 September 2003

The opening shots in this film were beautiful, and I was happy to recognize the New England coastline even before it was identified. I hoped I would get a look into an interesting American community. My pleasurable anticipation grew when I saw how attractive-looking the actors were.

I first realized something was wrong in the first casino scene, when I heard the English accent of the Charlie character. Why couldn't she fall in love with an American from New Bedford? What does England have to do with the Portuguese-American community? Or reprobate gamblers?

Nothing! it's really just an improbable, contrived, tinny romance. The Portuguese characters are only cardboard. This movie strains to drag in interest from afar, instead of developing the life that's throbbing all around. (I'm glad I never saw the Seattle version. That sounded even worse!)

Isn't the life and career of the woman interesting enough? How did she transform herself from the sewing factory worker to torch singer every day? What about the fishermen, and the handsome fisher-boy? I found myself wishing for a different movie.

I have nothing against the English. I love them and their accents! But something is wrong when you have nothing to do but admire Jason Isaacs' face as much as you want to. (I'm sure I never got that good a look at Sean Connery.)

I have to admit, the cinematography was beautiful, and I loved the singing. I would love to learn more about 'faro'.

7 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
appears to be a parable, 12 September 2003
8/10

This miniature movie's tempo builds, stops and starts in that comical, jerky way characteristic of Fellini. It's one of the things I like.

The interviews are a riot!

It appears to be a parable of the last few hundred years of European history.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Moving, 6 July 2003
9/10

If you appreciate the beauty of the natural world, you should not miss this movie. Obviously, some people don't. They should stay away.

I hate 'cute', and I hate it when film-makers make little human dramas from their animal footage, and I hate new-age music. This movie had all of those faults, and maybe some others. But I was so carried away by the beauty of it that I was weeping with emotion by the third shot. Tears were running down my face for twenty minutes at least.

OK, I admit I'm not a typical film viewer.

The credits said they used no special effects in filming the birds. That's hard to believe; if it's true, it's really amazing. It looks as if you're flying in the skein with the geese, close enough to touch, in many long takes. You can see every feather. You can really see how a bird flies.

In spite of the little contrived dramas, I felt that the movie was essentially honest. The things that move us in it are real, they're shown in a real way, and they're happening all around us, if only we could see.

The whole thing is the movements of animals, their lovely forms, the sounds of wings, and the air filled with thrilling calls. The landscapes are spectacular, and beautifully photographed. Moving through them with a bird's-eye view is like dream fulfillment.

4 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Sugary, bland, and sanctimonious, 26 April 2002
5/10

For a movie about a courtesan, this show was amazingly unsexy. The lead actress is very pretty, in a wispy blond sort of way, but has no trace of the kind of charisma you would expect she would need to be the leading courtesan of her day, one who could talk her way out of the Inquisition. For most of the film, there's no conflict to speak of - every sinister turn of the plot has its teeth pulled. Prostitution is made to look like a tourist magazine version of a luxury honeymoon. The Inquisition are a bunch of stuffed scarecrows.

The lavish costumes and sets convey hardly any feeling of Renaissance Venice. The actors all have a modern, American air in their look and manner. Only Rufous Sewell looks the least bit Italian. The French king looks and acts ridiculously British. We are trotted through turn after turn of the plot with no effort to convince us that any of it is real.

Each scene seems borrowed from a different costume drama, and all the characters' motivations, too. The final insult was the heresy trial. The weakest sibling yet of all movie heresy trials! I suppose this is a feminist parable, but I think any credit you gain by proposing that a prostitute is a heroine of liberty, you lose by being as santimonious about it as the priests that retire in defeat at the end.

I guess I like movies with more grit.

29 out of 36 people found the following review useful:
Mysterious and beautiful, 5 July 2001
8/10

I was not aware of the political significance of this movie when I saw it, but I was struck by the eerie, quiet way the story built up scene by scene, with hardly any dialog, and hardly any camera movement. This quietness allows you to reflect on what the meaning might be as it sifts gradually into your consciousness, leading to sudden realizations that come as quite a shock.

I found I had a strong empathy for the little girl who is trying to make sense of a story she has been told (in the movie) that has a powerful grip on her heart and imagination, and has an apparent connection with bigger, drastic events the real world, in a way she tries to understand.

I think it is really rather profound and affecting, even if you know nothing of Spanish history.

3 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
Repulsive recreation of Dr.Seuss, 18 May 2001
4/10

Someone lent me this movie to show to some little girls whose mother is a music teacher. I was expecting something witty and engaging, off-the-wall, but suitable for children. I was surprised to feel over and over that there was something really wrong and off-color about the whole thing.

It seemed to me that the delightfully child-like Dr.Seuss qualities - lots of rhymes and word-play, funny, funny pictures, and huge comic exaggerations, are replaced with lot of adult sexual overtones, and the sort of gender-role messages that were the worst thing about the 50's. When you translate from drawings to human actors, sometimes some unintended baggage gets added that is invisible at the time, but looks glaring later.

I'm not merely complaining about datedness. The evil artist is an effete homosexual. The plumber is clearly good because he has a deep voice and is manly, like Beaver's Dad. The mother, the only female in a cast of hundreds, is a zombie and sexual slave, who cares nothing for her son. (Too often in the 50's and 60's, females are invisible except as objects of men's needs. Their efforts in other directions are represented as ugly, ridiculous, or sinister. That's clearly the case here.) The necessary resolution is for the boys (no girls among the 500 children) to destroy the piano with baseball bats instead of playing the song.

Anxiety about manliness seems to pervade the film, with sex and violence lurking right beneath the surface. The confrontation between Terwilliger and the plumber can't decide whether it's a whimsical dance, or a bar-room bare-fisted face-off. The mother's breasts in her topless gown are incredibly cow-like. The male musician dancers have sweaty torsos like a revue at the Copa. The sinister bearded pair suggested evil Hasidic Fagans.

Don't get me wrong. I think off-the-wall, subversive stuff can be great in a kids' show. I love Soupy Sales, and Pee-Wee Herman. Although the sets are cool, and Hans Conried is charismatically amusing, I thought this show was really profoundly conservative - with the message that art subverts manliness, and males must act violent to preserve their self-respect.

5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Sugary romance, 18 May 2001
4/10

This is the most saccharine romance I ever sat through. The perfect film for an idle housewife in kerchief, housedress, and ostrich-trimmed high-heeled mules to watch in the afternoon, lying on the couch eating bonbons. In fact, bonbons play a prominent role in the movie.

The only reason I was able to watch to the end, is that I finally was able to gaze at Keanu Reeves' dreamy face in almost every scene. In most of his films, he moves too fast to get a good look. The only rapid action in this show is Giancarlo Giannini waving his hands with Latin emotionality - more Italian than Mexican, really.

The dialog is as stiff as wood. Unfortunately, no bodices are ripped - the hero is disgracefully perfect-mannered and mild. The aristocratic warm-blooded old-world family cliche is as old as the hills. What does it matter if they are Irish or Italian or Mexican? This is a fairy story.

I knew before the titles finished running that this would not be the movie I hoped for. The glowing grapes looked like the paragon of all food ads in Women's Day Magazine. I didn't see his name listed, but the art director surely was Thomas Kinkade, who paints the million dollar canvases of Irish cottages snuggled in fuchsias. This film was literally seen through rose-colored glasses. If you like dreamy pink and blue sky, this film is for you! (The bonbons looked really good, too!)

7 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
Propaganda is bad art., 11 April 2001
6/10

This movie is not good in spite of being propaganda. It is a propaganda movie, and bad. Every episode is aimed at delivering a message, not for drama. The characters are all cameos - you feel that famous actors were brought in for the weight their prestige lends to the message, rather than for the talent they bring to the production. The events are utterly unbelievable, the storytelling choppy and episodic.

It was a bold stroke to put the Germans on an epic trek through Canada, but every time you start to empathize with the adventurers, the movie slaps your hand, delivers a sermon, and yanks you into the next cameo scene where another point is to be made. A story with great potential for adventure and tragic downfall (of the arrogant lieutenant) is wasted. The movie is too artful to be campy.

There are some nice landscape shots, suggesting epic sweep. Glynnis Johns, Leslie Howard, and Raymond Massey leap out at you when they appear.

It would not have been hard to cast the Nazis in an unfavorable light by showing something true and important about them, but the bad behavior the movie portrays - kicking an Eskimo, spouting propaganda at inopportune times, smashing a Picasso painting improbably kept in a teepee, acting the ungrateful guest - seem contrived and trivial compared with the real reasons for going to war. The trouble with propaganda is that it wants to tell lies.

Excalibur (1981)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Intelligent but trashy-looking, 24 January 2001
6/10

'Excalibur' is an intelligent interpretation of the Arthurian legend. I appreciate the attempt to convey some of the symbolic depth and psycho-sexual aspects of the story. But the Camelot saga is also poetry. It should be evocative and beautiful.

Despite the use of generous, even spectacular sets and fine outdoor locations, and lavish, probably authentic-looking armour, the movie has a trashy, dated look. All the actresses looked tarty, the actors floppy and goofy. There was no overall look to the costumes and sets, unless it is eighties club schlock. For example, Camelot castle seems to be made of aluminum blocks, and Guinevere's wedding veil of mylar tinsel. The set for the final confrontation of Merlin and Morgana reminded me of a lava lamp.

The casting is disappointing. Lancelot wasn't too bad, but only Merlin had anything like the appropriate gravity. I know the story of how Arthur came to be king is an 'Ugly Duckling' story, but the failure to deliver an adult Arthur so devoid of kingly dignity is artistic negligence!

I was interested to notice that John Boorman has portrayed the collapse of a utopian society at least twice - here, and in 'Zardoz'.

Excalibur (1981)
1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Intelligent but trashy-looking, 24 January 2001
6/10

'Excalibur' is an intelligent interpretation of the Arthurian legend. I appreciate the attempt to convey some of the symbolic depth and psycho-sexual aspects of the story. But the Camelot saga is also poetry. It should be evocative and beautiful.

Despite the use of generous, even spectacular sets and fine outdoor locations, and lavish, probably authentic-looking armour, the movie has a trashy, dated look. All the actresses looked tarty, the actors floppy and goofy. There was no overall look to the costumes and sets, unless it is eighties club schlock. For example, Camelot castle seems to be made of aluminum blocks, and Guinevere's wedding veil of mylar tinsel. The set for the final confrontation of Merlin and Morgana reminded me of a lava lamp.

The casting is disappointing. Lancelot wasn't too bad, but only Merlin had anything like the appropriate gravity. I know the story of how Arthur came to be king is an 'Ugly Duckling' story, but the failure to deliver an adult Arthur so devoid of kingly dignity is artistic negligence!

I was interested to notice that John Boorman has portrayed the collapse of a utopian society at least twice - here, and in 'Zardoz'.


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