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Starting Out in the Evening (2007)
A film for mature moviegoers...Creativity and aging are treated with insightful respect. a
A film that at last has some substance...the story of an aging writer, trying to come to terms with his work, as well as his relationship with his 40 year old daughter...and his own waning sexuality. I would give very high praise to the four main actors (I was amazed that Frank Langella wasn't nominated for an Oscar), but it is also the pacing,cinematography and over-all direction by Andrew Wagner that deserves special commendation.
Too few films today have the courage to bring this kind of profound movie-making to the screen. Here is a movie that deals with real people, in very real life situations and yet done with imagination and originality. I await with enthusiasm Wagner's next creation.
Using the visual medium as it should be used.
I found this film to be visually beautiful and totally satisfying on that level. The story (already well documented here) is a bit more melodramatic than I had hoped...considering that Kieslowski (whose film I treasure) was the originator of the concept.
The saturated color throughout the film...the subtle, wordless way in which Danis Tanovic uses images to say far more than words can...is as haunting as anything I've seen in movies for many a year....probably not since Kieslowski's own work.
It seems a crime that this movie has not been released in theaters in the U.S. A real deprivation. I would urge lovers of film as art to buy the available DVD. You'll find it rewarding.
A stunning evocation of marital relationship
This incredible adaptation of Joseph Conrad's story,"The Return" has been haunting me for days. The visual beauty of its cinematography in contrast to the devastating psychological and emotional pain of its characters, brilliantly portrayed by Isabelle Huppert and Pascal Gregory. has rarely been achieved in film. No need here to repeat the details of the story...I do however want to point out what I have not read in any reviews or comments...that this is basically, as I see it, an evocation of the power and control struggle in a marriage...that moves between husband and wife in the most fascinating and brilliant way. My most grateful appreciation and admiration to Patrice Chereau for giving us this remarkable film. In a time of blockbuster, action movies, what a joy to experience a work of art that provides intense emotion, intelligent food for thought and visual nurturance.
Profound, soulful film of human love and hate
For many years "The Seventh Seal" has not only been my favorite Bergman film, but my all-time list topper. Although others have since moved into that place, Bergman's genius as a probing and revelatory filmmaker continue to astound and reward me.
"Saraband" for me is about as good as he gets...and that's high praise. Here the human soul in anguish is laid bare in all its honest need...a thwarted one...for love and understanding. A once married couple, Marianne and Johann (brilliantly portrayed by Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson) do their saraband even after 30 years apart. And like that dance, in its repetitive themes, their relationship as well as that of Johann's son and granddaughter form a kind of tragic rondo, sadly and inexorably replicated. Henrik, the 61 year old son (portrayed with amazing profoundity by Borje Ahlstedt) cannot extricate himself from the slings and arrows aimed at him continually by his father. The one character, now dead, who serves as a graceful inspiration to them all is Henrik's wife and his daughter, Karin's mother...Anna. We see her beautiful face in a photographic portrait, but her loving presence in their memory is so strong it becomes a kind of living influence. Karin, played by the stunning Julia Dufvenius, is also the victim of the family dynamic and forms the important fourth in this saraband of life and fate.
La meglio gioventù (2003)
A masterpiece of cinema art!
Can art transform life? If so, I would elect "The Best of Youth" as a primary candidate for that possibility.
Almost never in my over 60 years of film viewing have I been as deeply affected, haunted by characterizations, poetic dialog and brilliantly unexpected turns...and breadth of scope. The nuances of relationship between people...in this case the Italian family Carati, their lovers, friends, wards...are so moving, so deeply portrayed and inhabited by the actors that I was not only moved to tears, but inspired. Here is a view of how human beings can live the humanity so desperately needed in this crazed and warring world...also presented as an integral part of plot and interaction...and this done without any sort of didactic or polemic foisting...All achieved through the intimate and profound struggles of the film's characters.
Imagination and the incredible sensibility of director (Marco Tullio Giordana),writers (Petraglia and Rulli) and actors (most outstanding: Luigi LoCacio, Alessio Boni, Adriana Asti and Jasmine Trinca) combine to offer a film that carried this participant (for that's what I felt) into a realm only experienced by exceptional literature.
As is obvious...I highly recommend seeing this movie.
Mar adentro (2004)
A masterpiece that speaks to the soul.
Although there have been some very eloquent comments already made about Mar Adentro (The Sea Inside), I feel compelled to add my few words to pay homage to this work of art.
This young director, Alejandro Amenabar, has created a film that has all the elements of a classic...one that will go down in cinema annals as a poetic masterpiece.
And what are these elements?...First, a moving and original screenplay, then great direction (including visually rich, emotional cinematography), and equally splendid performances...with the outstanding one given by Javier Bardem..and a beautiful score.
The particulars of the story have already been addressed both here and in the press. The basic line is of a quadriplegic who, after 28 years of bedridden confinement, opts to end his life...but comes up against church and state opposition. Those are the bare bones...but how those bones are fleshed out into a profound and sensitive paean to love, life and the human spirit is what constitutes the real genius of this film. Certainly, in my estimation, the finest in many, many years.
Do not miss it!!
A brilliant film, seen symbolically
"Closer" can, of course, be seen literally...as a movie (or play) about four vacuous people caught in a round robin of deceit and conquest. I choose not to view it that way...and I suspect, the author, Patrick Marber and the director, Mike Nichols had more in mind than mere surface.
To me the film is a brilliant depiction of the desire for power and control, masquerading as "love". that leads to manipulation and betrayal...symbolic of our prevailing society. Just think of the political scene, both in America and Britain...The parallels of the movie's theme and the lies and betrayals in each of our countries is astonishing.
Art is always meant to be seen on more than one level...as is life itself...but too often we settle for what seems obvious and literal. The richness, as in this film's layers, can be lost. What a pity!
Mr. & Mrs. Bridge (1990)
Accurate and moving depiction of sad lives.
Sadder than this very moving film are the reactions of those who found this movie boring or too "slow." What a comment on the need for car chases and explosions that seem so pervasive in American flicks!! One of the reason I prefer foreign films.
"Mr and Mrs Bridge" is an amazingly accurate depiction of upper middle class lives, caught in the trap of repression and respectability. To watch the fate of Mrs Bridge (exquisitely portrayed by Joanne Woodward) as a woman trapped in a marriage to an inexpressive, career-focused man is to understand how women, even today, can lead limited, unfulfilled lives, bound up with a decisive husband and children who grow into self-absorbed adults, leaving their mother with a longing they won't or can't assuage.
Seeing the character of Mr. Bridge (another outstanding performance by Paul Newman), himself caught in the routine of his life, his sexual yearnings repressed, convinced of his correctness and respectability is a picture of the rigidity of ideas, values and prejudices rampant in our society, even in our own time.
An amazing and insight movie!!
Vera Drake (2004)
A portrayal of innocent kindness by a consummate actress!
"Vera Drake" is a ten plus! An absolutely beautiful movie...perfect tone, perfect pace and a tour de force for Imelda Staunton, who plays the title character. By far the best Mike Leigh film I've seen! The way it slowly, quietly moves from the innocent, loving kindness of Vera's attitude and behavior to the chill and low-key stunner that breaks her heart and ours...is remarkable. I've rarely seen the like. Of course, it has the usual Mike Leigh contrasts of the fate of working class people with that of the rich...which in this case is very affecting. The profound emotional impact for me came with the sad evidence that well-meaning innocence and kindness are dangerous without a wise dose of caution and awareness of ultimate consequences. If Imelda Staunton doesn't win the Oscar for best actress,there is no justice! Don't miss this lovely film, no matter what the critics say!!
La finestra di fronte (2003)
The grace of transformation through relationship
What a rich and satisfying film this is! The complexity of lives interweaving, with a transformative impact is a rare experience in this medium.
Life is full of chance meetings...often ignored...but in this film it is pivotal. A young couple, having serious relational problems, come upon a dazed old man on the street. His entrance in their lives, his own dramatic life and the wife's (Giovanna's) ultimate connection to him serves as a link to her profound choices...First, to risk a sexual encounter with the handsome neighbor she's watched through her facing windows and second, to recognize that her discontent has been with herself, more than her loving husband. The complexity of the old man's life...his survival of a concentration camp...giving up a beloved lover to save others...his success as a famous pastry chef...all contribute in a tangential way to Giovanna's transformation. The final scene is enormously moving and meaningful.
Don't miss this gem...if humanism, great performances and cinematic richness are important to you.
Japanese Story (2003)
Soulful cross-cultural romantic film that is NOT Lost In Translation
The wide-open spaces of Australian outback are a significant metaphor in this movie for the beautiful openness of two people from very different cultures toward one another.
The movie can be seen in many ways...as a road adventure, as a romance, as a landscape of relationship...but for me above all it is the powerful emotional impact that love, transcending differences, can have on our lives. The simple story of an Australian geologist driving a Japanese businessman through the strange and starkly beautiful Australian land is the background setting for this movingly created connection of two people. Toni Colette gives a bravura performance as the realistic, yet vulnerable geologist and Gotara Tsumashima is fine as the visiting businessman...but the movie belongs to Colette.
Mona Lisa Smile (2003)
Enjoyable account of feminine values in the 50s
It's a pleasure to see a film that concerns itself with social mores and values with a certain amount of honesty and intelligence. That said, I would add, that I wish "Mona Lisa Smile" had been a bit less slick and predictable...but perhaps that's asking too much of a Hollywood movie.
Julia Roberts does a creditable job portraying a free-spirited teacher, schooled at Berkeley, now bringing her somewhat unconventional ideas to her art history students at conservative Wellsley College in the 50s. The girls are from privileged backgrounds, with varying personalities, shaped by their early influences...conformist, broken homes etc. Roberts' Catherine Watson stays true to her strong beliefs in choices a woman has to fulfill her life beyond marriage and children...or even in addition to them. I was particularly impressed by the response of one of the students who confronts Watson, saying that a woman doesn't necessarily lose her intelligence or creativity by finding fulfillment in marriage and family. It has all too often been thought otherwise...especially since the advent of feminism. To relate creatively in a marriage and as a mother challenges a woman to be as independent and uniquely herself as in any professional or worldly occupation...and surely of equal importance.
It's worth seeing this movie to consider its concerns and hopefully engender some discussion of them.
Les invasions barbares (2003)
A moving account of a dying man, still sensually alive and searching
To deal with the dying process without being maudlin or falling into cliches is a feat to be lauded in itself. This film not only accomplishes this, in my view, but demonstrates how redeemed filial love and the deep affection of friends can bring profound meaning to a dying man who has spent a lifetime of philandering and self-deprecation.
Denys Arcaud is a writer/director of no small proportion. While those on the political far left criticize the shallowness of the comments of the dying professor and his friends relative to the "isms" and lost ideologies of the world...there are undertones in these comments of a much larger consideration, a humanity that has a universal reach beyond, that recognizes that there are no hard and fast solutions to the socio/economic ills of the world..but willing to grant the need to continue searching. Even the wealth and privilege of the professor's son, who brings his father benefits beyond the medical deprivations of an underfunded system point subtly to the unfairness, to the need for such benefits to be available to all. For some these sophisticated people are smug or cynical. To me they are flawed people in a flawed world & I found them provocative and a cut above the usual pap. Their talk of sex expresses a fundamental life-force in the presence of death.
The performances on the whole are fine & convincing. Marie-Josee Croze was deservedly singled out for an award at Cannes.
Rarely have I seen a more human, more rewarding film.
Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)
Film as an art form beyond story=telling
Film is a visual form of expression...but rarely treated as such. Girl With A Pearl Earring makes the cut. It's beauty not only dazzles the eye, it touches the soul as a true work of art does. Based on the Tracey Chevalier novel, the film has been made selectively, focusing on the main elements of Vermeer's household maid and his relationship to her...and to the crass appetites of his patron. Peter Webber directed this work with the sensibility of a poet...and chose Eduardo Serra to create the cinematography with the eye of an artist.
Colin Firth as Vermeer, a dedicated painter with a perfectionistic sense of art as a transcendant medium, brings to the role an intensity, a sensuality in his artfully subtle facial expressions. Dialogue is kept to a minimum. The director realized that more can be said in small gestures, in a look than in a volume of words. Scarlet Johansen, certainly the primary player, as Griet, the housemaid with an innate understanding of art's value, creates an amazingly mature portrayal of the character. This is a young actress of enormous talent.
The images of this film have stayed with me with a haunting quality... they move and stir with their color, their changes in shadowed light...the way great music lifts beyond the interpretative constrictions of the mind. If you're open to a rare and stunning art film experience...Girl With a Pearl Earring won't disappoint.
A poet's haunted marital life beautifully depicted.
All biopics, like literary biographies, have a subjective slant and "Sylvia" is no exception. Christine Jeffs has given the Sylvia Plath/Ted Hughes relationship and marriage a sensitive and well-balanced presentation. Gwyneth Paltrow in the title role is as good as it gets...in a part finally worthy of her considerable talents. She brings a radiance to the early days of Plath's life with Hughes...and a very moving portrayal of a fragile, unstable woman in a sorry decline into near madness. Jeffs also is to be commended for giving poetry the important role it played in these poets' lives as well as its cultural significance. I can't praise enough the beautiful mood-appropriate cinematography of this film. Often the visual image says more than the abbreviated dialogue. Although the movie focuses on poets, its chief impact lies in the way the characters relate and the human struggle in dealing with life. I highly recommend it to all who care about such things.
A small masterpiece of humanity beyond language!
"Why can't we all get along?" asked Rodney King some time ago. This beautiful film speaks to just that...getting along..even without the benefit of common language. A young Lapp widow rescues a Russian soldier near death out in the wastelands...and then gives comfort to a Finnish soldier who had been chained, like Prometheus, to a rock by fellow soldiers. All three manage to live together in the woman's tiny hut without understanding a word of each other's language. Largely thanks to the woman's generosity and kindness the men survive and "get along." It's a lovely example of the feminine principle at work at its best. The images of the stark landscape have a beauty all their own. I couldn't help wondering how we, the audience, would fare in OUR understanding without the aid of subtitles!
I highly recommend this movie...superbly performed by the actors and skillfully directed by Alexander Rogozhkin.
A visual masterpiece, both feminist and humanist
I originally saw this film in 1975 when it was released and later on VHS...and for many years it was my favorite, bar none. Why? It combines the best that movies have to offer....visual grammar, incredibly moving, skillful performances, good directing and a powerful story of the relationship between a young modern Japanese woman and an older more traditional one, who tells of her experiences, being sold into prostitution at age 13, relating it (through flashbacks) to the younger woman. Those are the bare bones of the film...It doesn't begin to evoke the emotion and beauty of what human relationship can mean, as well as the heartless practices that society can inflict on its helpless inhabitants.
Visual beauty to feast on; an artist's genius to inspire
For one in love with nature and art, with both brought to the screen in breathtaking beauty, this movie offers the thrill of what great cinema is all about. This is the story of the development of a Korean artist in the 19th century, from his beggarly beginnings to great renown in his country. It's a very complex and often agonizing journey as this natural artistic genius struggles to create art for which he has enormous talent, but which is restricted by tradition and government control. The film spares us nothing...his heavy drinking, his sexual encounters, his rages...withal it's the underlyng "blessed unrest" of the artist that comes through. We're given the fruits of his creativity as well as awe-inspiring images of nature from which the work itself derives. This marriage of art and nature...man and his need to give expression to his talents is powerfully portrayed by the actors, the director...by all those responsible for this exquisite and uncompromising film,
L'homme du train (2002)
Relationship is all!
What a haunting movie this is! It's deceptively simple. Two men of very different backgrounds...a retired poetry professor and a thief...of different ages...the latter in his 70s, the former in his 50s... meet in a tiny French town, beautifully depicted in its winding, almost uninhabited cobblestone streets. The professor invites the thief to stay in his home...a charming country house, cluttered with books, with a piano, with all the evidences of culture, yet creating a sense of stagnation, insularity. The exchange between these two men, skillfully played by Jean Rochefort (that fine, veteran French actor) and Johnny Hallyday (a famed rock and roll star) is moving, as each man considers the reality of the other...with some longing for that otherness. Their almost simultaneous fate and its follow-up is brilliant, giving us the sense of the deep connection of us all. Don't miss this one...a small gem...but a gem nonetheless!
Rivers and Tides (2001)
Art that enhances nature; nature that enhances art
This film is mesmerizing in its beauty and creativity. An artist's profound vision, his art that springs intuitively from its natural source brings us an inspiring Hosanna, blending his creations with trees, white water dashing against rocks, fields and rain...Andy Goldsworthy makes the viewer feel joy in being alive, aware that we are all made of the clay of this glorious earth. He doesn't spare us his occasional frustration, but on the whole we see the miracle in joining art with nature. Credit also goes of course to the filmmaker, Thomas Riedelsheimer, who directed, photographed and edited the movie with incredible sensibility and perfect timing.
If you have any feeling for beauty, nature and art...do not miss this fantastic film!
Visual beauty made indelible and significant
Has there ever been a more visually beautiful film than this one? That's a rhetorical question... one that only viewing it can answer.
To try to follow it as an ordinary narrative is to lose its poetic ambience...I let it wash over me like glorious music. We are so accustomed to "and then...and then" that our minds can follow as logic, that we tend to dismiss the affect that the visual image itself can have on our minds, hearts and souls. Tarkovsky is a poet...and for me this is his richest, most satisfying film of all. Included are film clips from WW 2, the Spanish Civil War, poetry by the director's father.
It does help to know that the same actress (Margarita Terekhova) plays the dying man's wife and his mother...as he allows his memory to shift over his life.
The only other director I can think of who understands the visual language of film and its significance as beautifully as Tarkovsky is Terence Malick.
Zerkalo is haunting and uplifting even as we know the "hero" is dying. Death, after all, is an intrinsic part of life.
The End of the Affair (1999)
Love and the spiritual life made beautifully visible.
Love and the spiritual (i.e. inner) life have rarely been better portrayed! Graham Greene's novel has been translated to cinematic imagery with an almost religious devotion. It isn't easy to make profound and meaningful experience so immediate and felt as this film does. Watching it on video...a second viewing...I was even more deeply moved than the first time around.
Julianne Moore, very much on the big screen these days (and for good reason), gives another of her splendid performances, this time as Sarah Miles, a middle-class English woman, married to a good, but dull man who takes her for granted. Her encounter with Maurice Bendrix (played to a T by the consummate actor, Ralph Fiennes) is electric and sets in motion an affair of deep consequence...for all three people involved. Stephan Rea as Henry Miles, Sarah's husband, trapped in his desire, but inability to fulfill the emotional and sexual needs of his much-loved wife, is another convincing and touching portrayal.
The spiritual aspects expressed in the film, reflect the life-long struggle of Grahame between his Catholicism and his doubts. The deep pulls of each character toward both personal and impersonal love give the film a dimension and an honesty that reward the "participant" (for that's how potent the film is) with an indelible human experience.
To Neil Jordan, the director, my wholehearted gratitude for his sensitive, nuanced presentation of this beautiful film.
Wow! All That Jazz!!
If you're looking for entertainment that dazzles the eye, shimmies the spirit and makes you an instant friend to the stranger sitting next to you in the theatre...see "Chicago"! Never mind the nay-sayers...there'll always be those who look for flaws, never satisfied with anything. This movie has enough good stuff going for it to fill your cup to overflowing!
Rene Zellweger is a delight, singing and dancing her skinny legs off and offers an acting performance that gives satire its proper place in movie history...high up!! Catherine Zeta-Jones starts the film off with her sexy number..."And All That Jazz".. Made my spirit leap and my heart jump for joy! Her gorgeous presence makes you think that's why the movie camera was invented!! Color! Color! Get that beat! Richard Gere outdoes himself...a fine actor...now a song-and-dance man too! The production numbers made me realize what imagination and cinema expertise can bring to a musical that adds that little extra to a stage presentation.
This is one for the books, folks. Don't miss it!! (And this from a drama lover!!)
The Hours (2002)
Brilliant! So the inner life can be made visual!!
Despite the fact that this film (based on Michael Cunningham's splendid novel) deals chiefly with the lives of three women,it's breadth and depth make it universal and appealing to both genders.
David Hare has done a brilliant job of translating an introspective novel into a cinematic experience of visual and emotional beauty. The performances: Nicole Kidman comes through as the greatest surprise, to me. Her pacing, her facial expressions, her whole presentation of a woman caught in the horror between creativity and madness is very affecting and memorable. Alas, her physical appearance was made to look too obvious (i.e. "This is a mad woman"), too lacking in the elegance of the real Virginia Woolf...and I found that distracting. Julianne Moore gave her careful and believable interpretation of a very delicate, disturbed woman...She's a totally reliable actress. And of course, the consummate performer, Meryl Streep, came through again, nuanced and intelligent, portraying a complex woman of deep feeling, not afraid to love fully and humanely...another woman, a gay man dyng of AIDS and her daughter, born from an unknown father. While some have criticized Ed Harris (as the dying gay man) as performing over the top, I found his portrayal belieable and very moving. Kudos also go to John C.Reilly, Stephan Dillane(as Leonard Woolf) and the small boy whose name, alas, I don't remember, who plays a very young, sensitive son with the skill of a veteran...
To the editor, Peter Boyle, and the director Stephen Daldry my highest praise and thanks for a film that travels its winding ways, hither and thither, from life to life, with the rhythm and smoothness of a glorious adagio, dealing with some of life's most troubling aspects in a way that has made the whole experience indelible.
Hable con ella (2002)
Love, humanity become visual poetry! Glorious!
A film experience like "Hable Con Ella" is a spiritual one, that reaches through both Almodovar's and our own imagination to the very heart of being human and at the same time rising to a transcendence that's usually reserved for life's most sublime moments.
Retelling the "plot" is unnecessary here (much has already been written). The effectiveness of this movie reached me at the depth it did, not only through the writing, the visual images and performances, per se, but most profoundly through the symbolic nature of the material...that makes it expansive, universal. In any language it can touch and inspire anyone living on this planet...like hearing Mozart, or seeing a Rembrandt or a Hiroshige. Art is art in any medium...and this is a masterpiece!
Thank you Sr. Almodovar and all who were involved in this magnificent work!!