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A true disappointment
We watched this movie last night, eagerly awaiting an entertaining and thoughtful piece, based on the plot summary on the DVD box and on past work of the lead actress and the executive producer, Atom Egoyan, one of the best contemporary directors in Canada if not in the world.
Were we ever disappointed! The plot is predictable and boring, presenting a terribly simplistic view of Canada and its Christian and Muslim people. The acting was consistently bad as the actors stumbled from one stereotypical cliché (the lead Christian character is a carpenter (!) whose workshop is full of more large crosses than there are Christian churches in Toronto) to another as the director tried to deliver her pedantic message about how "appropriate" inter-ethnic relationships will magically resolve all our problems overnight, be it social, political, economic, health-related, intellectual, existential... even environmental I'm sure!
At least one Canadian cliché was left out (perhaps accidentally forgotten) - the movie takes place in the summer rather than the winter. Alas, the lovely summer shots of parks presented just a small relief in an otherwise wasted 1.5 hrs.
A larger than life jazz musician
This documentary presents a fascinating portrait of an outstanding contemporary manouche guitarist, Jimmy Rosenberg and his family. Jimmy starts out as a child prodigy, touring national and international stages at age 8 or 9 with his brothers, playing his guitar with amazing finger technique and a wild passion. He is not only a great player but one of the few who can improvise in this style.
However, life takes a bad turn as he gets addicted to drugs, are in and out of rehab, eventually prison. He is successful, famous, has lots of money then blows it in a few months. Perhaps it is due to his father's imprisonment (who killed his son-in-law in self-defence during a confrontation over the son-in-law who abused his wife and children) and missing his firm guiding hand. Perhaps it is the artistic temperament... Still, Jimmy is not judged by the film makers, but presented as a very talented person who got lost in the heady world of stage success. I am glad that the usual attitudes regarding "gypsy fate" and down-troddenness are not brought into the discussion at all, even though the family, despite all their wealth, continues to live in a small, gypsy-only community in Holland where the houses look like mobile homes...
As a reviewer wrote about his CD entitled "The One and Only": "Jimmy takes the standard repertoire and presents it at an incredible pace with clever twists and an impressive technique." The music is certainly amazing throughout the documentary and has been obviously an anchor and a calming influence for Jimmy. The documentary is fairly recent (2006), I hope that he is back on stage and in the recording studios.
Balra a nap nyugszik (2000)
You never know what is around the next corner
This movie was shown recently in the middle of the night and I must say it was the perfect time of day for viewing. It is a rather gritty piece with a hopeful ending and some truly funny episodes like the one where at the turn of the 21st century the main character's friend reads the description of an East German seaside resort from a travel book that had been printed in the communist era - probably the same volume my family used during our visits to the DDR only to get hopelessly lost every time we tried to use the maps...
While not much happens in this film somehow it still manages to firmly glue you to the screen. I was a bit confused about the job Maria holds, not that it really mattered in the bigger scheme of things, the gloomy, closed-in atmosphere of a seaside resort in the middle of off season was perfectly conveyed.
Unfortunately the sound quality of the copy I saw was pretty bad to the point of me missing some of the dialogue. Still, this is certainly a movie I would watch again.
Compelling viewing, though a somewhat uneven miniseries
We borrowed this miniseries from the Ottawa Public Library. My husband (an Australian) was mortified that we would spend 10 hours watching TV in one week (the library's time limit for videos), and after the first episode I also thought that we would probably not get through the lot. But eventually we got caught up in the program as it evolved, becoming somewhat bizarre even, reminding us from time to time of the magical realism of some Latin American writers.
The series takes place in a immigrants' welcome camp in the middle of nowhere in Australia, following the lives of administrators and immigrants ("inmates" according to a camp director). The story is a mixture of life in the camp and the individual histories of the immigrants, some of which is told in flashbacks. Certainly we felt that some stories were unusual even extreme, to the point of edginess. The outside world interferes little which is a bit odd considering that this camp was supposed to be a transitory place for the immigrants whose aim should be to find work and integrate into Australian life.
The writing definitely improves as the series advances, but the show remains a mixture of predictable and (sometimes very) surprising turn of events. The same can be said about the acting. I particularly liked Linda Cropper (Lady Bev) and of course Cate Blanchett (Bianca) is eery, creepy and ephemeral at the same time. Hugo Weaving is also excellent as an embattled English teacher while I must admit I often didn't understand what the actress who played his daughter was saying which was a pity as she was the quasi narrator at the beginning of each episode.
Overall, an interesting miniseries, worth watching if you have 10 spare hours on your hand. Don't expect to learn much about the struggles of new immigrants in Australian society, this is more a collection of quirky stories of a closed village.
One last thing: they didn't include the usual disclaimer at the end "No animal was harmed in the making this movie" even though quite a number of sheep get knocked off - as is typical in the Australian outback, I guess.
Chica de Río (2001)
A lame pseudo-Latino flick
This was one of the lamest movies we watched in the last few months with a predictable plot line and pretty bad acting (mainly from the supporting characters). The interview with Hugh Laurie on the DVD was actually more rewarding than the film itself...
Hugh Laurie obviously put a lot of effort into learning how to dance the Samba but the scope of his character only required that he immerse himself at the kiddie end of the pool. The movie is based on the appearance of a lovely girl and great music but these are not sufficient to make good entertainment.
If you have never seen Rio, or the inside of a British bank, this film is for you. 2 out of 10.
Sin dejar huella (2000)
wandering around in Mexico
This movie is a delightful mixture of a comedy and a road movie: two good actresses, beautiful scenery of off the beaten track Mexico (the huge crumbling estate where the women stay at one point is quite stunning), and soulful Mexican songs with great lyrics. I liked the fact that the friendship that developed between the two women with very different backgrounds was actually believable and of course that, at the end, everybody got what they deserved. I really liked the songs played throughout the movie, especially since their lyrics were also translated for those like me who don't speak Spanish. Overall, a very pleasant watch.
City of Angels (1998)
Well, I also like Wings of Desire and also found this "remake" a disappointment like many other viewers before me. I found the two main characters really tiring: I certainly would not want to be operated on by Meg Ryan, she was rather unconvincing as a heart specialist. And if I have to see another soulful puppy eyed shot of Nick Cage, I'll scream (and I generally like him as an actor)!
What I don't understand is why the two original screenplay writers got together again to release this yawn of a movie?? How embarrassing!! They must have been really short of cash...
Etz Hadomim Tafus (1994)
Sequel to The Summer of Aviya
I would highly recommend watching The Summer of Aviya, a forerunner to this movie though there is not much reference made to it in the 1994 Etz Hadomim Tafus. In fact, the life story of Aviya's mother is changed significantly, but then that is not one of the main lines of this movie.
One can enjoy either movies on its own, but as usual, the sequel does not match the original which is excellent. It features the same actress as Aviya when she was, of course, much younger.
A collection of whacky characters and an intricate plot
I saw this film last Friday at the International Movie Club (Cinema International). It was still a very good evening though the copy was less then perfect. A thoroughly entertaining movie with a collection of whacky characters and an intricate plot. Some said that this movie reflects current conditions in Cuba (i.e. chaos) but even if you don't want to go this "deep" into the film, it has more than enough to entertain anyone. I would recommend it to those who don't mind that they can't leave the room for a snack because then they would miss some of the twists and turns of the story.
La frontera (1991)
A very lyrical movie
A very lyrical movie from Chile, reminded me much of Tarkovsky's work. The acting was also excellent. This was certainly the best movie shown this season in our international movie club.