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It's a shame that most people here seem to have seen a cut version of this
film, because the actual original is absolutely beautiful, and belies the
criticism that Franco was a complete hack. It is a perfect example of what
can be achieved in the horror genre with an almost zero budget in what was
probably the director's busiest period.
However most people seem to have seen the US release print, which also
circulated on video in the UK in the 80's under the title of `The Invisible
Dead'. This film was marketed as being a successor to Fulci's `Zombi', and
basically was padded out with scenes from Jean Rollin's `Lake of Zombies'
(shot almost 10 years after Franco's original film) and had all nudity
There is another version which circulated with hardcore black mass footage featuring Franco regular Alice Arno and a host of stunt doubles for Vernon, Nichols and von Blanc.
The only video release of the original film at present is on Redemption, featuring a couple of nude mass scenes, some lesbian vampire sucking, a bizarre scene where Christina knocks over a giant phallus and an effectively hypnotic score from Bruno Nicolai. The UK version is missing the rather graphic rape scene present in the Benelux versions.
Christina von Blanc never unfortunately appeared in any other Franco films in fact only appeared in a couple of others including the giallo `L'Etrusco uccide ancora'. The delightful pairing of Britt Nichols and Anne Libert occurs again in his bizarre `Erotic Rites of Frankenstein' and `Les Demons', amongst other films of the period. If you are interested in Franco, this is one of his best of the period, very atmospheric and deserves to be seen in its original version.
One of the disadvantages of being an Englishman living in Amsterdam, of course, is that the linguistic barriers impose some pretty severe limitations on ones cinematic diet. However, given that the choice between watching films like this and the likes of the 'The Phantom Menace' would have yielded the same conclusion whatever language it was to be viewed in, I am pleased to say that my embryonic graspings of the Dutch language were sufficient to cope in this particular case. Whether this can be put down to simplistic subtitling, the succinct approach to dialogue of Russian films, or director Alexei Balabanov's grasp of the fact that in the hypothetically visual culture of cinema, actions speak louder than words, is debatable. Whatever; I came, I saw, and I enjoyed.
Director Alexei Balabanov, whose 1997 debut was 'Brother' ('Brat'), has here created a fascinating tale around the subject of pornography in turn of the century St Petersberg. Johann (Sergei Makovetsky), a purveyor of salacious erotic autochromes of staged flagellation scenes, along with assistant Victor, worms his way into the lives of two noble families, drawing adopted Mongolian conjoined twins Kolja and Tolja and the delicately beautiful Lisa (Dinara Drukarova) into his enterprise as subjects for his short erotic films.
From the early blue-tinted scenes detailing the birth and background of the twins, set to a soundtrack all but silent save for the presence of hisses and scratches, to the vivid invocation of a feverish preoccupation with all things sexual welling beneath the austere trappings of the Russian bourgeoisie, Balabanov lyrically invokes the spirit of the times. 'Of Freaks and Men' is nothing if it is not beautiful and evocative, crisply photographed in monochrome by cinematographer Sergei Astakhov. There is dark quirky humour here, and a host of eccentric periphery characters, from the lustily compliant serving maid, to a blind wife, and Johann's snaggle-toothed henchman. Visually the film is consistently rich and fascinating.
The premise, of course, is guaranteed to offend the more conservative of viewers. The numerous whipping scenes as well as the portrayal of Johann's treatment of the twins are sure to prove distasteful to those approaching with a more polically correct viewpoint, though the studied art direction and period stylistic veneer distances the viewer to some extent. This, after all is a film about the origins of pornography, and it is not really pornographic in itself. It also touches on a fear of technology (in this case, the emerging medium of cinema), and how that new technology can either empower or enslave. Despite the rather flaccid denouement, and at times seeming slightly overblown in its characterisation of Johann (whose dominance is more usually manifested by means of a handgun rather than a camera), the intriguingly original premise and stunning sepia-toned cinematography should prove ample reward for the curious viewer. After all, there are not a lot of Russian films getting shown over here at the moment.
Like Kevin Smith and Neil LaBute, Doug Liman struck gold with his first
film, 'Swingers', a distinctive low-budget comedy which came from out of
nowhere. Similar to the other two director's second features ('Mallrats' and
'Your Friends and Neighbours' respectively), 'Go' retains the same style,
and indeed increases it, but lacks the heart. 'Swingers' was very much an
actor's film, scripted by its lead, John Favreau, so was more concerned with
character development. Given the subtle dig at Tarantino in that film, it is
somewhat ironic that John August's script for this one should adopt the same
portmanteau approach as 'Pulp Fiction' and 'Four Rooms', with it's three
stories occurring over the same night, whose main threads all combine to
share the same conclusion.
Los Angeles club culture is the focus of this film, and the atmosphere is admirably conjured up, with a frenetic editing style in the first half (Nathan Bexton's Ecstasy trip is pretty well handled cinematically) and a pumping score. There's some sparkling dialogue and funny scenes, but nothing here is as consistently funny as 'Swingers'. The main problem here is that, like 'Pulp Fiction', the film suffers from a decidedly random narrative. It's one thing keeping an audience guessing what is about to happen, but the stringing together an evening's worth of events into a plot with no real purpose other than to portray these events seems rather pointless. This is especially notable in the Las Vegas episode, which features some good moments, but comes across as rather redundant after a while. The various contrivances that merge the narratives together reminded me of last year's 'Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels', another triumph of style over substance. This is a film of scenes and sequences, that seem to gel together rather self-consciously. Up against the laidback suave of 'Swingers', 'Go' seems rather studied and forced.
Still, to his credit, Liman keeps the pace up to the extent that boredom never gets a chance to set in. The end result seems to add up to be more than the sum of its parts and I ended up warming to it more than most of the films I have mentioned here. It captures the zeitgeist of late 90's drugs culture pretty well, and in a lightweight sort of laidback sort of way, is a pretty agreeable timewaster; as energetic and vapid as the milieu which it portrays. It would be interesting to compare this with Justin Kerrigan's 'Human Traffic' (1999), a transatlantic counterpart featuring more hedonistic pleasures from drug-fuelled teens.
The eclectic casting here throws together Katie Holmes ('Dawsons Creak' TV show, and object of Tobey Maguire's desire in 'The Ice Storm'), Canadian Sarah Polley (Atom Egoyan's 'The Sweet Hereafter' and loads more), hyperactive Brit Douglas Askew ('Grange Hill'!), and trivia fans might like to note the presence of 70's action hero Doug McClure's daughter Tane McClure as a stripper, who's silicon stuffed tits are sprayed in blood in a scene guaranteed not to make it into the UK release!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This silent classic from the embryonic stages of the horror genre was
by Tod Browning about four years before directing Bela Lugosi in the first
sound version of 'Dracula' (1931). By this stage he had already shot a
number of two reelers since starting his directorial career in 1915.
Browning's background was as a carnival barker, clown and and black-faced
minstrel before joining DW Griffith in 1913 and, as with this film, a
of his films utilise carnival characters and the circus milieu, from 'The
Show' (also 1927) to 'Freaks' (1932).
Set in Spain, Lon Chaney Senior plays Alonzo, an 'armless' knife-thrower who is passionately in love with the circus owner's daughter, Nanon (played by a young Joan Crawford). Nanon has a pathalogical fear of being touched by men, so one would have thought she need look no further, were it not for the attentions of Malabar, the circus strongman (Norman Kerry). However, Alonzo is not as he seems; a mass murderer who hides his arms and his trademark bifurcated thumbs strapped beneath a corset. As his dwarven Lautrec-like sidekick Cojo (John George) points out, should they ever marry it would not be too long before Nanon discovers his secret. Alonzo therefore bribes a surgeon to remove his arms, only to discover that the object of his obsession has overcome her phobia and has found relief from her condition in the bulging arms of Malabar.
The rather grotesque story of amour fou unfolds steadily and surely, with a neat sting in the tail at the end, but it is Chaney, the 'man of a thousand faces' that really makes the piece. Born in 1896 to deaf deaf-mute parents perfected his skills of mime by necessity, so was a natural for the silent screen where he became the first major star of the genre in films such as 'The Miracle Man' (1919), 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' (1923) and 'The Phantom of the Opera' (1925). Browning and he made a total of ten films together, starting with 'The Unholy Three' (1925) and including 'London After Midnight' (1927) and 'West of Zanzibar' (1928). What is most impressive here is the way in which he contorts his body, expressing the role through his posture. Scenes such as him smoking a cigarette with his feet while his arms lie draped over the sides of his armchair, or twiddling his toes with an empty glass of wine in front of him when his beloved fails to turn up to an arranged rendez-vous are just mind-boggling.
Unfortunately for Chaney, in the same year as this film came 'The Jazz Singer', the first ever talkie, and the following year, the all-talking horrors of 'The Terror' (Roy del Ruth). Chaney only ever made one sound film, a remake of 'The Unholy Three' in 1930, but was recovering from a throat cancer operation when it was shot and died shortly after. His son, Lon Chaney Jnr, took over his mantle to become one of Universal's early major horror stars, and later a prolific B-movie fixture in the likes of 'The Alligator People' (1951) and 'Al Adamson's 'Dracula Vs. Frankenstein' (1971).
Petty poor Hans (Harry Earles), blindly in love with amazonian circus
trapeze artist (Olga Baclanova) and yet oblivious to the affections of his
far better matched Frieda (Daisy Earles) - for both Hans and Frieda are
midgets. He finally looks like he is in with a glimmer of a chance when
trapeze artist and her strongman lover (Henry Victor) discover about his
vast inheritance. However, rather than accept him for his sincerity and
devotion, she instead plots to marry and murder him for his money. After
ridiculing him at their wedding, Hans and his fellow circus freaks
her scheme to slowly poison him. One stormy night, they execute their
'Freaks' was made one year after Browning's legendary 'Dracula' (1931), but after unsuccessful premieres (and being banned in Britain until 1960) it was withdrawn by its producers, MGM, and was snapped up for distribution by early exploitation pioneer Dwain Esper ('Maniac', 1934; 'Marihuana, Weed With Roots in Hell', 1936; and 'How to Undress in Front of Your Husband', 1937). Unfortunate production history notwithstanding, with the benedfit of hindsight 'Freaks' is infinitely more effective than it's more successful predecessor starring Bela Lugosi. Like the same director's 'The Unknown' (1927), 'Freaks' utilises the circus sideshow milieu (here set in France, as opposed to Spain, but obviously filmed in America), yet here focusses almost entirely on the small world of real life freaks that dwell within it. This gives the film a fantastic self-contained world within which to tell it's story, and it is this poetic invocation of the bizarre that gives 'Freaks' its unique power. It stands alone in its humanitarian and decidedly non-sensationalistic portrayal and use of real life deformities. All the 'normal' characters are portrayed as scheming and unsympathetic, save for Frozo he clown (Wallace Ford) and his girl Venus (Leila Hyams) who take the freaks as they are and thus provide the necessary emotional bridge for the audience. Though Ford gets top billing, it is the individual freaks themselves that get all the memorable scenes, whether it be the Human Torso, Prince Raoul lighting a cigarette with no arms nor legs; the marital arrangements of the Siamese Twins; or the unfeasible, grafity-defying scuttlings of Johnny Eck, missing from the waist down.
The story is far more simplistic and straightforward than 'The Unknown', and for the initial parts consists of various vignettes which characterise the freaks as they lead as normal a life as they can. The mood shifts dramatically in the final quarter as the freaks exact their revenge in a chiaroscuro-lit storm, but at the end of the day, it is these human abberrations that the audience will side with. 'Freaks' is absolutely unique; a bona fide classic from the early days of sound cinema which fits into Tod Brownings's fantastically macabre oeuvre far more comfortably than the stagey 'Dracula'. It is undoubtedly amongst the most powerful and stunningly original pieces of cinema of its era.
Tod Browning went onto direct Devil Doll (1936) and 'Miracles for Sale' (1939), his final film before his death in 1962. German born man-child Harry Earles (born Kurt Schneider, 1902; died in 1985) had appeared in a number of films before this, his baby-faced looks and miniscule stature making him ideal for such films as 'That's My Baby' (1926). He had already appeared in Tod Browing's earlier silent 'The Unholy Three' (1925) and its talkie remake (Jack Conway, 1930), though his performance suffers here due to difficulties in overcoming his native German accent and the poor quality of sound-recording at this early stage in film history. Real-life sister Daisie Earles (Hilda E. Schneider) is a real revelation however, and the scenes involving her are genuinely quite touching. She later appeared as a Munchkin in 'The Wizard of Oz' (Victor Fleming, 1939).
The sexual context in which this film was made is rather different from today, so concepts such as rooting Severine's fascination with prostitution with child abuse may seem a little outre to modern audiences. Nonetheless, it's a brilliant character study, with the originally reserved Severine transforming from distant and aloof to playful and coquettish as the film progresses. The dream sequences are interesting, and inserted into the narrative without ceremony. As a whole the film is thought provoking and open-ended, with Severine's character always remaining a source of fascination, mainly due to Deneuve's captivating screen presence. I also loved the grainy, high colour contrast film stock, which along with Deneuve's constant wardrobe changes saturate the film in 60's Parisian chic. There are plenty of obscure details such as the Chinaman's box, which are as bewildering as they are interesting. Macha Meril, here playing one of the other prostitutes at Mme Anais', is probably best known for playing the psychic murdered at the beginning of Dario Argento's 'Profondo Rosso' (1975), whereas Jean Sorel, Deneuve's Doctor/Husband also entered into the Italian horror/thriller genre in two films by Lucio Fulci ('Una sull'altra' 1969, and 'Una Lucertola con la Pelle di Donna', 1971), as well as 'The Sweet Body of Deborah' ('Dolce corpo di Deborah', Romolo Guerrieri, 1969,) and Umberto Lenzi's 'Paranoia' (also 1969).
Although the 'Giallo' genre officially began with Mario Bava's 'Ragazza
Sapeva Troppo' (aka 'Evil Eye', or 'The Girl Who Knew To Much') in 1963,
continuing with the same director's 'Sei Donne Per L'Assassino' ('Blood
Black Lace', 1964), it wasn't really until the commercial success of Dario
Argento's 1969 debut, 'L'Uccello dalle Piuma di Cristallo' ('The Bird With
the Crystal Plumage') that it really got underway to become a staple of
Italian cinema in the 1970's. The films essentially were bloody thrillers
which the primary thrill was in watching pretty young girls being stalked
and dispatched by anonymous, leather-gloved assassins. Stylistically these
films forced the audience to identify with the killer, featuring lengthily
protracted and elaborately staged sequences of women in terror strung
together by a convoluted whodunnit plot along the lines of those of early
twentieth century British crime-writer Edgar Wallace.
In fact, director Massimo Dallamano's previous film, 'Whatever Happened to Solange?' ('Cosa Avete Fatto a Solange?' 1972) was based on an Edgar Wallace novel. The follow-up takes it's cue from the same film by also setting itself within a girl's school, giving us a whole host of young nubiles around which to build the plot. The film opens with a rousing score courtesy of Stelvio Cipriani, a big-band romp through 70's flower-power accompanied by shots of the young girls getting on and off of their boyfriends scooters outside the school gates. This is followed by the discovery by the police of a young girl swinging naked from the rafters of an attic in a nearby deserted house after an anonymous tip off.
As the Italian title 'La Polizia Chiede Aiuto' (The Police Ask For Help) suggests, and what sets this apart from its predecessor and most of the Giallo films of the period, is that a lot of time is devoted to the police's detective work and the milieu of the police themselves as opposed to those of the potential victims, bringing the film more in line with the policier drama than pure 'Giallo'. For the most part the film follows these investigations from suspect to suspect, with each plot point highlighted by a lengthy flashback. A motorcycle chase forms one of the action set-pieces alongside the usual suspense scenes, including a taut sequence in which the female detective (Giovanni Ralli) is stalked by the leather-clad, helmeted killer with a meat cleaver. The gorier pay-offs mainly occur towards the end, once the cleaver has made its initial appearance, but along the way we discover a mutilated body in the back of a car, and the blood spattered bath in which it was dismembered.
If all this sounds rather perfunctory so far, it is the sheer bleakness of the film that distinguishes it. The initial murder is linked to the discovery of a school girl prostitution ring, and this central concept pretty much summarises the whole tone of the film. With a potential political scandal hinted at, and a scene in which the Claudio Casinelli's police investigator lies to the press to buy more time, the general milieu invoked is a corrupt and sordid one, where corruption and vice are masked by the superficially angelic innocence of the girls involved. The deadpan and po-faced narrative includes lengthy scenes of the police listening intently and repeatedly to tapes made of the call-girls' meetings, and graphic post-mortem descriptions of the victims. Salacious tit-bits like these are so deeply engrained within the complex plot that forces one is forced into a particularly bizarre and twisted perspective of the world by the accumulation of such elements.
Director Dallamano was a cinematographer turned director who had worked on a number of spaghetti Westerns in the 60's including Sergio Leone's 'Per un pugno di dollari' ('Fistful of Dollars', 1964). Prior to this he had made a number of films including adaptations of Oscar Wilde's 'Dorian Gray' (1970) and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's 'Venus in Furs' ('Le Malizie de Venere', 1969)
'La Polizia Chiede Aiuto' also sports features an undistinguished supporting role from former Stranger on a Train, Farley Granger (Alfred Hitchcock, 1951). It is competently made, fast moving and gripping in places. It's worth checking out, but a maybe a little too serious in both its sleazy theme and its approach to prove a major crowd pleaser.
A real oddity from the early days of video rental, this ineffectual
documentary on real-life 'freaks' was marketed on the back of the critical
and commercial success of David Lynch's Oscar nominated 'The Elephant Man'
(1980). Though the video cover announces this film as 'A true story of a
modern-day Elephant Man, and other human oddities', the actual character
concerned shares equal screen time with 'the other human oddities'.
Allusions to Lynch's film begin during the title sequence: a shot of a pair of legs ascending a dark staircase to a soundtrack of heavy breathing. We then cut to our Elephant Man hideously deformed face as he enters his apartment and embraces his wife. Following this we see another character jogging in the distance towards the camera. This lengthy sequence culminates as he crests the horizon and we are astonished to notice that he has no feet. There then follows a montage of assorted fairground scenes, such as 'normal people' peering into distorting mirrors, before the narrator, the Canadian classical actor Christopher Plummer, steps onto the screen to deliver the film's brief, spouting such trite lines as 'If we were they, what would our world look like?' with the required solemnity.
After a little research I discovered that Harry Rasky is actually a rather well-respected television journalist and documentary-maker in his native Canada, better known for his art documentaries on Chagall and Degas, and notably a feature on Christopher Plummer himself ('Christopher Plummer: King of Players' 1998). He also wrote the biography 'Tennessee Williams: A Portrait in Laughter and Lamentation' in 1986. 'Being Different' looks rather out of place in an otherwise distinguished oeuvre due to it's intrinsically uninformative nature, and to the fact that its emotive subject renders it a rather difficult film to view objectively.
For the initial half hour we our transported to Gibsinton, Florida, the Carnival capital of America we are informed, where we are introduced to the inhabitants of the mobile community that make their living as sideshow freaks. These included a set of Siamese Twins,'the fattest man in the world', 'the tallest man in the world' (trivia fans: this is Johann Petursson, an Icelandic giant who appeared in the 1950 film 'Prehistoric Woman') and Alligator man and the bearded Monkey Girl ('the strangest married couple in the world'). From here on we get whisked off on a guided tour of the human oddities of North America, visiting en route the world's tallest woman in Niagara Falls, a midget in Montreal, numerous limb-less people, and a convention of The Little People of America.
By allowing them to tell their stories by means of a series of interviews, Rasky admirably introduces these characters as essentially human beings who have miraculously overcome their physical disabilities to lead a normal life. There is some truly astonishing material here, including scenes of a man with no legs going swimming and a woman with no arms squeezing herself into a pair of jeans. Unfortunately we are treated to the pretty much the same old thing over and over again. There are too many similar characters shown going about their daily business, giving the same one-line responses to the prurient questioning into their sex lives, and the film is at least 20 minutes too long. A lengthy scene in a disco of 'normal people' is rather arbitrarily included to give us pause for thought about two thirds of the way through. There are also a number of appalling musical interludes which date the film badly to the 'Fame' era, consisting of montages of left-over footage accompanied by cheesy early 80's power-ballads with music by music by Paul Zaza and atrocious lyrics written by Rasky himself.
Ultimately a documentary filmmaker works with the same market concerns as those of the feature film. Despite never being truly exploitative, 'Being Different' is nevertheless grounded in the same Circus geekshow mentality of the Gibsinton carnival with which the film opens, given the respectable veneer of early 80's political correctness by a platitudinous commentary which mentions 'the triumph of the human spirit' on at least three occasions. In using real-life circus freaks within the framework of a fantasy narrative, Todd Browning's 'Freaks' (1932) was less condescending and much more interesting. Other uses of real-life freaks in cinema include Michael Winner's diabolical (in both senses of the word) horror film, 'The Sentinel' (1977).
After two years of living amongst the gorillas in the Rwandan jungle,
anthropologist Ethan Powell (Anthony Hopkins) is arrested for murdering two
park rangers and wounding three others, and slapped in chains to be carted
off to Harmony Bay, Florida, a harsh maximum security prison for the
criminally insane. Cuba Gooding Jr is Dr Theo Calder, the diligent and
ambitious young whelp of a psychiatrist sent to investigate the matter
further. Fascinated by what would force an otherwise reasonable and peaceful
man into such acts of violence, Calder believes that Powell is in fact
perfectly sane, and sets about trying to get him released, with one eye on a
more personal agenda of getting a pretty impressive book deal out of the
I'm not sure how fair it would be to judge Daniel Quinn's novel 'Ishmael' on the basis of this lame adaptation, as once processed through the Hollywood sausage-machine any would-be interesting ideas have been no doubt been stripped away to the extent that nothing more than the old well-worn civilisation-vs-barbarism chestnut remains. To add weight to this rather tired argument we are hauled through a checklist of recent cinematic cliché's and cross-references, leading one to the inevitable conclusion that no one involved in the project could have had any conviction in the central concept at all. Instead of challenging audience preconceptions, why not make them comfortable with a mish-mash of familiar stock characters and situations lifted from a dozen or so successful recent films? Thus Gooding rehashes Clarice Starling's wide-eyed ingenue (and very badly too), whose self-assured and professional demeanor initially draws blanks with Hopkins' reprisal of his Hannibal Lector role (he even opens a cage with his pen at one point!) Alternating between brooding mutism and articulate lucidity with complete disregard for consistency, Hopkins finally begins to show chinks in his armour, before our resolute young protagonist finally breaks through, accompanied by a loud orchestral swell on the soundtrack. These early scenes are tedious in the extreme, with sporadic shocks sequences and loud noises thrown into the rather perfunctory exchanges of dialogue presumably to 'add tension' to the proceedings. Elsewhere there is the 'barbaric treatment of the inmates' sub-story, bringing to mind the 'us-and them' slant of 'One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest' or 'The Shawshank Redemption' and providing yet another crusade for our dogged hero, the American Dream incarnate.
One is always conscious of 'Instinct's artifice, completely diffusing any power it might have had with a derivative and superficial script made for an audience whose only point of reference to the real world is through the mutual phosphotic flux of the TV screen. The narrow focus is exemplified by the key-scene of the film's central argument - that of 'civilised society' taking from nature - in the flashback detailing the murders which led to Hopkins' incarceration. Here a troop of African park rangers ("the takers") attack the tribe of gorillas in which Hopkins as made his home. No explanation is given for why they do this other than to give the film a dramatic raison d'etre. The milieu of Rwanda has been chosen because yes, it has a jungle and yes, it has gorillas. There has been poaching there too, not too mention a brutal and lengthy civil war, but this goes unmentioned, as even the slightest degree of social context falls way outside of the scope of the film's narrative drive. It instead goes for the collective lowest common denominator approach, where primitive nature equals 'good', and civilised man equals 'bad'.
The symbolism is crude and hackneyed. In an early flashback scene, as Hopkins opines about the need to leave 'civilisation' on the voiceover, we are treated to a close-up of his binoculars left discarded and hanging from a tree, followed by a cutaway of him squatting beneath a large banana leaf in the pouring rain amongst his fellow primates. Elsewhere there is the specious juxtaposition between the natural idyll of life amongst the gorillas and the more violent urban jungle as represented by Harmony Bay, clearly intended to stand in as a microcosm for a violent modern society. This is rendered emotively and with painstaking literal-mindedness in the parallel scenes of the attack of the gorilla camp and the prison warder's violent suppression of a riot. Ultimately such analogies fail because both milieus are portrayed with such portentous simplicity that any analogy with the real world is lost. In fact, the psychological practices used by Gooding, and the depiction of life inside a top-security mental institution are so unconvincingly done (not too mention crudely sensationalist) that film never has a chance of transcending its routine structure. Boredom sets in long before the two hour running time has expired: It's never in any doubt that Hopkins will escape from 'civilisation' and Gooding will discover his own inner wildman.
'Instinct' must represent something of a career low for Anthony Hopkins, who is now talking of quitting the film industry altogether (presumably after receiving the pay cheque for this). We would expect little more from director John Turteltaub, who was responsible for amongst other things the mawkish Travolta vehicle 'Phenomenon' (1996) and 'Cool Runnings' (1993), the oh-so-hilarious comedy about the Jamaican bob-sleigh team featuring John Candy. This film is atrocious by any standards, but made even more so by it's own sense of worthiness and it's vapid intellectual posturing. It gets one thing right though - you wouldn't find a gorilla stupid enough to fork out 5 quid to watch this dross.
This must be amongst the most distinctive, idiosyncratic and exquisite
I have seen in a long while. There is nothing particularly new about the
plot, which is a straightforward and uncomplicated love story divided into
three acts, but the beauty of this film is in the telling of it.
All the dialogue in this film is sung, which at first is a little unsettling, but it actually takes very little time to adjust to. The verse/chorus format of popular music and the musical genre is eschewed for an approach more resembling a modern opera, as the characters croon their lines to each other over a continuous score. This gives the most banal of lines a rhythm and cadence of their own. Because of this I found the French a lot easier to understand than with more naturalistic films, which was fairly handy for me as the print I was watching was with Dutch subtitles! I must confess, I did find that the music (written by Michel Legrand) began to grate towards the end of the 87 minute running time but even so there is still much to admire here. Visually it's stunning, with a bold and vibrant colour palette of almost hallucinogenic intensity and sumptuous costume and set design (that wallpaper!). The opening credit sequence sets the mood perfectly: a birds eye view of the inhabitants of Cherbourg in the rain beneath their umbrellas as they walk across the frame is reduced to a colourful abstraction. Catherine Deneuve is predictably gorgeous and the first act of the young couples courtship is one of the most beautifully pure pieces of cinema I can think of. It reminded me a bit of 'Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris', a film which I saw in television a long time ago and would do absolutely anything to get hold of a copy. 'Les Parapluies de Cherbourg' is a wonderful, sincere and uplifting film that everyone should go and see at least once, and preferably on a big screen. Once seen, never forgotten.
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