Reviews written by registered user
|38 reviews in total|
"Persona" is art house cinema defined! The loose plot centers on a
Scandinavian-Freudian ego/id struggle going on simultaneously in two
very complicated and classically beautiful Swedish women. One woman is
an actress (played by famous Swedish actress Liv Ullman), in seclusion
during a nervous breakdown, the other woman is her nurse (an explosive
Bibi Anderson). The women bond into a volatile co-dependent
relationship that has (at times very) vague lesbian (is it so
controversial to say this?) undertones but is mostly expressed in long
slow sequences of dialogue that escalate to volcanic displays of
What makes this movie such a great classic is the magnificent cinematography, and the innovative screen shots and cinematic effects used throughout the picture. Additionally, the original musical score is used to important effect and the editing and direction are flawless. The total visual effect of "Persona" is one of the best examples of cinema as "art". The clarity and composition of all the camera-work is simply superb. And don't let the plot summary fool you -- this is a hard film to describe -- there are plenty of surprises and it remains very modern to this day!
There is an odd sense of appealing disdain that overcomes you watching
this movie. The storyline itself is really quite simple and the
screenplay nothing special but the direction, by actor Danny DeVito, is
excellent as is the entire production led by James L. Brooks. Kathleen
Turner and Michael Douglas are perfect as the uber-successful couple
Oliver and Barbara Rose at the pinnacle of Eighties success. He's the
hotshot lawyer with political ambitions and she's a sought-after
caterer (of course). Together they share a proto McMansion complete
with giant walk-in closets, terrazzo floors, and live-in European
housekeeper. But it is the house that becomes their undoing.
Bored and stereotypically hormonal, Barbara wants a divorce but Oliver won't give it to her easily because each wants the house. Their kids, grown and living away, resent both of them and only housekeeper Susan (Marianne Sagebrecht) really cares what happens to either of them. Little by little they descend hilariously into madness and ultimately neither of them win their prize.
Turner and Douglas pick up where they left off in "The Jewel and the Nile" and more precisely in "Romancing the Stone" and have an electric chemistry between them that makes even the most mundane line of dialogue funny if not witty. The viewer can't help but feel for both Roses yet find them equally repelling as they sink to their depths in the outrageous domestic warfare.
With plenty of surprises "War of the Roses" proves the old adage that nothing is sacred in love and war.
Incredibly powerful and sobering, "Requiem for a Dream" is one of
strongest anti-drug movies ever made. The lives of four people, a
mother and her only son, a beautiful artistic young woman, and a
charming young man, are destroyed by addiction in a parable of illicit
and licit drug use. This extraordinary film by young director (and
co-writer) Darren Aronofsky shows how Americans crush their positive
energies with chemical crutches be they heroin or little blue pills
prescribed by a doctor.
Ellen Burstyn won an Academy Award (2000) for her performance of sad Sara Goldfarb who sinks deeper into delusion about being on her favorite infomercial TV program as she gets hooked on prescribed medications. Her son Harry (Jared Leto), his buddy Tyrone (Marlon Wayans), and girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly) hope to get rich off just one more score but get hooked and watch helplessly as their lives disintegrate.
The direction is slick and arty with interesting visual effects that create a fast and furious pace that mirrors the drug rushes that sequence the film. In little over an hour and a half we witness a complete meltdown. The acting is superb from start to finish and even supporting roles such as Louise Lasser's Ada, Sara's long-suffering friend, add depth and dimension to this tragic tale. A must see but not for the faint-hearted and don't expect a typical Hollywood happy ending.
Consider the ingredients available for this film: award winning famous
actors, the Academy Award Merchant-Ivory team of director, producer,
and screenwriter, an exotic and interesting setting Shanghai on the
eve of Japan's 1937 invasion that really started World War II, yet with
all this bounty James Ivory cooks up not a feast but a tofu turkey.
Towards the end of this badly paced, plodding, mess of a movie, the audience almost wants the small sampan where the principle characters, a tragic Russian émigré family (played by real-life mother, aunt, and daughter Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave and Natasha Richardson) to get hit by a Japanese bomb. There is so little character development and the cartoonish accents from all (including Ralph Fiennes whose performance is so understated as to be almost unnoticed) are so grating that we never really care what happens to anyone in the course of the movie.
Overall the production is shockingly bad grainy footage with washed-out color, boring locales (were any scenes actually filmed in Shanghai?), dreadful dialogue, and a nonsensical story line that leaves you confused throughout, make it hard to believe this is the final Merchant-Ivory production. It is said that Ismail Merchant lived long enough to wrap filming for this film. Director James Ivory then finished production. Better to have shelved it or thrown it away. Avoid or be warned.
The line between illusion and reality is blurred to perfection in all
of Luis Bunuel's work but perhaps most seamlessly in "Belle de Jour,"
his best known (if not his best) movie. Severine Serizy (played by
Catherine Deneuve), the wife of a promising doctor, is frigid with her
handsome workaholic husband Pierre (Jean Sorel) but she's no good girl.
Her sexual coldness masks her affliction with that most Parisian of
Severine's need for humiliation drives her to secretly become a prostitute by day. As one of Madame Anais's beauties she opens sexually in a series of misadventures that are often quite amusing but ultimately expose her and wreck her confused but comfortable world. By the end we're never quite sure just what has happened and are left with lingering doubts about the meaning of fidelity, love, and sexuality -- hot topics when the movie premiered in 1967.
Several things stand out and make this movie a real treat. Foremost is Catherine Deneuve's extraordinary beauty. Whether in underwear or the incredibly stylish costumes by Yves Saint Laurent, she is ravishing. But just as enchanting are Genevieve Page as Madame Anais and all the actresses that haunt the picture with their suppressed loveliness. Judicious use of sound effects (there is no soundtrack - a mark of Bunuel) and color (supposedly this was Bunuel's first color film) give sensory clues to the narrative that still inspire debate. And where else could you possibly see Catherine Deneuve splattered in the face with cow dung! It is a masterpiece from the father of surrealism and one not to miss.
Accessible Godard! Between the more famous "Breathless" and "Alphaville.." Godard wrote and directed this gem of French chic. The story is straight out of the tabloids, a love triangle of misfits who band together briefly but end up making a mess of things. But their moments together are oddly fascinating particularly an infectious dance sequence as all three do the Madison. It's worth watching the movie for this scene alone! The leads, including Jean-Luc Godard partner Anna Karina, are young and charming and their quick dialogue keeps things light. Yet the viewer remains detached throughout and ultimately is left with a sense of surrealism. A wonderful example of French "new wave" cinema, "Band a'part" is a delight. Voyez!
Absolutely wonderful French musical featuring twenty-year old Catherine Denevue singing every word of dialogue along with a cast of well-known (at the time) French actors. The production is opera as only the French knew how to do it. The tale is from old Europe -- love, betrayal, remorse but cast against the last years of France's Algerian crisis. The music, well it starts to sound like side 2 of a Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 record after awhile, nevertheless it does catch your attention and makes you focus on the story. A truly unique movie-going experience, "Umbrellas" is sure to entertain from its giddy start to its surprisingly poignant end. Find it!
Extremely plodding but powerful war flick about the B-17 "flying
fortresses" that took World War II back to Germany with constant
bombing raids on the Reich heartland. Gregory Peck, earning a fourth
Oscar nomination for the role, plays General Savage of the USA Eighth
Air Force based in England. Casualties are high as the B-17's must fly
during daylight in an era before RADAR and other technologies. After he
dismisses a popular but battle fatigued Commander, chief-of-staff
pipe-smoking Savage is re-assigned from his cozy office to the front
lines. What results is a study in leadership as Savage instills a
vigorous camaraderie among his men and flies with them on bombing
raids. But ultimately he succumbs like the Commanders before him to
"Twelve O'Clock Hight" is at once a gung-ho patriotic reaffirmation of the "good fight," yet also gives an anti-war message about the brutality of a world at war. The all-male cast give superb performances and Dean Jagger (as Major Harvey Stovall) won an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor. Production all round is first-rate including real footage of dogfights and bombing raids and the the most famous (to that day) action stunt of all time when stunt pilot Paul Mantz crash lands a B-17. And that's just the start of the picture! See this one.
The crowning achievement of the Ismail Merchant/James Ivory partnership and
their entire production team who give their absolute best in original music,
cinematography, editing, art and set direction, costumes, and, of course,
screenplay by Merchant/Ivory regular Ruth Prawler Jhabvala. Add flawless
performances from the all-star cast and the result is almost too perfect.
But there is just enough humility to this sad tale of unrequited love to
make it completely believable.
Anthony Hopkins excels as the impenetrable Mr. Stevens, Butler of a lordly country house in the final days of the British Empire, and Emma Thompson is superb as his foil, Housekeeper Miss Kenton. Both give wonderfully deep, sensitive portrayals of two complex lonely people who don't realize, until it's too late, that they belong together. Swirling around them is fascinating drama of life upstairs and downstairs and there are as many surprises and sub-plots to the story (based on a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro) as there are secret passages, nooks, and crannies in "Darlington House."
An all-round first-rate cinematic experience, "Remains of the Day" is one of those pictures that lingers in the mind long after the credits pass. A must see. One poignant note: this was the return to the big screen of actor Christopher Reeve, as American millionaire Congressman Lewis, whose life nicely frames the storyline. Two years later Reeve became paralyzed after being thrown from a horse.
Two beautiful unhappy people from opposite ends of Eisenhower era America
are drawn together by an obsessive love that ends in tragic consequences.
Elizabeth Taylor won a Best Actress Oscar (after much better performances in
earlier pictures such as `Cat On A Hot Tin Roof') for her portrayal of
(shock!) call-girl Gloria Wandrous. Laurence Harvey plays the john, Weston
Liggett, trapped in a stale marriage with his stoic wife Emily (Dina
Merrill, perfect as a blue-blooded blonde heiress).
Complementing the moody performances of Liz and Laurence Harvey are an excellent Eddie Fisher as Gloria's long-suffering best friend and greatest admirer Steve, Mildred Dunnock as poor Mrs. Wandrous, in complete denial of her daughter's easy virtue, Betty Field as nosy neighbor Mrs. Fanny Barber, and many others including Kay Medford as tragicomic motel matron, Happy.
Lurking behind the scenes of `Butterfield 8' are some very grown up issues (particularly for its day) about infidelity, high class prostitution, childhood sexual abuse, and the meaning of true commitment. The dialogue by John Michael Hayes (`Peyton Place,' `To Catch A Thief,' and `Rear Window", among many credits) and Charles Schnee, is punchy and quick, and the movie glows with luscious cinematography from Hollywood veteran Joseph Ruttenberg, who got an Academy Award nomination for his efforts (he had previously won four Oscars dating back to 1938).
Although somewhat dated, it remains a thoughtful film (if you pay attention) and a visual treat for any Liz fan. Worth watching!
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