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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
A film for lovers, and for lovers of film..., 24 August 1999

Imagine the pitch to `le studio`: A realist Algerian wartime romance set to music with all dialogue sung `en francais`, which takes place in the nondescript fishing port of Cherbourg...

Strange, then, that "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" is a milestone of European cinema. Superficially it has a simple storyline: garage mechanic boy falls in love with umbrella shop-girl; girl gets pregnant; boy is drafted to Algeria, love tragically compromised; boy returns; girl has begun lifeless marriage to jewel dealer, film ends on snowy garage forecourt. But from these banal `quotidien` details emerges Demy`s brilliantly willful blend of continuous jazz-score, hyper-real colouring and sheer French style. A critic at the time commented that even the wallpaper should be Oscar-nominated, and viewing the wonderful 1996 re-print one can only concur. The music undeniably drives the film along, and central themes `I will wait for you` and `Watch what happens (theme de Cassard)` went on to be hits for Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennet and Jack Jones. Michel Legrand`s imaginative use of traditional orchestra with big-band jazz lead him to be approached for similar duties on `The Thomas Crowne Affair' some years later. Notable also for Catherine Deneuve`s cinematic debut as shop-girl Genevieve, the film simply dances in front of your eyes. (No mean achievement for a story set in Cherbourg.)

A film for lovers, and for lovers of film. If you want to know just what stylish direction looks and sounds like... you will be enchanted. Highly recommended.

83 out of 128 people found the following review useful:
camera lucida, 24 August 1999

Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) is the most famous man in the world, and he doesn't even know it. Raised entirely 'within' a television show which comprises his entire world, Truman is an Everyman for the post-television age. Truman's world, "Seahaven", is an Eisenhower-era model of American bliss, recalling the prison-like Port Meirion and the moral certainty of Bedford Falls (Its a Wonderful Life). Surreptitiously filmed around the clock by 5000 hidden cameras, the show exists inside an enormous geodesic dome with simulated weather and even its own ocean. Through a series of production blunders Truman slowly realises that he is being controlled and that perhaps all in his world is not as it seems. His surrogate father by proxy, 'Christof' the producer/director, goes from being benevolent social scientist to evil genius as his attempts to frustrate Truman's wanderlust become more and more deadly. Will he escape?

The film raises some interesting points about our fascination with life as seen through the magnifying lens of tv, and the morality of real lives viewed as so much entertainment. But like most soaps the scenes from "The Truman Show" that appear within the movie are variously dull, mawkish and sentimental. At points the film has a problem deciding on whether it is going to be a straight escape-chase movie or a philosophical piece about morality and technology. The t.v. show's inherent blandess also lends little to the pace or our sense that there are characters worth caring about.

Carrey is good. This in itself is gratifying, and a tribute to a script that walks the tightrope of imitating bad t.v. in tandem with the metaphysical angst of Truman's unique situation. If it isn't quite the film it could have been, The Truman Show is still pretty much unique in the recent crop from our cultural overlords in Hollywood. No arthouse here, this is a watchable, big-budget think piece, with well-executed and stylish direction. Its too early to say but this film may have given some execs at NBC, ABC et al. one very bad idea...

Celebrity (1998)
2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Manhattan Transference, 24 August 1999

And so, to Manhattan. A couple (Branagh and Davis) split after 15 years and move in entirely different directions. Leigh (Branagh) becomes obsessed by the glittery world he has only observed as a journalist, but discovers he is, in Allen-speke, a thinker not a do-er, paralysed from participating successfully. The twist is that his neurotic Catholic ex-wife accidentally ends up working in fluff television doing lifestyle pieces on the stars, and in the inevitable looking glass world of tv, becomes a minor celebrity herself. Along the way there are plenty of swipes at the United States own plastic monarchy, the eponymous celebrities. Its a mess. Despite some good jokes and a truly arresting performance from Judy Davis this is probably the worst film of what has been Allen's renaissance decade. Chief blame must lie with the director for casting Kennenth Branagh as his middle-age stand-in. Allen's films are in the main carried by his leading man (himself, natch) and Celebrity is no different. If the public long-ago became happy to lose sight of the division between Allen the man and Allen the character this is one sudden wake-up call. The charmingly self-effacing yet witty persona has gone badly awry here. The same lines and mannerisms delivered by a light English actor sound cloying, derivative and irritating. When one considers the success of John Cusack (Bullets over Broadway) in a similar 'substitute' role one can only wonder at how Allen took his eye off the ball in casting one of Peter's friends. Worse, the themes of a man unsure of his emotional and career goals are all borrowed from 'Manhattan'-era Allen; even down to discussions of 'polymorphous perversity' and the sublimated masculinity inherent when bookish types buy period sportscars. The characters endlessly talk about celebrity without really ever making any substantial criticisms. Yes, it makes for a colourful backdrop, but to what is essentially a lukewarm Allen-by-the-numbers midlife crisis-comedy. Shame. Alex Mayor


There's Something About Mary has one of the best trailers I've seen. As a film, however, it stinks. TSAM rates as possibly the sloppiest piece of light-comedy movie I've seen since I last rented a(ny) Chevy Chase film. A knockabout comedy that clocks in at around 2 hours? The alarm bells were sounding, but still I bought a ticket expecting a silly but mirthful afternoon in the local Odeon... What you get is 5 distinct set-piece gags that are deadeningly sign-posted 10 minutes before they detonate, and rely for their humour on you having spent isolated months in a Tibetan Media Retreat for the Terminally Over-Appealed-To. God, this film was bad. Don't these directors understand that comedy has to be rooted in reality to be funny? No. Instead of clever plotting and characterisation you get scenes that might as well bear the gurning subtitles "This bit is incredibly funny! Tell your friends! ITS FUNNY ISN'T IT!". A wearing 120 minutes. I thought I'd lost all feeling in my legs by the time it limped to the denouement. Needless to say the kiss at the end was an all time cinema low. 'Make it Stop!' shrieked my inner monologue.

I fully anticipate 'Theres Something Else About Mary' and 'More Mary: the Quickening'. Fortunately my video is on the blink so I won't be able to rent these straight to BlockBuster features. Remember to check your brain in at the cloakroom.