Reviews written by registered user
|9 reviews in total|
It is impossible to speak of the central fact of the plot of this lovely film without spoiling it, but it is worth mentioning that it draws on (and asks to be compared to) Alpine folktales. The isolation of the family is an aspect of many Swiss and other montagnard tales; in this film, the tension between the lure of the modern world (it happens in 1984, after all) and the traditional ways of the mountain is constantly there, but somewhat subdued. The choice of the family to keep their deaf son at home (rather than institutionalizing him) leads to dramatic complications and precipitates the startling conclusion (not "inadequate," in my view, but definitely open to varied interpretation). That the son breaks rock--both as punishment and as a kind of affirmation of his connection to the natural world--while the mother continues prayers to the Blessed Virgin that seem never to have been answered, nor likely to be--also link the story to traditional folktales. Overall, it has that in common with John Sayles's Secret of Roan Inish and perhaps Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust, but there is very little reverence for the past in this film, as contrasted with those others. It is definitely a film worth renting and viewing. Slow, yes, but intense.
"Innocence" is uncompromising in its effort to explore a plausible human drama, refusing to offer simple or gratifying solutions. The conclusion of the film might seem a cop-out, but it is moving and credible (and had been dramatically prepared in earlier dialogue), and even the final voiceover avoids pat answers. The photography is particularly beautiful and the direction reminded me (this might seem farfetched) of Carl Theodor Dreyer--the close attention to facial expressions and the careful placement of the characters within meaningful environments especially evoke that master's style. This is a film that probably could not be shown successfully in any multiplex in the US, but if you can find it at an independent theater (or on video sometime) be sure to see it. I was particularly pleased to note that at least half the audience with whom I saw it at our local independent theater was under 30,and they gave every evidence of valuing it as much as the more senior members, though perhaps for other reasons. This is a great film.
I liked this movie enough to encourage friends to see it if they have nothing better to do--and if they are real Woody Allen compleatist fans. I have a feeling most other folks will stay away--for good reason. Allen provides familiar material, sporadically very funny, but even during the film I kept thinking about opportunities he had missed--not for conventional yuks but for developments that would have been truly unusual, characterization and plot twists that should have been there, but seemed lost to a general lack of energy. The result--a bunch of ideas for funny scenes that are never realized. There was, for example, a step toward using music for good effect (as he has done so often before), but then it was dropped. As usual, problems of communication at all levels provide the plot movement and much of the comedy, but there was precious little sense of exploration of the reasons for those failures. On the whole, except for Treat Williams, the acting was not particularly effective (not unusual in Allen films); Tea Leoni seemed to hope she would be mistaken for Annette Bening; all the actors, of course, adopted (or were infected by) the rhythm and style of Allen's own speech, so almost all lines were delivered as though Allen were ventriloquizing. Not a disaster, but not entirely fortunate, either. Because there was a lot in the film about camerawork, the viewer was very aware of what was on the screen--and probably purposely, it was often hard to tell if we were looking at a real place or a painted set. This one is neither a hit or a miss--just a mid-range Allen film, worth seeing but probably not memorable for most folks.
Many "stagy" productions come across on screen as little more
aides memoires--referring the viewers back to the 'real' production.
Brook manages to create an intense, even overwhelming cinematic experience from this condensed and almost rarefied production, combining Bizet's music with a balletic performance of the drama. He has tried more than once to make successful film out of great stage productions (Marat/Sade, Mahabharata)--this is by far the greatest success *as film.*
I read Schneebaum's book (same title as this film) when it was first published and was deeply moved by his ability to see through the many ways of "otherness" (his own and the people of the Amazon with whom he lived and loved) to a way of living a decent life. His subsequent books were not as powerful, but showed his continuing quest. His description of his sexual relations with the men of the tribe was way ahead of its time in the early 60's, but his honesty and openness about it were welcome. This movie beautifully conveys both the quirkiness and generosity of the man, but also provides a glimpse into the inevitable destruction of innocence (which is not a morally positive term, in this case) that occurs when "civilized" men intrude on traditional societies. Even so, Schneebaum himself has moved into a kind of higher innocence that suggests the possibility of saving humanity from its own destructiveness.
The acting and editing of this film help create a sense of nearly unbearable urgency as characters caught in their mutual inability to speak with each other about what is really going on see the worst possible consequences working themselves out. For the most part, the director succeeds in convincing us that the events portrayed have a deadly logic of their own, but about 2/3 of the way through the illusion began to crack because of accumulating implausibilities. That is the only fault I could find with this otherwise powerful and convincing psychological thriller. Tilda Swinton is terrific. It is easily one of the most effective films I have seen in the past six months.
I am not much in favor of "best" lists--I wouldn't make
in Cusack's "High Fidelity" world--but I can usually offer
a range of titles of films that I consider the most powerful
experiences I have had in front of a screen--Bicycle Thief,
Ran, Ordet, Seventh Seal, Citizen Kane, L'Avventura,
Rear Window, Blade Runner, quite a few others. But if
had to pick just one title, it would be Nights of Cabiria.
I saw it when it first came out in this country--I was
a junior in high school and fortunate enough to live near
a theater that showed foreign films. It ran for several
weeks and I kept going back to see it over and over, giving
myself permission by dragging friends to see it. No one
ever disappointed, though only a couple of friends developed
a comparable enthusiasm with mine. I have continued to see
it every chance I get, though I have not had the opportunity to see the latest reissue--I probably will have to see it on
video or dvd, since the city I now live in rarely shows any foreign films. Giulietta Massina gives not just the greatest
performance of her career, but surely one of the greatest
performances ever recorded on film, and the sequence of Cabiria's experiences, at first seemingly random and insignificant, adds up to one of the most profound statements Fellini ever made about human life.
It may be that the nightmarish quality of my memory of this movie is caused by my having seen it at about 2 a.m. one night in New York at one of those very seedy all-night theaters on Times Square while I was waiting for a 6 a.m. train. The American "South" portrayed in the film was as phantasmagorical (and real, in its way) as the vision of the country in Kafka's _Amerika_. As I recall it, the screenplay was quite faithful to Boris Vian's original novel of the same name, and both developed from European stereotypes of American culture, with some probable input from Faulkner and Erskine Caldwell. The acting was barely tolerable, but the filming technique (again, as I remember it after almost 40 years) made it seem appropriate. Altogether this was a startling and powerful experience, obviously memorable, but I am sure that it was artistically very bad. Somehow that suggests that some examples of bad art can transcend their own badness, though the reasons are seldom clear.
I saw this film when it first came out; it got very bad reviews at the time and most of my friends hated it, but I loved it then and have been haunted by the theme song ever since. For a while it was impossible to find any references to it--in fact, this is the first database where I have found the title or any information about it, though I have checked a number of commercial sites trying to find it on video. I still remember it as a charming (somewhat sentimental) and very funny comedy of a type that the British film industry did very well at that time. More recently their best work is more in a surreal or caricatural mode (such as _Cold Comfort Farm_, which is brilliant in its own way), but _The Full Monty_ caught some of the charm of the kind of comedies of everyday life that I think _Sparrows Can't Sing_ was one of. Now I just wish I could see it again.