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Ginger & Rosa (2012)
Best film so far at the New York Film Festival
At the time of writing this review, Ginger and Rosa has a 4.8 rating!! I don't know who these voters are, but this is a very fine film: insightful, funny, and wise. The acting is across the board phenomenal. Cast spoke of long rehearsal period during Q&A and it shows. Every shot captures real life in all its expressive complexity. Elle Fanning, 13 playing 16, gives one of the greatest child performances I have ever seen - truly astonishing as well as touching, funny/sad, and beautiful. Great script, gorgeous cinematography and design, perfectly chosen period music. This is a must-see, and sure to be a break-out role for Fanning.
La fille du puisatier (2011)
Great Film needs new English title!
This marvelous film is based on a Pagnol novel which I had never heard of. Maybe it's well-known in France and so the title is familiar to audiences there. But in the US "The Well Digger's Daughter" should keep people away from this film in droves. In fact, the film is an old fashioned fable set in the French countryside during the period of World War I. Even though the plot turns are seen coming a mile away, the film has such charm and simple feeling and wisdom, that there is enormous pleasure in watching the story unfold. Auteuil is perfect as the father, as is every other actor, especially Astrid Bergès-Frisbey as the daughter of the title and Nicolas Duvauchelle as her 'prince'. And the music by Andre Desplat is one of his best scores. The setting and the lives of the characters are so beautifully depicted, there is so much pleasure to be had in entering their world for two hours, that it seems a shame that American audiences will have to overcome their disinclination to see a movie about a well-digger and his daughter when there is this rich and deeply emotional story waiting for them in the cinema.
Deste Lado da Ressurreição (2011)
I left after a half hour as well
Agree with previous reviewer that this film was a poor choice for TIFF where usually the quality of the films is quite high. The absurdity of the set up was laughable: gorgeous surfer boy leaves monastery and returns to his favorite beach to ride the waves and commune to God. I wanted to ask: who maintained his highlights at the monastery? Apparently the cinematographer was unable to get many decent shots of him surfing, so we are left watching endless underwater shots of nothing, accompanied by the sound of gurgling water. The actors all looked like they were in a soap opera, with the usual anxious staring instead of dialog.
The Tempest (2010)
Lovely to look at
but impossible to understand. Saw this at the New York Film Festival tonight and must assume that the soundtrack was unfinished because I was able to understand about half of the dialog. It sounded like a mono mix, so maybe it was a temporary soundtrack or was projected incorrectly. The opening scene: completely unintelligible. Nearly every word spoken by Djimon Hisou: completely unintelligible. Hope they fix this because there is much to admire in the film: Helen Mirren's marvelous performance (most clearly spoken and reproduced), the great Ben Wishaw as Ariel, the beautiful music, magical settings, visual effects and the beautiful costumes.
The Wrestler (2008)
It's not called "The Wrestler" for nothing
something that should have been obvious to me before going in. But the art-house cred that the film has gotten, the film festival screenings, the huzzahs from the critics, and Aronofsky's previous films made me think this would be much more than what it is: a fairly conventional, low-budget retooling of the same material that made "Requium For A Heavyweight" such a sensation in the 50's. Set in the world of professional wrestling, it hypes that 'sport' while at the same time bemoaning Rourke's character's fate, a typical commercial ploy these days in movies: condemning and exploiting at the same time, e.g., the poor, sad, lonely character played by Marissa Tomei, forced to do all that dirty dancing. Don't get me wrong: it's not a bad film, of its kind. And it could just as easily be sold as something for WWF fans. In fact it probably will be. But if it were, I certainly would have no interest in seeing it. So be warned: there's an awful lot of 'professional wrestling' in "The Wrestler". And what remains, minus the nudity and grisly violence, could have just as easily been a network television movie.
Wendy and Lucy (2008)
Sweet, sad little tale undermined by unimaginative film-making
The only reason this film holds any interest at all is because of Michelle Williams' excellent performance. But as a character study, a road movie, a girl-and-her-dog story, or a polemic about the unfairness of capitalism towards its underclass, it fails to create anything more than a very slight impression. The reason, IMO, is the utterly talentless film-making, particularly the amateurish and boring cinematography and editing. The script is little more than a series of sad encounters, and one couldn't expect much more from a story about a woman so emotionally shut down, but what one could expect was some kind of visual poetry.
La môme (2007)
Where are the subtitles to the song lyrics?
Just watched the DVD of this amazingly powerful film, very much in the style of classic Hollywood biopics. But am still scratching my head over the bizarre decision to skip the subtitling of the songs! I could see if her choice of songs, and the songs that composers chose to write for her, weren't so incredibly personal. But they are, and were included and placed in the film precisely because of the way they comment on her life. Leaving non-french-speaking viewers in the dark is a crime. As if the lyrics to her songs didn't matter. Even when the composer comes in at the end and plays her the song that convinces her to appear one last time and she cries out "That's my life!" we are left wishing we knew what she was talking about!
Gorgeous guys, so-so film
Call me a gay philistine, but this movie has one of the most gorgeous group of young guys in any movie I've seen, and they spend most of the time bare-chested and often nude. But the film, in an effort, I guess, to get a PG rating, plays a ridiculous game of peek-a-boo with full frontal shots. If the film maker had just been casual about it, as films of the 21st century have been for a while, he might have added a bit of integrity and realism that the film could use. And probably made it even more commercially successful. Marketing people have obviously decided to downplay this aspect of the movie: the near constant focus on the guys' physical beauty, their faces, their bodies (especially their asses) and their surfing ability. And nowhere on the website or trailer is there any mention of the one really original aspect of the film: the integration of a gay teen in a group of straight guys: the way he's taunted, but accepted, and the way he finds his way to his first experience of reciprocated sexual affection.
Maybe the filmmaker will release a gay director's cut and test my thesis.
The New World (2005)
There's a longer version coming out on DVD
I love Terrence Malick's three previous films, and I liked much of "The New World" but it felt jumbled somehow to me. As if the editing had been rushed and the film had not quite gelled. Since my faith in the director's talent and integrity is immense, I decided to see it again to try to 'get' whatever I was missing from a first viewing. So I attended a screening today at which producer Sarah Green spoke, and the audience was informed that the version that was released in December for Academy Award consideration, has since been replaced by a version 15 minutes shorter (which was not shown). She assured us we "wouldn't notice" the changes. Then we were informed that Malick has already produced a three hour cut he intends to release on DVD. It's a sad state of affairs when one of the world's greatest directors can't release his presumably preferred version of a film to theaters - it has to be relegated to the home video market. In the trailer now being shown on the movie's website there seemed to be scenes and dialog which are not in the version I saw.
UPDATE: October 18, 2008 The 172 minute version has been released. I just watched it and as I had hoped, it's a masterpiece.
Match Point (2005)
Better when it was called "Crimes and Misdemeanors"
IMO Crimes and Misdemeanors is a Woody Allen masterpiece. Match Point takes one plot thread from that film, reconfigures it into a straightforward tale of greed and lust, while drooling over the trappings of upper class English life and the bodies of the youthful actors. There is one clever plot twist, one excellent confrontational dialog scene. The rest is treading water, much of it with head barely above water. If you know Allen's films, and especially Crimes and Misdemeanors, this film will disappoint and depress you as a cynical commercial shadow of that great film. If you are new to Woody Allen the film may entertain in a superficial PBS kind of way. But don't be fooled by the hype. This is not the return of the great Woody Allen of years past. It's the last grab for marketplace share by a sadly fading talent.