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8 reviews in total 
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96 out of 118 people found the following review useful:
I liked the film despite its several flaws, 8 April 2007

I saw the film almost a month ago, when it was released here in Israel. I like Edith Piaf's songs very much, and the movie makes you believe that a woman who gave us those songs was the one we see on the screen. Marion Cotillard is superb in this role, her heroine is vulnerable, doomed and dignified at the same time. I don't agree with those who say her performance is melodramatic, because the singer WAS very emotional and even melodramatic (though in a perfectly natural way) in real life too (as all the biographers remark).

One thing about the movie that annoyed me a little was the switches of time frames. I understand the purpose of it. During the first 15 minutes we get to see the sickly little girl, then Edith Piaf's days of glory and' finally, her last days, when she was a tortured creature and looked like a 70-year old woman. So even while living through the singer's happiest days we never forget how it would end quite soon. But sometimes these switches seem unnecessary and distracting. The other flaw is that a viewer must be well-familiar with the singer's biography, otherwise it would be difficult for one to understand certain moments in the film.

I don't have much to say about the director's masterful work, honestly there is none. The director had the story of life, he had the music and the haunting voice of the great singer. The latter is what makes most of the emotional impact. But I would recommend this movie sincerely, Marion Cotillard's acting alone would make it worth watching, and there are other beautiful things in it as well. The movie never seems too long, and its last minutes are very emotional, when Edith Piaf is led to the stage, she can hardly walk, and then she starts to sing 'No regrets' and transforms completely.

5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
A film of unusual purity, 10 November 2006

I saw this movie twice (and will certainly watch it again), it is a sad a pure story that still leaves feeling that life is always beautiful. Lillian Gish as Sarah reminded me of one of my grandmother's friends. In some episodes it seemed like she hadn't even changed since her young years (only some wrinkles added). I disagree with those who say that Bette Davis is hammy in this film. Some moments with her were really touching and made me feel sad for this woman, for example, when Sarah says that she encountered a stereoscope with the old family pictures. There is such sadness in Libby's eyes because she won't be able to see those faces, she can only remember them in her mind. The episode when she takes out her husband's lock of hair is moving and wonderful, she has strange beauty in her face, even though the actress' illness is clearly seen in this film (the consequences of a stroke etc.). Lillian Gish has beautiful close-ups, her eyes are unusually expressive. Mr Maranov is strikingly different from so many Russian caricature-like characters in American movies. He is a man of dignity who says a touching monologue about the beauty of life that can never be too long, even if it seems that one has outlived one's time. Tisha seemed to me a little annoying, the only weakness of this film. But the film is in my opinion a must-see because of the two old sisters. It is one of the best duets I have ever seen in the cinema.

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Must be re-watched numerous times, 16 August 2006

It might seem weird but as I re-watch this film, Ingrid Bergman's character appears to me far more human than it previously did. For this reason I disagree with most reviewers' interpretation of Charlotte. It is true that she has been neglecting her family both physically and emotionally, she must be partly (but not entirely!) to blame for Eva's inner disharmony, she is self-centered in a way many artists are; but at the same time she is (and always was) aware of her faults (many of which are rooted in her own childhood), and her behaviour is a constant painful attempt to escape this awareness. When Charlotte talks to herself after having greeted Helena, we see she is terrified (as it's her own flesh and blood she faces so hideously crippled), the ill daughter is a reminder of the mother's helplessness, so Charlotte's attitude towards Helena, though shocking, is anything but indifferent.

For similar reasons the famous Chopin scene seems to me much subtler than a plain 'mother's demonstration of superiority'. While listening to Eva playing the music, Charlotte starts crying, and those are genuine tears that even came against her wish. Then, it is Eva who asks Charlotte to show her a different interpretation. Charlotte is reflecting on how this music should be played, but Eva feels that it's a tactless reminder of her mediocrity. I can imagine that it's a way Charlotte used to make her daughter feel, but in this particular scene she doesn't seem to have such an intention.

Ingrid Bergman wrote in her autobiography that she wanted Ingmar Bergman to change her heroine a little. It was too hard for her to understand how a woman can be such a cruel mother. Charlotte has been away from her daughter for 7 years, which means that she never came to see her own grandson, nor did she come to support Eva after the boy drowned. But at the end the actress achieved the impossible, as one feels sympathy for this heroine (as I did really), despite all of her moral crimes. In the scene of the night conversation it was difficult to me to be on Eva's side, which is a paradox in a sense. After all, we know that Charlotte brought unhappiness to her family, while Eva dedicates her days to helping other people. But I do suspect that one of the reasons why Eva invited Charlote to stay was her (i.e. Eva's) wish to resolve the old painful matters. Some of the accusations are unbelievably cruel and seem irrelevant even before Eva herself admits it.

For me one of the central themes in the film is a price an artist must pay not only for his fame, but also for a true noble joy of dedicating his life to Art. We see that Charlotte loveless childhood is a reason for her motherly faults, but the same early loneliness probably made Charlotte an artist, because music was the only way she could express herself. Eva reproaches Charlotte for using the talent as a justification to all her minor and major sins, but this moment is present in many artists' lives. One sees how helpless he is in the commonest human relationships, it's hard to face the truth that people suffer because of you, so the only consolation is a hope that your talent making your listeners happy would compensate for the faults. For Charlotte this didn't work, because the damage she caused is too severe, and she probably doubts whether her artistic life had any meaning.

Still, the ending of the film leaves me with some hope that a new conversation between the two women will take place, because after their confrontation they would never be the same.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
guilt eats the soul, 12 August 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Maximillian Martin (Fernando Fernan Gomez) is an old man dying of a brain tumour. His wife Marie (Geraldine Chaplin) and two eldest sons have brought him to Paris following his wish. They insist on a complex brain operation, even though it's rather risky and will not cure the patient but only prolong his life a little. The family is depressed, it seems that they have accepted the verdict and don't even try to encourage Max a little bit. They are also occupied with selling the family business, and the two sons have their own family problems. The youngest son Victor (Leonardo Sbaraglia), an intelligent and charming guy, comes from Argentina with his fiancée Eilin (Leticia Bredice). Victor has been estranged from his family, but he comes out to be the only person whom his father trusts.

Max is behaving very strangely. He doesn't want to take his medicines and seems to be paranoid and scared of the nurses in the hospital. He regularly attempts to escape (secretly, as if it's a prison and not a hospital) and find a man called Rancel in order to warn him against some danger that awaits him if he gets on the train. Victor doesn't understand whether this Rancel actually exists, or the tumour has affected his father's sanity. Then he asks his mother Marie if she knows who Rancel is, but Marie says that she has never heard this name. Victor doesn't really believe her and her behaviour seems to him suspicious.

Marie is a controlling mother, a woman with a quiet voice and emaciated look. She guards a dark family secret that poisons her from the inside. Victor insists on her revealing to him who this Rancel is and she tells her son a story: a long time ago Rancel and Max were together in a communist cell, but Max betrayed his comrade. Rancel was arrested and soon died in jail, and Max cannot forgive himself because of it. The truth is, however, that Rancel is alive, he is about to meet Victor and to reveal to him the whole terrible secret Marie is hiding. Marie tries to explain herself to Victor and says that their family owes its very existence to her lie, she is very probably right, and Victor has to admit it.

It is a very good and strong film about a feeling of guilt that destroys one's soul. It has some especially memorable scenes. One of them is on the train station, near the end, when Max is looking at the passers-by trying to recognize Rancel, and Victor sits by his father's side and cannot tell him that Rancel won't come. The other moment is when Rancel comes to Max's funeral and faces Marie, a very strong scene that needs no words. The acting is very good, especially the one of Leonardo Sbaraglia, Geraldine Chaplin and Fernando Fernan Gomez (his characters are always so memorable). I recommend this film to everyone.

6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
a bleak and beautiful film, 31 July 2006

I must admit that I liked this film a little less than Cria Cuervos and Elisa Vida Mia. The reason is that its political allegory is too straightforward. But I liked the doomed atmosphere of the film. The character of Fernando (the religious brother) is unforgettable, and his interaction with Ana is the most interesting storyline in the film as she is both appalled by him and attracted to his way of life, as if understanding why he wants to escape from the world. By the way, the actor Fernando Fernan-Gomez also plays Geraldine Chaplin's dying husband in the movie 'City of no limits'. There is a touching moment when the whole family gathers looking at the horny brother's wife attempting suicide, Ana hugs one of the girls and then Fernando takes the girl away from her. The ending of the film is too abrupt, but I still recommend Ana y los lobos to anyone who likes the film of this director.

5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
I did not expect it would be such a good film, 21 June 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In the beginning of the film an old man Luis (Fernando Rey) is working on his memoirs (or something of a kind). The chapter he is currently writing is the monologue of his estranged daughter Elisa. The father's voice recites her confession: 'I hadn't seen my father for years, I almost never wrote him... When I got my sister's telegram, telling me of his illness... I decided to go to Madrid. Selfishly speaking, finally I had an excuse to get away from home... I left, I now realize, knowing I'd never return'.

Luis had left his family many years ago. He did not write a farewell letter or took anything with him. His wife was devastated, and her belief that Luis was a sick and selfish man somehow affected her daughters. Luis felt that he had a talent for literature and moved to a distant countryside, because he couldn't stand the routine full of false values.

But in the beginning we see Luis' family coming to the countryside to his birthday. The visitors are Elisa (Geraldine Chaplin) and her sister Isabel with her husband and two children. Elisa finds some papers in the father's room. Luis is painfully reflecting on his life: he is tired because he isn't sure whether all his past experience has any value. Now he has come to a conclusion that one just needs to enjoy every moment of his life; but he is afraid to take this new path thinking that it might be too late. As Elisa reads these words, the sadness in her eyes is striking; it seems that she has just found an explanation to something very important for her.

The family spends a few days in the countryside and is about to leave, but at the last moment Elisa decides to stay. She and Luis go for a walk (it is very beautiful there). In the field Elisa sees a strange white stone and a vase with flowers by its side. Luis tells her a story: some years ago he encountered here a murdered woman, later someone brought the flowers - it was actually the killer. Elisa is deeply affected by the story and imagines that she is this woman.

As time passes Elisa and her father get closer. Luis takes her to a local church school where he teaches kids. There is another scene when Elisa recalls one of her father's letters. He confesses that his attitude to his own writing is not what it used to be. He would write several drafts for his letter and hoped they'd be published one day, there was something snobbish in this practice. Now it is clear to him that a writer is just one of the many jobs in the world, he is not superior to a simple worker. This understanding is tied to one of the closing scenes. The children whom he teaches are rehearsing a play, and they constantly argue about the roles. Everyone wants to play a king or some other man of power, no one agrees to take a role of a poor man, and there is a belief that one must be a good person to deserve a 'decent' role. But it is a wrong perception, because one's role is not to be confused with the life itself. A good man is the one who makes the best of the role he is given.

Elisa wants to have a look at her father's manuscript, but he says he can't show it at the moment. Later Elisa tells him a story of her failed relationships with Antonio, her husband who has cheated on her with her best friend. This marriage was doomed from the beginning and she always felt it but for some reason tried to deceive herself, and now her world collapsed. Antonio comes to the countryside and tries to talk to Elisa. She explains to him that everything is over between them, they have a painful exchange of reproaches. What comes after Elisa sends Antonio home is a surreal scene of closeness (on the verge of incest). It occurs in the mind of either Elisa or Luis, who at this moment writes down Elisa thoughts of her life with a man she has never actually known. He stops when he hears her crying in the other room and goes to comfort her, but she bursts out in rage and they nearly beat each other.

Next morning Elisa lingers by a white stone and says a sorrowful monologue: 'Nobody has told me that all this beautiful story would have such a horrible ending'. Elisa imagines again that she is the murdered woman; to be more precise, she lives deliberately through the woman's horrible death, as if feeling that something inside of her must be killed.

Then she and her father are reunited, but he is getting worse. He refuses to go to hospital. In the morning, while Elisa is out, he leaves too. Elisa encounters him in the field, he is dying, and this is a really unforgettable, sad and beautiful episode, one of the most affectionate farewell scenes I have seen in the movies. Elisa stays at her father's home and continues his book. At the end she writes down the same monologue that we heard in the beginning spoken out by her father.

It seemed to me really weird that 'Elisa vida mia' is a film so little known. It is masterfully crafted and beautifully acted, deep and full of nuances. I loved this film just as much as Cria Cuervos and would recommend it to everyone.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
The film is well-made but has nothing to do with Pasternak, 7 May 2006

I am originally from Russia and have heard lots of claims that Americans or British can't make films about Russia because they don't understand a thing about Russian soul. I don't really support this point of view. If the Soviet screen version of 'Hamlet' is admired by many cinema people of Shakespeare's motherland, there is no reason why an English-speaking artist can't make an admirable film on a Russian book. Of course, in some Hollywood films about Russia there are funny mistakes and clichés, but the Soviet films about America and other foreign countries are not less funny. Anyway, one episode in Dr. Zhivago really made me laugh. It's when Yuri and Lara arrive to this house which is all covered with ice, Yuri approaches a table, opens a drawer, takes out the paper and a bottle of ink and STARTS WRITING! But if the house is so frozen from the inside,the ink had to turn into ice as well, there is no other way. What on Earth was it made of? The episodes with balalaika are also funny, it does not exist in the book and is probably used as a typical Russian attribute.

And now to the serious matters. Dr Zhivago is not the best work of Boris Pasternak (his poems are a lot more powerful), anyway, it is much more than a simple love story, but much of its social and philosophical message gets lost in the movie, even though the film itself seemed to me a way too long. Omar Sharif might be a good actor, but he is not Yuri. Lara in the novel is not just a beautiful woman, she is a very tragic figure from the beginning, and this is what I hardly saw in Julie Christie's character. Besides, I felt no chemistry between Yuri and Lara, and this is unforgivable. If you transform a complex novel into what some call 'A Russian version of GONE WITH THE WIND', your protagonists should be at least convincing as a couple. There was a great potential in Yuri and Lara's story and it wasn't used despite all the screen time they were given. The role of Tonya, Komarovsky and other supporting characters in the book is much more important than what we see in the film. One might get a peculiar thought that it was done on purpose, because if these characters were given more screen time, them would easily eclipse the protagonists. Geraldine Chaplin is much better as Tonya (compared to Julie Christie's Lara), even though it's not her best role (and I love this actress). Ah, I also loved Klaus Kinsky, he is so memorable in his tiny role, with his riveting eyes. The music score is very good too.

In general, the movie is really well-made. Despite all the things I disliked, I would never say that is's a bad film, it would be plain unfair. But maybe it's better to watch it as a love epic and not as a screen adaptation of the novel, otherwise you might be disappointed.

25 out of 27 people found the following review useful:
A film about the girl with sad and serious eyes, 6 May 2006

I took this film in a video library and watched it 3 times. It is one of the most powerful films I have ever seen. The techniques in the film are very modest but it's amazing what the director does with them. I liked very much this sad and quiet girl. The scene where her pet dies and she buries him is so solemn and heart-breaking. I felt sad about the old Grandmother who watches the old pictures in sadness. I also liked Geraldine Chaplin, she is very good in this role, her intimate bond with the daughter, and how she looks at Ana with sadness when the girl doesn't notice it. The scene where the girl imagines her mom combing her hair is mesmerizing. Maria's pain is very palpable.

By the way I found some interesting information about this film. Geraldine Chaplin was dubbed in the episodes where she plays the grown Ana. It was done because the actress has a slight British accent which is not annoying or too prominent (for me at least), but the point is that she plays a grown girl, and it would be rather weird if a grown person acquires an accent in one's mother tongue if this accent did not exist during the childhood. So it was an intelligent consideration of the director.

I recommend this movie very much.