I love the "staginess" of this movie ;when Tony Picccirillo(director and writer) tries to bring us outside the apartment with apparent flashbacks, they do nothing but distract. Some of the quick edits are jarring and it seemed to me that he kept trying to remind himself he was shooting a movie and not staging his play before a live audience. He should have trusted the actors (and his own words) a little more.
It isn't necessary to have seen Arcand's previous work with these characters,( `The Decline of the American Empire') to appreciate this movie, but then, why would anyone deny themselves that pleasure?
The life of non-slave owning rural whites (and let us remember that they were the majority of the Southern population) is portrayed realistically as one of semi-literacy and hard-labour, punctuated by fervent and musical religious expression. The scenery is beautiful, Nicole is beautiful, Jude is beautiful (even when he's ugly). Their relationship, founded on a few glances and even fewer words, lasts an Odyssey of time and travel. Frankly, I believed it. The privileged upbringing of Ada, alluded to by her dress and deportment and later on by her incompetence at anything practical, would have predisposed her to this very passionate, frustrating attachment. The type of fiction she would have read (we hear her reading `Wuthering Heights' aloud to Ruby Thewes (Renée Zellweger) is all about intense, thwarted passion. But Ms. Kidman is a superstar and has arrived at that place where all I can see is Nicole Kidman and not the character she wishes to portray. Ms.Zellweger finally convinces me that she can act and steals every scene in which she appears. Jude Law is soon to arrive at that superstar category where he can only be `Jude Law', but thank God, he isn't there yet. He's wonderful.
The opening battle sequence is justifiably famous and will be the new benchmark for period war filming.
Let me mention the music in this movie which is a true highlight. Powerful, evocative and, for anyone who isn't familiar with Sacred Harp (Fasola), a revelation.
The book( and I urge everyone to read it) was a wonderful read BUT the movie is not the book. Judge the movie as a separate, independent work. I have no patience with people who cry `But the book was so different'. Of course the book is different; it's a different medium. If anyone is at all interested in the period, I would suggest they read `The Civil War Diaries of Mary Chestnut', a work of non-fiction written by someone who was there and at the very top of the social heap. Her take on the slavery question is very interesting.
There is very little in this movie that regular readers of the Atlantic and Harper's haven't read, or regular viewers of the CBC and the BBC haven't seen. What is new is that it has all been put together in a neat visual package. Michael Moore has chosen (wisely) to keep off the screen and let Bush hang himself. The most affecting scenes are of two women: Lila Lipscomb, from Flint, Michigan and an anonymous Iraqi woman, who's grief and rage must stand in for all Iraqi women. What started out as a war to ferret out non-existent weapons of mass destruction and then changed to a war of liberation has now turned into a war of occupation for the financial gain of the few. If the Iraqi people didn't hate America before the war they certainly do now.
I think of the late author, Barbara Tuchman, who, if she were alive today, would be furiously penning a new chapter to her book `The March of Folly'. I don't think she'd mind that Michael Moore has done it for her.
It got worse. Much worse. You are warned.
However, in the DVD bonus feature there is a short film by Mr. Walsh entitled "A Letter to Rock". It is touching and thought provoking. This too was filmed in 1994 before the AIDS cocktail began to prolong the lives of so many people. It is an interesting and very affecting film about how hopeless it all was back then. How ignored we were by the powers that be when we weren't being vilified by them. I know. I was there. I remember. Thanks, Mr. Walsh for that.