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barbara-czarniawska

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17 reviews in total 
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17 out of 36 people found the following review useful:
Platitudes in three languages, 4 February 2011
2/10

I tend to stay away from movies that have something to do with Tuscany, because bitter experiences have taught me that their directors (with some notable exceptions, such as Tom Tykwer) assume that the rolling hills of the Tuscan landscape compensate for lack of anything else: plot, humor, etc. But it was my affection for Juliette Binoche that made me ignore this obvious danger. And here I was, listening to platitudes mouthed in three languages (one has to admit that, according to all stereotypes, the Italian were the worst), the growing irritation preventing me from falling asleep. Juliette Binoche plays a hysterical woman (as Siri Hustvedt told us, the adjective is back in use), with volatile moods, shouting at her son, the only attractive character in the whole movie. Whatever happened to her, it must have been wholly deserved. It is also interesting that all the raving, positive reviews on IMDb were written by men ... The title is correct, though. Whether the relationship thus portrayed was an original or a copy, it was equally uninteresting!

True Grit (2010)
2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Almost perfect, but for the last 15 minutes...., 20 January 2011
10/10

Almost perfect: the beauty, the wit, the fairy-like characters - this is Brothers Cohen, of course! But the movie ought to end in 1880, with the light lit in the cottage as the last image. The 1903 fragment offers gratuitous information, so that the viewer is free to ponder the absolute impossibility of the lips of that young girl to have become the lips of this grown-up woman, or over the fact that if the Texas Ranger "must be in his seventies" in 1903, he must have been in his fifties in 1880... Who would ever have thought! He certainly didn't look his age. But these remarks are quite petty. It is difficult to understand, though, why True Grit receives so little attention compared to some other films (no names mentioned). It is probably because it would be unfair to compare any other director to The Brothers!

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Family above all?, 19 October 2010
5/10

Could somebody please explain to me what is the message of this movie? I am a bit baffled. We see a man, whose only mistake, as I can figure out, is to have donated sperm a long time ago. This apparently justifies the fact that he is first seduced by his two kids, who promise him love and belongingness, and then by their mother, who promises him nothing, and who is also given by him a job, in spite of her not very convincing professionalism. When all this seems to threaten the stability of a PROPER family, the guy gets dropped like a piece of waste, hangs around the family house like a homeless dog, and is certainly comforted by the fact that his daughter informs him that he "could have been better". Cruelty and selfishness (Jules, one of the mother, also fires a Mexican gardener because he is laughing at her caprices) seem to be justified if only "the kids are all right". Anette Bening and Julianne Moore are playing very well, but what are they playing?

8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Less Austen than life story, 27 March 2010
8/10

I have watched this movie because I love Jane Austen's books, and because I have seen "Becoming Jane", and because I have read a TLS review of it. But, somewhat to my surprise, it is not Austen's biographical details – true or false – that were my main attraction. The point is, the movie tells an important truth (apart from delivering a series of trite statements on men-women relationships, which are all trite because they are so true…) about life stories, or the ways people think – and talk – about their lives. They oscillate – at least Jane did, as many of us do – between regrets (in spite of the title, the movie is NOT about regrets) and the idea that one could have made a "better" decision, and the feeling that the decision was absolutely right ("I have won my freedom"), and yet another feeling, that there was no decision at all, just a coincidence, which (Freud would have said) expressed the true longings and desires, or (some other people would have said), ended up as it did ("things turn out for the best", the movie says). I would hate to think that people see that movie as "just about Jane Austen" – much as I admire her, it is about all of us, and importantly so...

6 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Sinking in the middle, rescued in the end, 25 February 2010
5/10

The middle of the movie is so pathetically bad, that one really wants to leave the movie theater (I did). I expected a Godzilla or a vampire to crawl out of a hole at any time (this is NOT a spoiler!) Luckily, it pivots and arrives at the end as a fairly interesting attempt. "Fairly": in general, the movie needed a cruel editor, who would have cut out the middle, or most of it. My suggestion would be to cut out all so-called Dachau scenes (so-called, because the picture of the gate shows Auschwitz). The Disneyization of the concentration camps continues, although one could have hoped that Scorsese would know better. He didn't, but perhaps this is common to all the US directors. They do not seem to believe it was real, and as a result treat it completely disrespectfully.Think about "Letters from Iwo Jima" done in the same manner: the protests would never cease. DiCaprio was good, no doubt about it: shouldn't he be given a better chance?

Antichrist (2009)
5 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
The perfect misogynist, 15 June 2009
9/10

This movie conveys a misogynist message of such a strength that it hardly has any competitors throughout the history, but, what can I say… As Carlsberg is probably the best bear in the world, so Lars von Trier is probably the best director in the world. (Not that he is shy about it). Thus a true dilemma for a feminist: abhor the message or admire the art? I chose to do both. Additionally, I systematically avoid horror movies, and yet I chose to see

this one (closing my eyes only now and then). One needs to make excursions outside safe enclaves of one's taste. The movie raises many questions concerning the technical details: how were certain scenes done, which are computer effects and which actual scenes – but knowing von Trier and Zentropa we will never learn that. They tend to keep their secrets.

All in all, I still prefer The Kingdom – for its crazy humor – and wish von Trier did the missing parts, but "Antichrist" is definitely something to see.

The Reader (2008)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Adapted to suit US tastes?, 24 April 2009
7/10

Perhaps it is the fault of expectations formed after the parade of awards, or, more likely, of those formed after having read the amazing book by Bernard Schlink? Whichever it is, I found The Reader-movie quite unnecessarily sentimentalized.

Ralph Fiennes, one of my favorite actors, plays so badly that it almost causes a toothache. The final scene, with the daughter and the grave, is simply pathetic.

Additionally, the film introduces scenes that I do not remember from the book, and which by their ambiguity acquire a sinister meaning. When the judge asks the mother-survivor of the camp how many people died in the fire, she answers that they all died. Then he asks her how she survived, and she does not answer. What are we to deduce from that missing answer?

Further, when Michael visits the daughter-survivor, the opulence of her New York flat is in a striking contrast with the pathetic prison cell that we have seen just before. Is the conclusion that Jews, if they survive, always know how to take care of themselves? Lena Ohlin is completely unconvincing in the role of the aged daughter.

Kate Winslett is doing her best, although one would think that, what with the contemporary knowledge of cosmetics, one should age women on the screen much better. (Well, I do admit that I think it quite often - they all tend to look like wearing peculiar masks.)

All this does not take away the utmost importance of moral questions asked in the film (not the ones about German responsibility, asked so many times before): did Michael did what he did from respect for her, from fear for his own situation, from the sense of (legal) justice, or from all of the above? It brings to mind Giorgio Agamben's reading of "Bartleby, The Scrivener" and the force (or lack of it) and the consequences of "I prefer not to"...

I do admit, however, that mine is a European reading, based on great many books and films on Holocaust. Perhaps this sentimental version of The Reader fulfills a useful role, gently introducing North Americans to the complexities and horrors of Holocaust.

1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Could somebody please tell me what is it about?, 30 January 2009
5/10

Could somebody please tell me what is it about? My first hypothesis is that the film illustrates a thesis that couple who believe themselves superior to everybody else end badly. Perhaps; but it is hardly worth making a movie about. Otherwise, I was at loss as to what was the plot of the story. She is frustrated in her role of a housewife, but it is not her husband's fault that she miscalculated her professional talents. Her lack of realistic assessment of herself and the situation is dramatically emphasized by her revolutionary plans for life: completely unrealistic. Besides, what is it that her husband is supposed to find when he seeks himself? My second hypothesis is therefore that the film is intended to illustrate the harm done no doubt to great many young people in the 1950s by the existentialists' myth of an "authentic self", which sits somewhere deep in us, to be dug out. What is more, the husband does actually get an interesting job, a job that, as we now know, has a brilliant future. Further, his infidelity is difficult to understand. We, the Hollywood clients, know that powerful men have romances with their secretaries. But secretaries choose powerful men, not zeroes in cubicles. An alternative template is therefore a passionate outburst of love, but both seem to be doing it rather of boredom, if anything. Nothing against Di Caprio and Winslett – they are playing well, but what are they playing?

10 out of 30 people found the following review useful:
Just how pretentious can one get?, 24 January 2009
2/10

"A lot of long, washed-out shots of actors brooding on rooftops overlooking the sea while a thunderstorm approaches"; oh yes, the only thing missing is the director in person showing on the screen and pointing out, with a whole hand, the moments when the audience should be most impressed. Psychologically, almost none of the protagonists' actions make any sense; which would be O.K. in a surrealist movie, but not in this neo-realist one. The most impressive takes are showing sweat on foreheads of the protagonists running upwards, which is certainly an achievement (although not all persons sweat equally, even on the same day and in the same temperature). I have seen the movie with a serious and appreciative audience, but even there some people couldn't stop laughing at sudden appearances of the dead brother (this is not a spoiler, because the character has nothing to do with the movie). Artificiality of the takes is simply embarrassing.

Silk (2007)
1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Nice try..., 26 October 2008
3/10

What a sad flop, with the best of intentions. The message to the viewer is overly clear, it shouts: this is an artistic, slow and sensuous movie, contrasting Oriental philosophy with Western greed for speed and immediate effects. Well, yes, we get this rather soon, and then we suffer through the rest… Perhaps slow movies are not exact equivalents of slow food, after all.

There are some redemptive traits, though. The film could be see as an illustration of Joyce Carol Oates's observation that "prolonged happiness is a prison from which the self yearns to escape at any cost". People cannot stand a prolonged happiness, and the protagonist says so much himself.

Another (attempt at) redemption: perhaps the movie is about the temptations of Orientalism typical for the era portrayed: the Western men, bored to tears, looking for any kind of adventure that the exotic Orient could offer them. Because if it is a love story, it is Hélène's love story, but if so, it is underdeveloped. The other "love story" is too ridiculous even to consider.

Finally: it is true that seeing it in with a full screen can help; I have watched it as DVD, and although it was a very good screen, it could not reproduce the immersion effect possible on a large screen only.


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