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The Informant! (2009)
The Ugly American
I think, but I'm not sure, this was meant to be a sort of comedy, a satirical social commentary. Marvin Hamlisch's music score seems to be underlying that. Well, sorry, didn't work for me. Mostly because Matt Damon goes through it winking at the audience. I couldn't believe in that character at all, not for a minute. On the positive side, Steven Soderbergh and "his cinematographer" understand the ugliness of the story, uglier that funny that's for sure and never betrays that idea. It looks as if shot on video and that helps very much the urge to stay away from this character and his world. Who was Matt Damon's character, really? Frankly my dear I don't give a damn.
Postcards from Tornatore's past
A long series of pretty pictures, very pretty and very long, but nothing close to real emotion. Everything feels so prepared to get an Oscar nomination that it may get it. It was in competition at the last Venice film festival but didn't win anything because, I imagine, the Venice Film Festival is a showcase for serious, innovative cinema and "Baaria" is none of that. It is a strange experience to sit through something so sentimental and come out with the sentiments intact. When you get a postcard from a loved one what may make you cry is what it's written not the picture in the card. "Baaria" is a blank card. I saw it only an hour ago in a well attended Roman cinema and the images that remain are just that, images without anything real attached to it. A who's who of Italian cinema parade in small cameos but I couldn't tell who was who. I think in Italy people are determined to transform "Baaria" into a big hit and why not. It is a pretty travelogue of a history lesson that looks like a fairy tale.
K. Il bandito (2008)
A Sad, Loving Portrait
Totally unexpected. A film I never heard of by a director I love. Saw it in HD in a large plasma screen and I was immediately taken away by the melancholic and fairy taleish atmosphere of the film. A group of Italian actors, all of them new to me, underline in the most exuberant lyrical tones a life of tragedy seen so many times in Italian movies. This time we seem to be peeping into something private and in the process we miss the links that keep the characters together but I wasn't looking for links, in fact, I didn't know what I was looking for, but whatever it was, I got it. Tears streaming down my face were the unrequested proof of the effect this loving portrait had on me. Martin Donovan is known for getting into his actors/characters faces and get to some shattering truth. Pierluigi Coppola, the "K" of the title, is an actor to watch. Beautiful. Strong and delicate at the same time. I can't wait to see "K. Il Bandito" again but, where can I find it?
A Nasty Remake
None of the innocence of the original survive this dark and nasty remake. Harold Pinter's world overtakes Anthony Shaffer's and destroys it. The result is an entertaining, short, showcase for two actors from different generations. Michael Caine who's old enough to have been in the original and Jude Law who's young enough not to have seen it. But, he's clearly seen it and saw it as a major showcase for himself. He was right. The two actors go for it. They fight, they insult and humiliate each other as well as forgive, promise, lie and almost become lovers. Pinter is not a laugh a minute guy, he never was and the odds are he'll never be. But the strange combination of Caine, Law, Pinter and Branagh provide a brief, divertimento, concocted originally and with enormous success by a light weight thriller writer, turned upside down not nearly as successfully, by a heavy weight intellectual. An oddity worth part of your afternoon.
Apartment Zero (1988)
The Tenant's Tenant
"Apartment Zero" is a close relative of one of my favorite films: Roman Polanski's "The Tenant" but "Apartment Zero" is not one of those annoying relatives, quite the contrary. They may share the same DNA but they also belong to different worlds. We're in a psycho social, erotic thriller here, set in Buenos Aires - a dead ringer for Paris at times - every turn is a jolting experience. Martin Donovan - the director - invades the privacy of his characters just to prove a chilling point - nothing is what it appears to be, or is it? I'm not going to give anything away that may spoil your journey but I should warn you than nothing is casual and that becomes clearer and clearer with each viewing. Jack seems ( and I believe he is) the one in control and Adrian is the fly caught in his web but, is he? There is a moment (I won't tell you where, how or when) in which Jack realizes he needs Adrian as much as Adrian clearly needs him. I wonder if Jack has ever met anyone like Adrian, if he ever had a friend - I mean a friend he didn't have to lie to - The chemistry between Colin Firth (Adrian) and Jack (Hart Bochner) is so compelling that you start to be with them even if, in real terms, they are not likable characters. Just like us. Let me explain. If somebody came to look at us with a magnifying glass, how many of us would pass that test? How many of us would be considered "likable" or "normal" We're humans and therefore, imperfect. One can live with ones flaws and imperfections in private, but once they come out it would make us look freakish. I think that Adrian is so aware of his strangeness - maybe he's been told and bullied all his life - that his obsessive privacy is his shield and behind that shield he's been disappearing for years. Zero. Colin Firth is magnificent in the part and his performance is so beautifully constructed that you're bound to discover new things every time you visit "Apartment Zero"
Le locataire (1976)
The Art Of Terror
Meek, tiny, almost insignificant. Polanski finds the invisibility of his characters and makes something enormous out of it. In front and behind the camera he creates one of the most uncomfortable masterpieces I had the pleasure to see and see and see again. It never let's me down. People, even people who know me pretty well, thought/think there was/is something wrong with me, based on my attraction, or I should say, devotion for "Le Locataire" They may be right, I don't know but there is something irresistibly enthralling within Polanski's darkness and I haven't even mentioned the humor. The mystery surrounding the apartment and the previous tenant, the mystery that takes over him and, naturally, us, me. That building populated by great old Academy Award winners: Melvyn Douglas, Shelley Winters, Jo Van Fleet, Lila Kedrova. For anyone who loves movies, this is compulsory viewing. One, two, three, many, many viewings.
Plein soleil (1960)
The Riveting Mr. Ripley
I saw Minghella's "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and Clement's "Purple Noon" back to back. Two entirely different movies based on exactly the same book. The differences are personal of course. Minghella has a moralistic view of his characters and their darkness must be, somehow, explained if not justified. Clement's allows the amorality of his characters to run loose. Minghella casts Matt Damon as Tom Ripley, a rather invisible actor in every way and although he's pretty good here, he's not good enough to overshadow his rival: Jude Law. Clement casts Alain Delon as Ripley and you will be with him all the way, you'll go where he goes you will turn out to be as amoral as he is - at least I did, I just wanted him to get away with it and why? Because he was Alain Delon, the Tom Ripley that, clearly, Patricia Highsmith intended. His rival is Maurice Ronet, good as he is, I didn't miss him when he left. You know why? Because I was left with the dangerous, magnetic, amoral, riveting Alain Delon. Clement allows us to see the difficulty and danger of the murders, we see them, we are there. Minghella plays it rather hurriedly. There is no real tension or horror. The most suspenseful moment is at an Opera house. The pluses on "The Talented Mr Ripley" - besides the aforementioned Jude Law - are Gwyneth Paltrow and Cate Blanchett in two beautifully written and performed parts. In "Purple Noon" Marie Laforet is left rather to her own devices. Once all said and done you can watch both films as if they weren't even related. I prefer "Purple Noon" but that's just me.
Belle de jour (1967)
Wishing, Wanting And Longing
Sèverine is perfect, she's Catherine Deneuve. She consciously inhabits her subconscious and the comings and goings are tinted with pristine, erotic decadence. Her perfection includes outrage without rage, panic without fear. Having or not having is the question she never asks. Her husband Pierre, the exquisite Jean Sorel, is like one of her garments. There, stunning, understated, reliable, existing without existing. Marcel, in the other hand, the riveting Pierre Clementi, seems determined to provoke. Provoke what? Where is that need creeping from? I love to meander through "Belle de Jour" allowing Luis Bunuel to have his fun. He deserves it. His puzzle is just that, a puzzle and his genius, challenge us to find the non existent pieces. The pieces are ours coming from our own wishes, wantings and longings.