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|3 reviews in total|
Canadian filmmaker Mary Harron is a cultural gadfly whose previous films laid bare some the artistic excess of the Sixties and the hollow avaricious Eighties. With "The Notorious Bettie Page" she points her unswerving eye at Fifties America, an era cloaked in the moral righteousness of Joe McCarthy, while experiencing the beginnings of a sexual awakening that would result in the free love of the next decade. Harron and her co-writer Guinevere Turner, are clearly not interested in the standard biopic of a sex symbol. This is a film about the underground icon of an era and how her pure unashamed sexuality revealed both the predatory instincts and impure thoughts of a culture untouched by the beauty of a nude body. If the details of Bettie's life were all the film was concerned about, then why end it before her most tragic period was about to begin. Clearly, Harron is more interested in America's attitudes towards sexual imagery then and now. Together with a fearless lead performance by Gretchen Mol and the stunningly atmospheric cinematography of W.Mott Hupfel III, she accomplishes this goal admirably, holding up a mirror to the past while making the audience examine their own "enlightened" 21st Century attitudes towards so-called pornography. As America suffocates under a new conservatism, this is a film needed more than ever.
"Cute" is often used as a casual put-down when describing a romantic comedy, but first-time filmmaker Curt Truninger gives "cute" the substance that it rightfully deserves. Truninger and his co-writer/producer Margrit Ritzmann understand that formula is both the raison d'etre and potential hazard of this genre and they have boldly met it head on with a "cute" premise peopled by characters who make bad mistakes and shun the easy way of safe choices. The acting on the whole is very good, but the star Renee Coleman is perhaps too chilly a performer to completely engage our sympathies. This is especially evident during the scene when she is literally swept into the arms of hunk Roy Dupuis. This moment occurs with such suddenness it has the feeling of a fantasy that the audience is unprepared for, given the tepid chemistry of their previous encounters. After this somewhat unbelievable romantic moment, things settle into a more realistic rhythm of insecurities, infidelities, and subterfuges that can befall complicated adult relationships. Special mention should be made of co-star Ruth Marshall who provides added zip as the narrator and klutzy best friend who provides the most humour and emotional insight. Hats off also to Truninger's eye-popping use of Toronto locations, most never seen before, or used with such an assured eye to their visual possibilities. All in all, a confident and entertaining debut for this Swiss craftsman.
Swiss filmmaker Curt Truninger is clearly no sentimentalist. His latest film DEAD BY MONDAY although ostensibly a romantic comedy, can hardly be called traditional fare with its two protagonists brought together by a suicide pact. With a witty script by Myra Fried, Truninger deftly confounds our expectations by keeping his two charming lead actors emotionally distant for most of the film. Eschewing the coy American standard for this genre, we are instead provided with the absurd and alienating environment of southern Ontario. The success of such a daring endeavour logically rests on the shoulders of its stars and Truninger has cast a pair of superb comic performers especially relative unknown Tim Dutton, whose charisma marks him for major leading man status. Helen Baxendale does equally well in her flakier and slightly less sympathetic role. The film is further distinguished by the subtle painterly cinematography of Martin Fuhrer, particularly in the title sequence that cleverly combines a burnished dawn tableau with a cheeky score by Mark Suozzo. Ultimately though it all comes down to chemistry, and on that score DEAD BY MONDAY is pure champagne and orange juice.