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Poor choice of lead actor
The actor did not serve the story well. Ted Bundy was able to attract the women he murdered because of his movie star looks and charm. This actor was not dressed and groomed to take advantage of his looks, and he was allowed to appear too menacing, too often. Key elements in the story were left out. One minute he's free and engaging in more killings, then he's on the phone from jail. We're told later he was picked up for driving a stolen car. The story does not follow his trials very closely nor can we understand his motivations for what has been served up for our enlightenment with respect to this murderer's killing sprees. The last episode ends creepily with the statement to the effect that we don't know exactly how many more women he killed.
The Devil's Double (2011)
Dominic Cooper's Performance
I saw this movie not realizing that both leads were being played by one amazing actor!!! Dominic Cooper was exactly that: amazing. And deserving of an Oscar nomination when the time comes for handing them out. My film club was fortunate enough to have an interview with DC via Skype and found him to be as charming as he is talented.
Some seem to find fault with this film because it reminds them of Scarface. I don't get that at all. Perhaps they mean that at times it is operatic, over the top, but it is, after all, a biopic about a crazy man, and to me anyway, the parts of the film that deal with the double offset the high drama perfectly. Highly recommended!
God's Country (1985)
Subversive French documentary
I found this film to be the usual French slap in America's face. The camera, all too often, focuses on fat people, on sloppy homes and on tacky rural areas. While the narration seems to sympathize with and admire the small town folks who are introduced to the viewer, the cinematography exploits and demeans them. There were, undoubtedly, thin people to be seen in Glencoe and neat, organized homes, but Malle chose to show us the worst of what was there to be seen.
I can only hope that some American filmmakers will go to France to reveal to the American public its worst elements. I can assure you, as a frequent visitor to France, that all is not well there. Foreign immigrants are not readily assimilated, thus creating severe social inequities. But Americans are not eager to unmask the French for their prejudice toward their own compatriots and their envy toward the U.S., so we're not likely to see films on the subject.
El laberinto del fauno (2006)
A labyrinth you don't want to leave
I saw this film toward the end of the Cannes Film Festival; it edged out all the others I'd seen, 30 of them, because of its wonderful story; history, politics and fantasy woven into a fabric spun by a superlative creative team headed by Guillermo del Toro. In comparison to this, his latest effort, del Toro's other films only hinted at the depth and breadth of his talent. In this film, much as I pride myself on foreseeing the outcome of most stories, I could not guess what would happen next. The film is quite long, yet suspense is sustained throughout. The music is some of the best I've heard in years, so well suited to the action that you almost don't notice its specific effect because of how well it is intertwined with the visual, emotional and intellectual experience.
In my opinion, del Toro's "...Labyrinth" deserved to win at Cannes over the Ken Loach film, "The Wind That Shakes the Barley". Actually, everyone I knew at the Festival who had seen both agreed with me. And the 22 minute ovation speaks clearly for the effect on the audience. It's hard to imagine that any film could beat it in a context other than Cannes where they have marked preferences, bordering on obsession, for certain directors.
Let's hope that the late December opening favors an Oscar nomination which it should win hands down, unless some other work of genius appears on the horizon. That doesn't seem likely because at Cannes the somewhat disappointing array of films was attributed to the fact that not much great product is being released this year. I might add that I had already seen Volver prior to Pan's Labyrinth, and I maintain that Pan is the better film. For me, it displaced all three of my top films of the year. I do love The Departed but, luckily, that's in another category which does not threaten Pan's access to Oscar. If I had to choose the very best picture of the year, without limitation by category, it would most assuredly go to Pan's Labyrinth for it demonstrates del Toro's originality and brilliance as both writer and director.
Red Road (2006)
A lovely film that truly surprises
I saw "Red Road" at Cannes, and it was my pick as best film almost to the end, beaten out only by "Pan's Labyrinth". The film keeps you off balance throughout because you are not told what to think of events; they simply unfold without explanation until the events themselves necessitate dialogue between the two main characters. Not knowing becomes rather vexing because you are always trying to figure out why the protagonist does so much that you feel is wrong, but it's all just part of the fun. And the kind of storytelling I enjoy most. It reminded me of "Exotica", another film I loved. Too, the faces of the actors are relatively unfamiliar which adds to the mystery, since they carry no "baggage" from previous films to the characters.
There doesn't seem to be a distributor connected to this movie yet, and we'd really lose out if it doesn't get to the U.S.