Reviews written by registered user
|117 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's nice to find an European movie that takes some American basic
ideas but develops it completely differently. It is typically American
to mix crime/action and romantic story, but the ratio of the contents
and the style of mixing doubtlessly shows it was made light years away.
The movie starts with drug dealers who use a young Middle-East teenager
to bring them new supplies. And very soon there is shooting, blood...
almost American, but with almost no words, and this parsimony in
dialogue persists during the whole movie.
But in the next scene we see a young girl coping alone with her first period. This scene is much longer (and rather slow) and we understand that the girl is a real hero of the movie. In few minutes her life will be disturbed and changed after meeting the boy from the first scene. Though we don't see her as loser (especially not compared to a boy) she obviously thinks the other way: she is adopted, her foster parents have more successful professional than parental careers, she lives in foreign country in very modern house but, due to noise of nearby airport, her parents are selling it, she doesn't seem to have friends... so she immediately finds herself in charge of his fate. The rest of the movie we see how far is she ready to go to hide him (not only from perpetrators but her parents as well) and help him recover. Unlike similar movies coming either from USA or European authors who accepted American style (expecting either better commercial results or invitation to Hollywood) Paula van der Oest keeps crime part of the plot a bit in the background, however not letting us to forget it: everything that happens to the heroes is interrupted by those who chase the boy (and, later, the girl as well). And here we come to the main difference between Moonlight and ordinary American movie: in movies coming from USA action scenes are following one another and rare romantic scenes seem to be used only as a short rest to get some air, while action scenes in Moonlight have less tension, they are shorter, separated by other content and never look as if they are the reason why the movie exists at all.
There are several other things I liked in the movie, photography being surely one of them. The fact that the movie was shot in Luxembourg gives it a special charm, because this is a very rare occasion to see this interesting country on a screen. The plot, however, doesn't depend on the location or its beauty, a lot of it is made indoors, but the camera work does a perfect job, and sometimes, unobtrusively, we are awarded by some really marvelous pictures.
After so many good things that I wrote about Moolight people might get the impression that I am fascinated by it. Ufortunatelly, the movie fails even before its beginning, with screenplay. There are too many things that are hard to believe for a movie that despite being artistic and romantic tries to be realistic. I created a list of illogicalities that I've found in only 18 opening minutes, but because of space restriction you can read it on Message boards if you want.
*** MAJOR SPOILERS ***
Later in the movie illogicalities become less frequent, but again return in last several minutes. First, when Claire and boy make love and he dies during the same night. If his wounds were that severe, how was he able to do all those things before (only while running he shows signs of moderate pain), if not what suddenly got worse and killed him? It wouldn't surprise us at all after first 20-30 minutes, but now? And if his health was so bad to lead him to die, how was he able to make love? With his stomach wounds it wouldn't be easy even if he was recovering. Or, maybe, it wasn't their first sexual experience, so they knew how to get over all the problems? Also, we can imagine the very final scene as the act of revenge and mercy, but how did the girl know how to drive a van good enough to perform it? And why did she go to the van at all, what was she planning to do never to return home, and why?
But the thing that bothered me more than anything was the use of drugs. Not that I don't believe that kids take drugs (I live in a real world), but them? Claire isn't Christiane F. Coming from hopeless social background did she have experience with drugs at home, with their rich and rather unusual parents? So, from an innocent looking girl who saves a boy she suddenly becomes his dealer? And the boy who was abused and almost killed because of drugs now doesn't know better than taking them, becoming almost no better than his abusers? This way the authors send us a very, very bad picture of their heros and consequently their generation. Such a pity for a movie that could have been so good...
The title of the movie suggests us what to expect. However, it is not
that simple. The fact that the plot is settled in 1917 could make us
unsure, because that was a war year and the year of revolution, and
this year couldn't be chosen accidentally. Also, in those years there
wasn't much a local doctor away from big cities could do but perform
basic surgery and relieve pain with no modern medications, so morphine
was the symbol of what a patient could hope for. Then almost
immediately we are surprised and confused again, when we are told that
the movie was made after Bulgakov's autobiographical story (what is
only partially correct).
But the fact is that the plot is not as simple as our expectations could be formed based on the title. It is really a war time (although we don't see battles we see how former hard times became even harder), revolution has important influence to the plot (how could it not?), lonely doctor with no professional experience has to deal with patients in these impossible conditions, and the title is not misleading, the use of morphine is significant and a trigger to many later events.
Though the movie is divided by appearing titles into a dozen fragments, it is very coherent with a firm time line and the whole story happens within several months. These interfering titles do not break it, sometimes the story simply continues in the same scene, but emphasize some events or persons. This might be supposed to make movie look artistic, however I don't find it necessary or useful, but more needlessly distracting.
The movie doesn't take any side when revolution happens. Bad things happen during revolution, and we see them, but bad things happen also unrelated to revolution, and we see them as well. As for medicine work that we see, I am uncertain if a hundred years ago morphine was really used for treating allergies (though it is possible that in this scene allergy was just an excuse), and the complicated birth seems to end too easy; CPR as we see in the movie has been invented decades later; the rest of events in hospital looks very realistic for the time and place.
And as for addiction... This is one of brutally, graphic realistic movies and can be compared to German Christiane F. (Kinder von ZOO Banhof), Canadian H or a bit less graphic Croatian Ta divna splitska noc and Swedish Under ytan. Too bad that kids have to grow up enough to be allowed to watch these movies (because of censorship and age restrictions), because it will already be too late for many of them when they grow up enough to satisfy the censors.
So, this is Russian plain, cold, empty, large, as we have been told many times before. But this is not Mikhalkov, this is not dr Zhivago and for sure not Turgenyev. Some scenes are not easy to watch. The movie is very dark, but we expect is because new Russian generation (like Zvyagintsev) prepared us for that, and Balabanov (Pro urodov i lyudey, Gruz 200) as director guarantees you that you won't be left undisturbed. If you think you can handle it, then do it, you won't regret.
Smaller countries always had problems with film production because
their market is small and even cheaper movies can hardly return the
invested money. While in USSR politicians decided which movies were
allowed to be made and ensured money for all of them - so even totally
noncommercial art movies were free to be made without having to think
if they would ever come to theaters (except festival ones) as long as
enough propaganda movies glorifying war victory and communism have been
produced in the same year authors from other countries had very
limited resources. The smaller country, the more problems: movies could
be even very successful when analyzing sold tickets compared to total
population, but the total amount was still small, and coming from small
and unattractive countries these movies had no chance for appearance,
let alone success abroad.
In fact, Yugoslavia had certain advantage compared to Iron Courtain. While, as a socialist country, in politically good relations to Eastern Europe, Yugoslavia made several movies in co-production with Czechoslovakia but, unfortunately, without expected results (Czechs gave good equipment and technicians, but none of their legendary authors like Menzel, Forman, Chytilova, ever participated) Yugoslavia also welcomed western movie makers who made films with plot located beyond Iron Curtain and didn't want to or weren't permitted to make them on authentic locations. However, unlike musicians who were big stars there, especially in East Germany and USSR, movies from Yugoslavia were less popular in other socialist countries, partially because they were created for local audience, showing local people talking on local dialects and living the life hardly understandable to people from other cultures.
One of the methods that producers used in Europe (not only on the East and not only in small countries) were tighter bonds between movie companies and television. Many movies have been made as a co-production where movie companies reduced the length of tracks editing them for theatrical release and TV companies used all the footage and made the mini-serials. This is something that probably never happened in overseas countries in USA sometimes successful movies induces a TV serial but usually with other actors, writers, directors etc (MASH probably being one of the first and best known), and much later serials could become a movie, sometimes with sequels, Star Trek as the best example. This, usually, didn't happen in countries like Yugoslavia.
But usually leaves a place for exceptions. Servantes iz malog mista" is one of there rare ones. It was made a decade after the final second season of Nae malo misto", one of biggest hits in Yugoslavian TV history. Though made entirely by Croatian crew, with plot placed in typical and rather isolated Croatian island and made in local dialect not easy to understand even by viewers from other Croatian regions, this serial made a big success in whole Yugoslavia, and even now, more than 40 years afterwards it is one of two often repeated ones and never lacking audience (the other being Gruntovcani", also set in small Croatian village but in different region with different culture and dialect). Ten years ago the producers understood the possibilities to earn more then just repeatedly broadcasting it. So they made this movie.
If you haven't seen the serial there is almost no sense to watch Servantes. The plot is settled somewhere in the middle of the serial, using even some scenes from it, and almost all the characters are taken from it in the way that the viewer is presumed to know them and their relations - otherwise you most likely won't understand them and won't be able to follow the plot line. There is even no developing of the characters because they have been developing (a very well done job!) during the serial, so as this movie was placed in the middle of it nothing important could have happened to them, otherwise it would collide with the serial. The writers understood these limits and decided to make the movie as a bunch of sketches with a rather loose plot.
It is interesting (and a bit weird) that the title character Servantes (a nickname given to the poor local poet who spent part of his life in Latin America planning to translate Cervantes works to Croatian) isn't the main role neither in serial nor in movie, and the original part of the plot that is related to the nearby located naturist beach doesn't include him at all. During 70's and 80's naturism ("nudism") was a very important part of Croatian tourist offer, but nowadays it's hard to say if it is decreasing or just not spoken about due to modern conservatism. Anyway movie seems to (mis)use a certain Dalmatian tradition: galebi" (seagulls") are young men (and those who think they are still young) who live and prepare whole year for 2-3 summer months when their only task is seducing young (or less young) foreign female tourists and create them the best holidays they ever had. In reality galeb" would never appear on a naturist beach and tourists using naturist beaches most likely wouldn't use their services, however this is comedy and doesn't have to be based on too much reality.
The movie had his audience in the beginning, but it was just because of sentimental reasons. Soon the audience understood that re-watching the serial is much better than watching its pale, weak offspring. Servantes disappeared and has been hard to find ever since (just in rare occasions TV uses it in very far from prime-times). But producers probably managed to get enough money to produce some other, I believe better movies, and that was doubtlessly the only reason Servantes has been resurrected.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Watching this movie it's easy to understand why old European art films
suffered from lack of wide audience, and why majority of people
nowadays don't remember them and don't even try to give them a chance.
In fact, this is not a bad movie. Compared to similar ones from the same decade it is not too long, the director didn't expand it by endless long scenes that don't contribute to the plot or the visual beauty, and this makes it easier to watch. (Tarkovsky, who was a real genius, used to make movies almost twice longer than Budapesti Mesék and with more control in editing most of them would only benefit not by cutting scenes out but making them shorter and would become more acceptable to average audience. Another genius Mallick often filled his masterpieces with details that were often not directly related to the plot, but not too long and always mesmerizing without them the plot would lose nothing, but the movie would lose magic. Ioseliani had long scenes that showed nothing important, they were boring and repelled audience who disliked slow movies, but were at least really beautiful.) Szabo's movie was made long after Hungarian unsuccessful revolution, and almost a decade after Prague Spring, the last time when Soviet army practiced reminding Iron Curtain countries what are they allowed to do and think. This distance made authors a bit more relaxed, but still careful. Hungarian movie makers have frequently tested the limits in making questions about socialism, its benefits and consequences. While Czech, Polish or Eastern German authors, if daring to express any criticism, usually blamed local authorities and their character deviations for temporary malfunctions of the best possible system, in Hungary, as long as not openly inviting to dispose socialism and Soviet leadership, authors were rather free to show the problems and sometimes real tragedies appearing in and because of soviet-type socialism. Even Szabo's earlier movie Szermelesfilm presented modern Hungarian history as a tragedy, German (nazi) occupation and Soviet termination of '56 revolution had the same impacts and results, and there was no real difference for average people if they decided to stay in Hungary or to live in western capitalistic countries.
As well as many art movies, especially European from 60's and 70's, Budapesti Mesék is based on symbols. Whole movie uses a tram as a symbol of looking for something better, for better future, and this could be interpreted as a pro-socialist and pro-maxis attitude unless you look the other way, that people from all over the country were leaving their homes because their today life was so hard and unbearable so they had to seek better life in some almost mythical town" (could be compared to expectations of people searching for El Dorado or Shangri La). Again, along the journey the only way to advance, to avoid traps, to handle the problems and to remove barriers was being together, in a group with strong cohesion collectivism as forced by communist theoreticians; however, along this journey we can clearly see that this collectivism lacks humanity, ignores privacy and individuality to the level of either expelling or physically removing the ones that (with or without real reason) seemed not to be completely devoted to common aim.
The problem of the movie isn't the more than just few implausibilities. Art movies, similar to fantasy ones, don't have to be completely logical, realistic and plausible. Just the opposite, distraction from pure realism makes the point stronger. Unfortunately, using all characters only as symbols (we don't even know most of their names) makes them less interesting, and there is not a single one that makes us want to follow, to know more about him, because there is nothing about him that we are supposed to know each of them is reduced for his temporary appearance as a symbol. We can maybe consider the tram to be the leading character of the movie as sometimes other objects (a coat, a coin, a weapon etc) can be, or the most important role is given to the town, river, country; but people who appear in roles supporting to a knife, restaurant or a car don't have to be puppets that only fill the stage (just remember Himmel über Berlin or Sous le ciel de Paris where humans live in the city, not diminishing its major role, but adding themselves as the treasure of the hero).
Not ignoring these objections I can still recommend Budapesti mesék to art movie admirers. Personally, I had better time watching it than spending time with Antonioni, Godard or Fassbinder. But these are just my personal preferences. Watch and make your own attitude.
First: I really liked this movie, though I don't find it one of three
or five best Swedish movies. But any among twenty best Swedish movies
is better than top three of most other countries.
Nothing is perfect, including movies. However, I find some objections from other comments not important or completely mistaken.
It is true that people in the village (in choir or out of it) show a great range of different characters. It is true that they can be described as clichés. But this is not unrealistic. I wonder how many of these comments have been written by people who live and know the life in distant, separated villages. It is normal that you find very different people there, on one place. In big cities (where most of IMDb critics live) so different people usually don't appear together, they tend to be in groups with people of similar interests, education, social status, hobbies etc etc. In small villages people are rather unique, they can't be in groups with similar people because there are no similar ones, so any group contains different characters. Which can more or less look like clichés.
Sweden, as other Nordic countries, really pays big attention to home violence. But distant villages are again world of its own. Have you seen any policeman in the movie? We don't know how far away is the closest police station. Village lives their tradition rules and law. That's why Gabrielle stays longer with Connie than most city woman would. And it's not illogical to expect a person who was able to suffer and bare Connie for so many years to do what she has done when he finally had to face the law. Despite a comment that finds it unbelievable, people who are still more bound to tradition than to modern trends still have some ability of forgiveness, something that's unpopular and almost extinct in our culture. But if we look in books or movies made few decades ago, this wasn't such a rare and unbelievable characteristic, so it can still appear in traditional, especially religious communities.
What me leads to final and most important reason why I wrote this comment.
This is an deeply religious movie, and it must have been done either by a deeply religious or complete atheistic author. It rejects the cold, heartless demagogy and extreme pharisee-ism of narrow-minded fundamentalists that seem to be trapped in Old Testimony, and shows the expression of life and faith that can be reached once given a freedom and love (one that New Testimony offers). Such a devotedness to one final aim, closing circles of his life and simultaneously rotating in a spiral to its top, achieving the final point, the climax of his life, fulfilling everything he was living for...
That's why I can understand how somebody compared Daniel to some kind of Jesus. However, I don't see him as Jesus. David isn't sinless, sometimes he has hidden motives and isn't free of manipulation and vanity. But I can compare him to St Peter. His faith/devotion isn't equally strong all the time - something like Peter's when he denied Jesus. Jesus ended his life on Earth on the top of the mountain, while Daniel's death in the basement looks more like St Peter's crucified upside-down on a Roman square, now basement of St Peter's Basilica. And Daniel's work looks more like following Jesus' words to Peter: "you are Peter (Petros), and on this rock I will build my church": he had his work done, he was a rock firm basement of the choir that doesn't seem to be turned to dust after Daniel's death.
However, Daniel's devotion was not to faith or God but to art. On the other hand, he finds his fulfillment through church choir and the more we follow his work, the more we see that he accepts religious music to achieve his aim. So it is up to each of us to interpret if it is music and art, or it is faith and God that fulfills one's life as the final and eternal aim. And this is why, depending on the premise, I can't tell if the authors are truly religious or completely atheistic persons. But no matter what is in their hearts and soul, their movie is a true art that gives us freedom to chose for ourselves.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was surprised very much when I found only one comment five years
after release of this movie. It is not too old and therefore forgotten,
it is not too young and therefore not recognized. And as I've heard
about it many times on different places I wouldn't say it's unknown.
So, maybe it's because it is French, and I've found many French movies that don't have a single comment. Partly because French themselves don't like to write in English, while the rest have prejudices and don't watch French movies (finding them "either porn or perv" as my hollywoodized kids generalize, probably saying what most Americans and their followers have in their minds). And if I write a comment it often gains just few reactions or none at all.
Survivre avec les loups definitely isn't in the top French or Belgian production. It deals with a topic that became so frequent in French cinematography that it looks as if France can't clean its conscience and wash away the shame. I've seen unexpectedly many movies that cope with destiny of Jews, especially children, in WWII. From angle of victims, adults (Un affaire de femmes), kids (Une vie en retour), survived or dead (Le secret), even collaborators and their families whose members realize what some of them did during the occupation (Le piano oublié), during war or after it. So many European nations participated in WWII, so many have their own tragic stories (and skeletons in closets) but France appears as the mutual, collective European conscience, at least when we have movies in mind.
However, Survivre avec les loups doesn't belong to the upper half of these movies. Starting as a kind of Anna Frank story, and developing into an adventure movie it changes rhythm and wanders a lot between styles, not certain should it be a war epic or an educational story for young school-kids. And the part of the story that includes wolves is rather short and not that important as we would expect having some prior information about the movie; but the title might refer not only to real wolves, but wolves among humans as well.
I wasn't surprised that the allegedly true story appeared to be fake. Let's face it, who could believe the second part of the movie? A seven year old girl traveling across Europe, from Belgium to Ukraine, during two years, in wartime, and nothing happened to her except hunger and exhaustion? These two years include two winters, two strong war winters - anybody who's ever watched documentaries about WWII knows how cold those winters were. And maybe people from Australia or South Africa don't realize how distant these countries are, that the girl allegedly walked across Germany and Poland - try to find some detail cards or simply use Google Maps on high proportion how could people living in middle Europe even for a moment accept that the story might be true? Or, maybe they didn't, but were afraid that it wouldn't be politically correct to doubt the story of a holocaust victim? Not only that such a young child manages to go so far, we don't get information how she did it, how did she cross Rhein, Danube if going south or Wisla and Elbe if going north (knowing how strictly bridges have been controlled - if she succeeded to do it, it would be a great story itself!) but we simply suddenly see her hundreds or thousand kilometers from the place she's been in former scene. No explanation. No need for it, obviously. OK for fairy tale, but how could it fit into a story supposed to be true? But now, having in mind that it is just a product of fiction and made without big pretensions, Survivre avec les loups is a watchable and sometimes (but not often) entertaining movie with Guy Bedos in the (beside a girl) only interesting and well played role. A character not original for such a movie, but this movie wasn't planned to be a masterpiece anyway. And compared to (according to story) the most similar movie I Am David, this French one loses in literally everything that can be compared. Still, as I Am David is a great movie, it doesn't mean that I recommend avoiding Survivre avec les loups... but after watching David's adventure first.
Settled on a non-existing Adriatic island (but definitely in Croatia)
and not mentioning the time (but definitely in early 2000's) with
unreal politicians on screen (but mentioning real politicians from
history) "Pravo cudo" is an unusually coherent, logical Croatian movie
with an ending that is, unlike average Croatian movie, also logical and
fitting the story and the genre.
Stories about preachers and healers, outcasts from official religions, are nothing new in world cinematography, though Croatian authors have never focused it so far. However, Toma, the hero of "Pravo cudo" is not a typical one. He has a gift (and this movie has some fantastic elements) to heal people, but he never pretends to be a saint. This gift enables him to earn enough money for him and his son, enables him a life style that surely won't remind us on saints, but he sometimes finds this gift being a burden. He doesn't pretend to be a prophet, a God's messenger, but he knows that his gift is given by a superior being, therefore he is not allowed to ignore or abuse it. So he isn't a cheater as most movie (and most real) healers and preachers are; but it is not easy to balance between demands of soul and demands of flesh.
Rade Serbedzija is a perfect choice for this role. Unlike another Croatian international star Goran Visnjic he was a famous local actor before appearing in foreign productions, and this reputation with sparkles of international success gave him a special status in small Croatian cinematography. He can play anything and just his name will make a movie almost untouchable, unquestionable. It can be compared to de Niro's status in USA. And, as de Niro does, Serbedzija gives his best in return, even when the movie isn't exceptional and role not an inspiration, he will be high above its level.
It's really hard to imagine anybody doing a better job as a tired old man, torn between human, carnal pleasures and gift given from above, followed by fame that gives him opportunities and by his vices that destroy them. Unfortunately, though Croatia never had a lack of talented actors, the casting in supporting roles managed to avoid them. So, as Toma is a God's gift to Adriatic island, Serbedzia is a God's gift for this movie.
Unlike majority of Croatian movies whose problems usually start with screenplay, this is one of the best stories, and among the highlights of the movie is the photography focused on characters and plot, using nature as the integral part of the story avoiding the trap of picture postcard type of advertising that frequently ruin the balance of the movies (probably when local tourist offices appear as co-producers).
Mostly because of unusual character created both by good script and magnificent performance, this movie should be watched. Mostly, but not limited to...
It's not a month since I've watched "Laila" and I had to check what the
movie was about. That explains how deep is the impression this movie
makes. It's not that bad otherwise I'd remember it for being a
disaster; it simply doesn't stay in memory. It is so full of clichés,
acting average or a bit below that, looking like British TV serials
from early 70's (with a difference that those serials had good plots
and souls), it simply slips out of one's memory.
This movie can be considered an insult to old Germany vampire tradition that started when Murnau made Nosferatu; however, avoiding it (or not knowing it at all?) authors in this oversimplified story portray vampires that would fit better in modern American cinema, from Buffy to Twilight.
The only thing that was slightly interesting was comparing humans and vampires, their motives and methods, and you can't tell the difference vampires don't have to be monsters, and humans can behave like vampires. It could be a message of the movie that vampires symbolize dark side of living humans, and people are so afraid of vampires because they know that vampires can do things as bad as their neighbors, friends, family members can just without pretending they are friendly and moral, as humans usually do. But, having in mind the whole movie, I can, however, say for sure that this "deeper meaning" was a coincidence. This movie is as anemic as if vampires took all the blood form it; and one can't imagine the authors able to put any message in it.
Decades ago actors (and, certainly, actresses) often used to quit
making movies, to retire and be remembered for what they've done while
being young, strong, beautiful. Some decided to reappear for a special
occasion, like James Cagney, some kept their decision till the end.
Greta Garbo and Cary Grant come first into my mind.
Today the times have changed. After Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Jack Lemmon, Henry Fonda and others that didn't want to waste their last breaths, many actors that have approached the years where traditional lover and action hero roles don't fit much any more not only keep on playing, but aren't satisfied to get supporting roles for new young stars movies they even make movies where all top casting positions contains their peers. And while Clint, Tommy Lee and others decided to go to space, Kris, Peter and Keith's movie takes place in (similarly isolated) American wilderness.
For Kristofferson, as a country composer and singer, and as a "Heaven's Gate" star, this is a natural environment. Carradine also had his share of roles that took him to middle USA, "Nashville" and "The Long Riders" among best remembered. And for Fonda this may be the kind of landscape that he rode along in "Easy Rider".
Though their best years are behind them they are still capable of making a good job. They are not stars like Jones and Eastwood (and, unfortunately, never have been just a step behind, having maybe just a teaspoon less luck to make few successes in a line), and they don't get first class productions. However, taking what's been offered, none of them disappointed us. There was no need for a big theater type of acting, the three men are small people from small town and big gestures would be overacting.
Though the story keeps running in the limits of solid TV production, the writers made some unusual and funny jokes (stolen dead body, agent Collins' enthusiasm...) and avoided making the conflict between worlds of a teenage computer fan and his grandfather from isolated farm become a center point of jokes (so many times repeated in movies like "Crocodile Dundee", "Coming to America", "Starman", "Les visiteurs" etc) screenplay is definitely better than one would expect seeing that long list of writers. However, the directing seems rather slow and too mainstream, leaving some scenes underused and a lot of potentials partially ignored. As it could be expected, the end is too sentimental containing no surprises, very TV-ish, but doesn't ruin the integrity.
Anyway, it is always a pleasure to watch those three next-to-top stars and, without having to big expectations, those who like all or some of them won't regret.
At the moment when I write this review The Iris Effect has one of the
worst rankings I've ever seen on IMDb - 2.2.
When seeing such a ranking it's more likely that a person turns a channel. However, I (can't explain why, maybe because my wife didn't want to watch shooting and fighting that had been offered on other channels) decided to give it a chance.
And I didn't regret it. No, I don't say that I wasn't disappointed. In fact, I was maybe more disappointed than the other reviewers. Not because the whole movie was bad, but because it was so good in some points and what was bad was so bad that it ruined everything. So much wasted, so much spoiled.
The story was not that bad as some comments accuse the writers. If you like stories on the edge of supernatural there is no reason not to like this one. Some great borderline horrors and some great love stories have been made using some premises just beyond reality, from Don't Look Back and Milagro to Angel-A and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and with no real chance to ever be challenged let alone beaten Marianne de ma jeunesse. If you want to keep your head clean and don't expect anything except pure reality, you simply must stay away from these movies and won't be disappointed. But if you accept this playing on the edge of some different kind of existence than you can buy the plot of Iris Effect.
Some flashbacks that appear within the movie are rather clearly marked being mostly b-w, some nightmares are not marked but you understand that it was a vision or hallucination at the moment it stops. So this won't disable your ability to follow the plot. Unfortunately, the bad editing in some scenes and even more bad directing make certain scenes hard to understand, and though everything is mostly revealed at the end you still won't be sure what (and why) happened then. If it was for the bad screenplay the director could help it, but it seems that the director couldn't handle the script in his hands.
The best thing that the director did was to give open hands to director of photography. Not just for creating mood virtuosically using the old streets and buildings of Sankt Petersburg, but for many other moments, pictures, colors as well. Some of these photographic solutions create by far more magic, more suspense, more feelings and more supernatural romance than anything director did in the rest of that hour and half.
Alas, the directing was still not the worst thing in the movie. It was acting, maybe the worse acting that I've ever seen in a mainstream movie made in any country that produces more than five movies per decade. Their acting could be best describes as a torture, and though I mean primarily they've tortured us, I can't get rid of the feeling that the actors felt tortured as well. Have they realized that the movie is going to be a failure? Or have they been pressed by their agents to do it, with not a grain of their own free will? The words that they've been saying have sounded less realistic than you can hear on primary school kids performance. They had to say it, but they gave not a bit of soul in it.
It was a pleasant surprise that Americans talked English and Russians talked Russian (unlike most modern movies where everybody talks English including aliens), but the way these actors talked was worse than usual dubbing (have you ever heard dubbing made for Russian or Polish audience?). Kip Pardue had a great opportunity, because his character could be (because of the plot) the most interesting, but he acted as if he was afraid to reveal some secrets too soon. Gregory Hlady was unconvincing as a psychiatrist, as a lover and no more convincing as a Rebecca's secret accomplice. Agnes Bruckner didn't get enough footage, but at least she had from the first appearance let us know there is something secret about her and make us wonder what it is. It's weird how did Russians let some of their characters who were supposed to be officials (and represent the country) like detective Kateuzov (but not just him) look completely ridiculous like caricatures, something we could expect that Americans would do making fun and deriding people from some distant third world country.
And finally, there's Ann Archer. I believe there are several million women around the world that would do this job better. All I'll say is that if she were such a wife to Michael Douglas in Fatal Attraction, it would be more than than normal for him to commit not only adultery but to assist Glenn Close in murdering her as well. And we'd support him if he did it.
Now I have to conclude it by something that I've never thought I'd ever write. I have been opposing making remakes from the first moment I've understood that they exist, but now, I wish that among so many not only unnecessary but adverse, noxious, absurd remakes that Hollywood permanently produces somebody remembers The Iris Effect and brushes its screenplay just a little, and then gives it a chance with new director and actors that won't even remind us to the team that made it in 2005.
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