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Seduced and Abandoned (2013)
Everything was painfully familiar to me but I managed to laugh nonetheless. The meeting with Avi Lerner should be obligatory viewing for beginners. And Mark Damon? He was an actor in Italian films of the 60's, not Fellini mind you but the others who made low budget epics. The landscape of "how to get financing for movies" has changed radically in the last few years but this is a residue of something that is still very much alive. Alec Baldwin pitching the idea to tired foreign sales agents is a delight and the comments from Martin Scorsese and other giants, are priceless. If you're in the business you'll laugh in recognition, if you're a civilian with ideas to join the film world of independent movies, this may give you pause.
The Deer Hunter (1978)
A War Like All Wars A Film Like No Other
"The Deer Hunter" is 32 years old. How extraordinary to sit through it now. Walking over the politics that divided , somehow, all of its admirers then. "Great film but..." How silly to think of it now. Michael (a sensational young Robert De Niro) is as extreme a character as Rocco was in "Rocco And His Brothers" His goodness, the one that was always there but that he discovers under the most horrendous circumstances, underlined by Stanley Mayers's "Cavatina" permeates the entire film. I remember thinking, when I saw the film for the first time, that I couldn't or wouldn't spend ten minutes with Michael and his friends, the ones we meet at the beginning of the film but by the end I thought of them as brothers and I loved them. I actually loved them. That in itself is a sort of film miracle. John Savage will break your heart, it certainly broke mine and Christopher Walken is absolutely riveting. How strange to tho think that Michael Cimino, still a young man, is nowhere to be seen. Is still a punishment for "Heaven's Gate" and "Indecent Exposure" or there is something else we don't know about. The Cimino behind "The Deer Hunter" is a true master.
La luna (1979)
A childhood memory, looking into his mother's face with a full moon creating a halo around her. Beautiful and so Italian. The mother in this case is Jill Claybourgh, she was raiding the crest of the wave then and it's very telling that she would choose to play a part that required, not just appearing completely nude but making love to her teen age junkie of a son. She is awkwardly terrific. Her face is a voyage in itself. I would have use quite a different wardrobe for her character as well as make up and hair style but maybe that was just a sign of its day. Jill laughs saying "I am crazy" and that would explain some of the dangerous nuttiness she indulges in here. Her son, played beautifully, by unknown - before and since - Matthew Barry. A Bertoluccian teen sex object if I ever so one. The film has oodles of moments to cherish. Tomas Milian plays the boy's real father. They've never met, His father still lives in a rather intense relationship with his mother, the stunning Alida Valli. In small, very small parts, Carlo Verdone, Roberto Benigni and Renato Salvatori. A film to enjoy with your heart, your gut and your libido but not your brain. Just live your brain for other Bertolucci jewels.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
A Comedy Of Horrors
Brad Pitt sticks his index finger in Diane Kruger's leg wound and keeps it there until he gets what he wants. Funny, horribly so. The invented yarn takes "The Dirty Dozen" for a ride and sometimes abandons it to pay tribute to other movies. Lots of fun. Even "Paris when it sizzles" is mentioned in a delightfully organic piece of dialog. I was thrilled by Christoph Waltzer's character and by his sensational performance. Brad Pitt creates a true original. I love the actor's lack of vanity. There's a quirk in the character that is pure Brad Pitt. Tarantino visits a new universe but. fortunately, his hand. his brain and his heart are visible all over the place.
Cama adentro (2004)
This is a film I can't shake out of my mind. The upper class woman, a remarkable Norma Aleandro, faces the economical horrors Argentina went through in 2001 and as a consequence she can't afford to pay her live in maid, the sensational Norma Argentina, that was at her service for a quarter century. The film doesn't tell you anything but shows you everything even the most invisible of details. Pride and humbleness co-mingling, switching places in a pacific duel of profound, silent emotions. The stories painted in both actresses faces are nothing less than extraordinary and I've them both in my mind daily since I saw the film for the first time, weeks ago.
A Star Is Born
Jessica Chastain gives one of those performances that make history in this wonderful Dan Ireland film based on a short story by Doctorow. She goes through a life of radical changes, so much so that it could be considered a multi character study if not for the amazing truth in Chastain's portrayal. The exteriors may change and circumstances may appear diametrically opposite but at its very center she's the same girl we met at the beginning, never ever betraying that spirit or that thirst for life. Like in Dan Ireland's "The Whole Wide World", that launched the career of Rene Zellwegger, "Jolene" may do the same for Jessica Chastain. I don't think I'll see a better performance this year.
The Brave One (2007)
Death Wish For The Thinking Woman
Jodie Foster is a bit like the modern version of Barbara Stanwyck or one of those other powerful female stars that took the role of the woman in society into actions and attitudes that had been the male prerogative since time immemorial. Jodie's Erica carries the movie and a gun in a succession of common places that become never seen before thanks to the commitment of the star. She is fantastic and I suspect Jodie Foster will use her age as an allied so there is a lot to be looking forward to. If I had a wish, for me as an spectator and huge fan of Jodie Foster, will be for her to continue working with directors that allow her many different faces to come out fully formed because that's a guarantee that it will startle us. Neil Jordan was a great idea and the results are there on the screen for everyone to see. A vigilante yes, but Jodie Foster style which means, like no other. I would like to see her do a movie with Fred Schepsi ("Plenty" "A Cry In The Dark") because the characters in Schepsi movies are memorable, all of them, always) With Martin Donovan ("Apartment Zero" and his new stunning "K.Il Bandito") because I know the man and I've witnessed the magic communion he establishes with his actors and Donovan loves to move into the faces of his actors/characters in the most powerful and loving way. With François Ozon (Swiming Pool, 8 Women) because of his understanding and commitment to the female character, never superficial. I can name others of course but I think I already made my point. I love Jodie Foster and I hope to be around when she's 70 because I have the feeling we ain't seen nothing yet.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
The Look Of Love
I don't remember when was the last time I felt a movie like I felt Ang Lee's extraordinary "Brokeback Mountain". I can safely say it's the greatest, original American melodrama since the times of Douglas Sirk and I'm sure that even the great Todd Haynes would agree with me. His stunning "Far From Heaven" is an exquisite reproduction, this one updates and reinvents it without betraying it. My girlfriend had tears in her eyes and so did I. Heath Ledger's character spoke to me directly. And the word sex hasn't come into the equation yet. Love takes over the whole story and Heath Leger will be the dominating star of the next decade, if he wants to. Jake Gylenhaal is also superb but his character, nags,understandably so, but we know Heath much better than him and we're on Heath side. The buttoning of the shirt is already a landmark scene in my mind. I'm sure this film is arriving at just the right time. It will teach without preaching and many will learn.
Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)
Come back Mr. Murrow!
My hat to George Clooney. He doesn't take the easy way out. His seriousness of purpose is undeniable and his talents as a filmmaker a concrete reality. This, his second feature, is a no frills account of a period in American history that left visible scars but, as it happens, many have forgotten. History repeats itself but its protagonists seem diluted in this modern obsession with political correctness. David Strathairn - best actor at the Venice Film Festival - is chillingly perfect as Edward R Murrow, reminding us that TV times have changed in an unrecognizable way. The space for real thought on network news has been replaced by the circus atmosphere of 24 hour cable shows with loud mouths, sound effects and video graphics. The inter-cutting between Murrow/Strathairn and the real Senator McCarthy creates the perfect illusion of a startling reality. The timing of the film couldn't be more perfect. I hope we can all fill in the voids and connect the dots. It's time to look back and think before our past becomes our future. Thank you Mr Clooney, thank you very much.
There is much to admire in this frustrating classy, pretty film. Nicole Kidman's performance for starters, an intriguing premise and a beautiful score. But this is a partial birth. Nothing is taking to completion. Scenes seem to start and then we're left with nothing. Important plot points are merely hinted while unnecessary repetitions are inflicted upon us with infuriating monotony. I'm not going to enter into details but just let me say that I was worked up to a frenzy without allowing me a climax of any kind. Nicole Kidman however is sublime. She is a fearless, sensational actress. She has one of the longest close ups in recent history and that is one of the greatest moments in a film full of almost great moments. There is something about Sean that doesn't make any sense. I'm not talking about young Sean but about the dead one. The Anne Heche's character is as absurd as Camilla Parker Bowles, with the difference that we know Prince Charles and the absurdity becomes him. We can't make head or tail of the dead Sean and as a consequence his life was merely a writer's excuse. Utterly unconvincing. In spite of all that I may see the film again and I've actually recommended it for Nicole Kidman's performance and a score that I've already bought and I've been playing incessantly.