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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
My words may be redundant since Fritz Lang's unanimously accepted
classic doesn't need any more empty plaudits, the fact that in his very
first sound film he has already accomplished it with such unparalleled
dexterity is utterly astonishing, but still I need to vent my thoughts
after watching its restored 109-minutes version for the first time
The scenario is quite gruesome, it is a crime-drama about a serial child (girl specifically) killer Hans Beckert (Lorre), who engenders a city-wide panic in Berlin when he commits another crime and still remains at large with no clear identity. The police department is under severe pressure to dig him out but its productivity is mainly hampered by the paranoia and massive false information from the terror-stricken hoi polloi, meanwhile, local underworld business is also critically undermined by policemen's all-too-frequent ferreting and investigations, so the criminal bosses are also in line with the fervent intent to unearth the despicable murderer.
Through the paralleled ways, police gleans the key clue from the information of recovered and released mentally impaired patients, whereas the gangsters utilizing the large number of beggars on the street to set an all-inclusive dragnet to pin down their object, yet it is the street-smart method has the edge and finally Hans is hunted by the gangsters inside a posh office building, after an engaging cat-and-mouse chase, Hans is caught alive to a kangaroo court in front of an angry mob just before policemen's raid. It is then, the climax crops up when Hans harrowingly confesses about his abhorrent obsession with his young targets and the losing battle with his demon inside, which doesn't mitigate the crowd's rage for sure, however, in a politically correct detour, the policemen arrive right before the lynching.
Lorre munificently showcases his tour-de-force in laying bare his tormenting psyche, his popped eyes is thrilling to behold, more unbelievably he even evokes a palpable sympathy from such a monstrous creature, which unfortunately would end up be the incubus and stereotype haunting all his future career. And in a manifest fashion, Lang judiciously challenges the conundrum of the legit guideline supplying for criminals inflicted with mental illness, and asserts a sharp warning on the sane, watching over your children is the right thing to do.
Technically speaking, the film is way over its time, let alone Lang's trademark impressionist allure, the cubism structures and compositions are all over the place, the ingenious usage of a whistle leitmotif which surprisingly triggers Hans' undoing is groundbreaking then and leaves indelible marks inside one's mind; DP Fritz Arno Wagner's fluid tracking lens lithely undulates in the smoking-shrouded space and patiently observes the ongoing developments. Also it is a patchwork of sound and silent pieces amalgamating together, inducing a quite bizarre transition for new audience. For me, I prefer M to Lang's other master class brainchild METROPOLIS (1927, 8/10) for its narrative intrigue and Lorre's acting potency (also, Wernicke as inspector Lohmann and Gnaß as the gutless whistle-blower Franz come strong in their prowess among a large cast), they are such formidable mammoths with brimful of innovations and genuine fruition out of committed labor of love, which eventually does make me wonder, how come Lang's later walk-of-life in Hollywood fails to match his pre-WWII superlative domestic masterpieces? I guess one can only find that out in his works, and it seriously piques my interest.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This flyweight Singaporean film is the surprising winner of Golden
Horse Award in 2013, snatches 4 awards including BEST FILM honor from
its stiff competitors, Johnny To's DRUG WAR (2012), Zhangke Jia's A
TOUCH OF SIN (2013), Ming-liang Tsai's STRAY DOGS (2013) and the
front-runner Kar Wai Wong's THE GRANDMASTER (2013, 8/10). First-timer
director Anthony Chen wins BEST NEW DIRECTOR and ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY,
while Yann Yann Yeo stands out in BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS race.
Under the curtains of Asian financial crisis in the mid-90s, Anthony's first feature closely examines an ordinary Singaporean nuclear family's happenings when a new Philippine maid Terry (Bayani) is arranged to help out with the chores and take care of the 10-year-old brat Jialer (Koh) as his mother Hwee Leng (Yeo) is pregnant with a second child and is swamped by her daily office work, whereas the father Teck (Chen), a salesman, is on the brink of losing his job due to the unhealthy market.
The film's mandarin title can be literally translated as "when parents are not at home", so audience may assume that the major chunk of the story would involve the interaction between Jailer and Terry, a spoiled schoolboy and a wide-eyed interloper, surely it is what happens, their narrative arc is too predictable yet Anthony's camera unassumingly records the changeover with poise and impartiality, Jiale is an really imp, not only in school, his initial hostility towards Terry will understandably thaw when they spend more time together to understand each other during the absence of the parents, since Terry takes on the duty of a caregiver whom Jiale is desperately in need of.
Meanwhile, Hwee Leng and Teck loom large in the storyline too, the former suffers from the angst due to the budding affinity between Jialer and Terry (her worst nightmare is to be supplanted by an outsider for the maternal bond with her child), also is victimized in a faith- boosting racket, and repeatedly inculcates herself with the empty slogan "Hope is within myself" to sustain her belief in the troubled water. The ambivalence of her psychology is impeccably conducted by Yeo, who is overflowing with compelling nuances and tenable craft, the same can be said to Tian Wen Chen, a veteran actor (personally I watched many TV series starring him during my childhood), showcases his most authentic emotion under the helm of Anthony's astute perspicacity as the father who conceals his misery with disguised front of dignity required for the man of the family.
The film is also an excellent example of leaving out the unnecessary verbal communications and balances the contents with exchanges of eye-contact or the tacit silence, which is not a easy task to accomplish, but here, it is a marvel to behold (e.g. the maid Vs. hostess scenario is perpetually piquant under various contexts). Anthony Chen injects tons of human touch into the quotidian storyline (the strand in the cemetery vignette for example), enriches each character with the inescapable pressure from surviving, even for Jailer, he has to pay for his misbehavior and accepts the unavoidable separation in a hard way.
Overall, ILO ILO is exceedingly levelheaded and structurally faultless for a neophyte, its attentive intimacy toward the common lives reminisces of Ann Hui's top-notch THE WAY WE ARE (2008, 9/10), Anthony Chen is no wonder a name worthy noticing for his future projects and on his way to bring more glory to his itty-bitty motherland.
An riotous French chamber farce, I have already watched LA CAGE AUX
FOLLES II (1980, 7/10), now finally come across the original one which
would spawn a Hollywood remake THE BIRDCAGE (1996) by Mike Nichols and
stars Robin Williams and Nathan Lane reprise the iconic couple Renato
and Albin (Tognazzi and Serrault). It had remained No.1 foreign film in
USA box-office for years and nominated for 3 Oscars (BEST DIRECTOR,
SCREEN PLAY and COSTUME DESIGN).
Albeit the film's generic "Meet Your Parents" plot-line, director Molinaro pluckily engineers the sub-culture of homosexuality and transvestite, Renato is the owner of a smoke- enshrouding drag club "La Cage Aux Folles" which is infamous for its alternative performance and target clientèle, and Albin, his partner for twenty-years, is a woman trapped in a man's body and also the premier star of the show. One night Laurent (Rémi Laurent), Renato's 20-year-old son, arrives and announces that he will marry her sweetheart Andréa (Maneri) and her parents is coming for dinner the next day, the trick is that Andréa's parents Simon (Galabru) and Louise (Scarpitta) belong to an ultra-moralistic party who just recently lost their president in a prostitute scandal. Under the grilling, Andréa lies about Renato's real identity and claims him to be a cultural attaché, so to counterbalance the bad image of the party, they decide to operate "a perfect marriage" and meet Laurent's parents.
Things turn into a predictable but hysterical stew accordingly, Albin makes a fuss of the exclusion of him in the dinner and Renato has to ask aid from Laurent's birth mother Simone (Maurier), which lights up the jealousy of Albin. But, eventually, the farce will meet its moment of truth. Through and through, all the gags are incredibly conceived (including those with Jesus on the cross), and what's more gratifying the sublime rapport between Tognazzi and Serrault, together they can make the corniest jest scintillate with vigor and induce involuntary laughters without a hitch. It is a grand showboating for Serrault in particular, his mincing mannerism and effeminate verbal-ism has been unrivaled since, a true trailblazer for the now stocky stereotype of feminine gay man. To elevate the contrast in beliefs, Galabru also goes out on a limb to caricature and ends up with a side-splitting cross-dressing for amusement. Not to mention Benny Luke as the sissy black butler, who cannot wear shoes because they are trip-easy.
Ennio Morricone's prominent score triumphantly conjures up the upbeat ambiance and tallies with the performance adroitly to indicate the characters' predicament or ridicule. Indeed, the film is a timeless uproar, and its winning magnetism can appreciated ubiquitously.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A cinematic revamping of the notorious Leopold-Loeb murder case in
1924, which is also the source material for Alfred Hitchcock's ROPE
(1948, 8/10), well-known for its specious "entirely-one-long-shot"
conceit. This polished Black & White version is directed by a
lesser-known Richard Fleischer, a prolific studio journeyman, and the
final product is a compelling character study despite the fact that it
strikes a false note in its climatic courtroom finale.
Judd and Artie (Stockwell and Dillman) are two flush college students who deem themselves superior to others, they carry on a "perfect crime" to murder a teenage boy for no other reason, just to flout the law and take pleasure in such "superiority" of omnipotence. However, it turns out they are rather clumsy perpetrators, soon a key evidence emerges and with no bother, their crime is exposed by district attorney Harold Horn (Marshall). Then belatedly entering the scene is the distinguished defense attorney Jonathan Will (Welles), who will launch a heartfelt polemic against capital punishment and prevent them being hanged, instead, the trail ended by life imprisonment.
As stylish as any monochromatic oldies could ever be, the film effectively introduces Judd and Artie to spectators with their after-crime ecstasy, to give instant access of their twisted morals and sociopathic symptoms. Although carefully circumventing the homo-erotic and sadomasochistic undertones, but for new audience it is pretty easy to detect it without knowing any knowledge of the case itself, it pinpoints Nietzsche's "supermen" philosophy as the root of their poisoned mindset, and gives the exclusive intimacy a fertile soil to be sanitized. A young Dean Stockwell embodies Judd's rebellion, intractableness, blind submission, naivety and vulnerability with scorching engrossment and sheer amazement. Bradford Dillman, as the slightly older dandy, radiates some sort of gorgeous flair of a young Tyron Power, his Artie is a child trapped in a grown-up body, a capricious and spoiled wiseacre.
Orson Welles is first-billed, but only appears in the third act, but once he is on, he dominates the show entirely, only 43 years old at then, he assumes to be an old man in his seventies thanks to an intricate make-up and his portly figure, although his towering presence and the extensive anti-death penalty homily does elicit a powerful performance out of his usual haughty weight, the film misses the point catastrophically by opting for a shallow sensation while turning a blind eye to the elephant in the room, with no further intention of probing into the undoing of the two killers' more controversial perspective of the world, which could have been more insightful and edifying to comprehend. Also during the final scenes, the implication of God's work in the act sounds like a sententious punchline can instantly turn many liberal minds off. And last but not the least, the portrayal of Ruth Evans (Varsi), the girl who almost gets raped by Judd but is still willing to accept him as a troubled mind, looks rather dubious and over-contrived. Otherwise, the film should have connected with a broader audience and been named as one of the untainted classic in the genre of crime drama.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I enter the film while being literally oblivious of who is Andy
Kaufman, as far as I know, the film is mostly famed because it hitherto
has been Jim Carrey's most Oscar-worthy performance, yet being
blatantly snubbed again after his drama venture in Peter Weir's THE
TRUMAN SHOW (1998, 8/10).
So in my case, the film is a dedicative portrait of an eccentric entertainer whose ideology of performance is all about entertaining himself and treat his audience as a receptacle of his sensational idiosyncrasy and excruciatingly manipulative fabrications disguised as parody or mockery. Yet, during his short life-span (Andy passed away in 1984 at the age of 35), this methodology makes him a unique figure in the canvas of American comedians (although he would never condescend himself as a "comedian").
Apart from his best remembered role as Latka Gravas in ABC's sitcom TAXI (1978-1982), Andy's strikingly unorthodox gambits include the Foreign Man persona, Might Mouse lip- syncing, and singularly his alter-ego Tony Clifton, an audience-abusing lounge singer with off-key boorishness, all farcically re-enacted by the-one-and-only Jim Carrey, more hinges on visual gags than fusillading well-conceived punchlines, he vigorously pulls off a studious impersonation rather than reveling in his usual elastic facial stunts, in a way, Andy is much more closer to a performance artist than a funny man, staging appealing sensations to exploiting genuine emotions from audience, his motto is to always stay distinctively in advance of your audience, instead of pandering, he surprises them, especially in a provocative way (e.g. the inter-sexual wrestling sham), Carrey nails his psychology to the marrow in his transcendent effort. The rest of the cast is playing it safe around him mainly because most of the prototypes are still alive (some of them make cameos and others are simply playing themselves in a not-so-faraway time-frame), DeVito and Giamatti take a lion's share of their screen-time in comically constructing a layer of authenticity as Andy's agent George Shapiro and his creative parter Bob Zmuda, whereas Courtney Love is Lynne, Andy's romantic interest, instead, submerges herself as a subtler spectator to offer gravitas when the film needs in the second half as the ultimate death is looming large.
Surely it is also a refreshing maneuver to start the film with sheer Black & White sequences of Andy breaking-the-four-wall and kidding about this picture with his comical bent. The two-times Academy winning director Milo Forman steadily segues one skit after another, confidently concocts a mesmerizing montages of Andy's career highlights, and maintains an enigmatic aura of Andy's personal facet, in the final scenes, when an Andy impostor performs Gloria Gaynor's I WILL SURVIVE as Tony Clifton, at one time, we are all being tricked into believe the real Andy is still breathing the same air of ours, then the frame majestically pans through Lynne, George and Bob, suggests otherwise without unmasking the subject, such a class act ending.
Despite that some of the farces are too passé to appreciate nowadays, the film doesn't feel far-fetched in its nitty-gritty and it does arouse some stinging thoughts about how we perceive to be entertained from the showbiz, if only Andy could have lived longer to stand the test of time, is he a true legend in modulating the general taste of the mass or a shooting-star cannot prevent his ego from wearing out his routine antics.
Amid its unanticipated parade into this year's Oscar race (6
nominations including BEST PICTURE and BEST LEADING ACTOR) as an
extremely late contender, and more astonishingly, its domestic
box-office outburst since last week, Mr. Eastwood's biography of Chris
Kyle, the most prolific Navy SEAL sniper, arrives to the fore in Egypt.
The film stirs a massive controversy in the states albeit it has achieved a career peak for the octogenarian film legend, as there is a pungent odor of jingoism permeating the narrative, particularly centers on its defamatory depiction of Muslin race in the Iraqi war zone, what is exacerbating is that under the current international circumstances, it doesn't help to dissipate the acute prejudice in the stateside, pitifully, Eastwood could not been more open-minded in his well-executed anti-war drama.
Conspicuously, this film is relentlessly sending an ant-war message from A to Z, but it could be shallowly misread as a bias propaganda simply because the whole perspective is from the slant of Americans, how perilous the front-line is, how the inner struggle comes to pester his conscience when Kyle (Cooper) is facing menaces from suicidal children and women, how devastating when the casualty befalls on your teammate, etc, while mistreating the middle east counterpart as canon fodder or barbarous murders (even towards their own kind).
Back to home, Kyle (Cooper)'s PTSD symptoms are zoomed in on empathetically, from his withdrawn numbness stiffly obstructing a normal communication with his wife Taya (Miller), to his fitful violent behavior due to his hallucination or an aggressive paranoid towards the quotidian life, Kyle's hero-status is not a desirable one, when praised by a young veteran (a delightful cameo from Jonathan Groff), whose life he once saved, Kyle's robotic reaction potently suggests that it means nothing to him, even though he proudly proclaims that saving lives is the noble cause for his actions.
Indeed, if one can discard the miasma of racial disrespect (frankly speaking, a very difficult task to pull off), Eastwood has made quite an engaging film to behold, the incontrovertible grip to his brainchild can be traced seamlessly through the horizon-widening hovering shots by DP Tom Stern, the stifling sound department throughout the taut action sequences, the life-or-death suspense within one trigger by its swift editing and an end-game retreat in a lifelike sand storm.
Bradley Cooper gives a formidable performance here, a sea change in his physique is too evident to ignore, but Kyle's elusive persona doesn't proffer too much Oscar-worthy moments for his, we can only assume that Academy is still in the honeymoon period with him, three nominations in a row is an overachiever (especially considering the über- competitive candidates this year) which seems to boomerang within certain time (as the case for my ginger goddess Amy Adams). Sienna Miller, whose career has been in the stagnant water for years, certainly receives a stimulating boost this year, after a small part in another Oscar-hopeful FOXCATCHER (2014), her role as a supportive wife pans out convincingly without any bells and whistles to enliven Taya to be a character with any noteworthy novelty, only to testify she has honed up her acting chops and can shoulder on some more challenging projects now.
American SNIPER cannot evade to be compared with Kathryn Bigelow's THE HURT LOCKER (2008, 8/10), which is far more humane and non judgmental in its integrity. Theoretically it could have been a top dog in its game, but Eastwood's right-wing stand does taint its wholesome awesomeness, however as far as profit is concerned, we onlookers should not bark at the moon, it certainly eclipses everybody's expectations, there is no losers in this round, notwithstanding that it is a shade pathetic the sensation falls upon this ill-devised picture.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A cinema-going in Shanghai with my cousin, who handpicks this comedy
sequel for solace because she has freshly gotten out of a tormenting
tug-of-war between her parents and her boyfriend, so I dare not to
A five-year gap between the third venture and its predecessor NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN (2009, 5/10) not-so-subtly signifies Twentieth Century Fox's confidence of this money-grubbing family fare is not too strong, or maybe star Ben Stiller's ballooning check is too taxing to meet, anyway, its domestic box-office has been considered a minor misfire ($108 millions income Vs. $127 millions budget after 5 weeks), which may suggest that 3 is always a perfect number for a franchise's retirement.
The prologue in Egypt does whip up a bit expectation although the subheading SECRET OF THE TOMB implies that it should not been a surprise at all. With five co-writers billed, the story super-conveniently exploits the origin of the Tablet of Ahkmenrah (not to mention the final solution of its portentous corroding is also super-featherbrained, spoiler alert! we have only one moon, is there any need of globe-trotting?), while not tracing back to the middle east domain, we are forcibly brought to London, and the old same gimmick is put into full- throttle action, e.g. the action piece inside Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher's iconic painting Relativity, the topical gay undertone between Jedediah (Wilson) and Octavius (Coogan), and the scene-stealing stunt by Crystal the Monkey, et al. But the impact is meager, the additions of Rebel Wilson as Tilly, the female equivalent of Larry (Stiller) in the British Museum, is a real hoot, and Dan Stevens as Sir Lancelot, guarantees his chivalry stereotype with some insipid friend-or-foe baloney (with a melting nose-job), it is just depressing to find out that Steven chooses this role as his Hollywood stepping-stone and leaves all his DOWNTON ABBEY devotees weeping for his departure, he should fire his agent instantly!
Essentially in a more solemn air, one might be emotional to witness two last performances from the late Robin Williams and Mickey Rooney, and delightfully notice that Dick Van Dyke still can boogie in his late-80s. Apart from that, the film is a nondescript throwaway from Hollywood's standard assembly-line, even at its length of 90 minutes, there is inconvenient moment when one can perceivably notice that it has overstayed its welcome, and I'm not just referring to the overlong inter-specific kiss between Larry and the monkey.
It was supposedly a comeback vehicle for Grace Kelly, instead it became
Tippi Hedren's follow-up after her star-turning debut in THE BIRDS
(1963), MARNIE is unwieldily posited as a less influential psychiatric
drama amidst Hitchcock's copious oeuvre.
Marnie (Hedren). an incorrigible thief and a gorgeous blonde, she applies for the secretary in a firm, then patiently awaits an opportunity to acquire the key to the room where safe is situated and the combination of safe codes, steals the cash and absconds. Thus as a thief, Marnie is a lone she-wolf, self-reliant, cannot tolerate to be handled by man, but as we can easily forecast, it is not a very promising vocation for her since her larcenous skill is rather rudimentary and unsustainable in a long run. Moreover, she is entrenched in her own past trauma, descends into a damsel-in-distress, waiting to be rescued by an omnipotent man, a young and wealthy entrepreneur-cum-widower Mark Rutland (Connery), whose company she is currently working in, after being meshed into a hasty marriage, Marnie's frigidity takes its toll and prompts Mark to scrutinise into Marnie's troubled memory of her childhood and the eccentric relation between Marnie and her mother Bernice (Latham).
Almost Inclusively tracking the story from a female's perspective, more than ever, the film's whiff of male chauvinism is too intimidating to identify with, the original source of Marnie's downfall derives from a wicked man's inappropriate behaviour, yet the ultimate messiah is also a man, an impeccable lover who is all respectful to her unreasonable tantrum and never has one single moment of giving her up. The writers are maximally fantasising a world is all too perfect from a pure macho view.
Technically, MARNIE continues to showcase Hitchcock's potency in cinematic composure, the most indelible case is the masterful diptych shot divided by a wall when Marnie is studiously in the heat of her bold thievery, simultaneously at the other side of the wall, a cleaner lady is mopping the floor towards the foreground, this scene gives spectators the immediacy of the danger while our heroine is deceptively unknown of, what a master of suspense! From the tentative indications of gladiolus and red ink to the dramatic implementation of the splashes of crimson, viewers are involuntarily diverted into Marnie's unsaid past, only the revelation arrives belatedly after a two-hour tepid melodrama, the satisfaction becomes underwhelming.
Nevertheless, Tippi Hedren is astonishingly compelling as Marnie, perhaps the most compound heroine among Hitchcock's cluster of blondes, although she never break free of the victim typecast, Hedren is fearless, inputs her integrity all through the wayward contexts of Marnie's plight. The square-jawed Connery, against his Scottish origin, plays an American scion with not-unpleasant hubris, swanks with his sex appeal and larger-than-life kindheartedness, "It's horrible I know, but I do love you", sounds surreal as well as irresistible. Diane Baker, sports a young Audrey Hepburn flair, is fiercely prominent as Mark's sister-in-law, but Hitchcock chooses not to intensify her duty with more venom to secrete.
Unyieldingly heightened by Bernard Herrmann's overpowering score, MARNIE is an accomplished drama with an enticing twist, but certainly fades into the background along with Hitchcock's more esteemed paragons, having said that, it contains probably the most intrepid female performance ever among his cannon, which is also quite something to boost about not just judging on its own merits.
Released in 1983, PAULINE AT THE BEACH is the third picture of Rohmer's
"Comedies and Proverbs" series (6 in total, started with THE AVIATOR'S
WIFE 1981, 8/10). The titular Pauline (Langlet) is attended by her
elder cousin Marion (Dombasle), to stay in their family's vacation home
on the north-western coast of France. They are two gorgeous beauties
with gaping disparity, Pauline is a 15-year-old teenager, has a darker
bob cut while Marion is a model-shaped blonde and just sets herself
free from a failed marriage.
On the beach, soon they attract the attention of Marion's old flame Pierre (Greggory) and a single father Henri (Atkine), their contrast is plain to see too, Pierre is a windsurfing coach, younger and more handsome, while Henri is a bit bald, ordinary-looking. Henri invites all to dinner and they discuss about love, Rohmer effortlessly compresses their different philosophy in the conversation, Pierre is the one who lives on hope, contests in a more traditional value of love and morality, demands devotion wholeheartedly; Henri, on the contrary, is a rootless hedonist, affectionate but leaves no strings attached. For Marion, she believes love at first sight, the spontaneous sex appeal can drive her up in flames, however it should also be reciprocal, and in her case, she is quite confident since she is the paradigm of a perfect lover for any heterosexual man. Finally, Pauline, who by far hasn't foray into the territory apart from some puppy love, surprisingly has her own stance on the subject matter - you must know people to love them, not judging the book by its page, her precociousness strikes as a stunner.
That same night, Marion becomes the one who takes the move, not to the besotted Pierre, but the rather unappealing Henri, their chemistry blazes passionately, but Pierre doesn't intend to capitulate, his pursuit to Marion is as relentless as his repulsion to Henri. Pauline suggests Pierre is a more befitting match for Marion, and Marion proposes with the same thought, Pierre is the perfect choice for Pauline to spice up her adolescence. The upshot is the poor Pierre ends up in the friend zones of both. Pauline dates a local boy Sylvain (de la Brosse) around her age, and Henri hooks up with Louisette (Rosette), a snack-peddler on the beach, when Marion and Pauline are out visiting Mont Saint-Michel. He also fabricates a perfect lie to cover the story when Marion returns unexpectedly, leaving Sylvain as the fall guy.
Anyhow in Rohmer's cinema world, there is no place for melodrama, the lie will unravel in its due course, but there is no undoing for Henri, he is the one can take flight at any moment, for him, it is a white lie with the best intention without hurting Marion's feeling (although it does put Pauline and Sylvian's relationship under the strain). Atkine deftly leavens his part with a full-on composure, downplays his libido-driven lust and convincingly gives the lecture to Pauline about how he really feels for Marion. Greggory manages to balance Pierre's impeachable standing and behavior with his pesky bluntness to the extent where Rohmer asks for, one could rationally concur with his standpoints, yet, in the end of the day, he slips to be the most unlikeable character in the story, while the most admirable one is Rosette's Louisette, sky is the limit for her.
Dombasle is a bombshell in her pinnacle, but not an insipid one, she generously presents the whole spectrum of Marion's desire, fantasy and despondency. Langlet varnishes Pauline with her primary color, at first being upstaged by others, slowly her learning-curve of adulthood becomes the cornerstone of the film, at the final scene, which works magnificently in concert with the opening one, Marion might be the same, Pauline definitely acquire some nitty-gritty from her short stay, about both men and women, but can she excel in her upcoming adulthood? There is a bigger picture left unsaid, we are all indebted to Rohmer's mastery and grateful to the treasure trove he bequeathed to us, which is worth discovering and revisiting from time to time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
With its opening long shot panning above numerous estates in Rhode
Island, REVERSAL OF FORTUNE inks a plaintive sentiment to this morally
ambiguous true story, the case of socialite Sunny von Bülow (Close),
who descends into an unexplained brain-dead coma in the 1980, and her
current husband, Claus von Bülow (Irons) is charged with attempted
murder by an overdose of insulin injection. Against all the odds to his
trial, Claus hires Alan Dershowitz (Silver) as his defence and
eventually gets away with the indictment while the truth remains a moot
point. In real life Sunny died in 2008 after almost 28 years as a human
vegetable and Alan would be involved as an appellate adviser in another
notorious case of O.J. Simpson.
Adapted by Nicholas Kazan from Dershowitz's 1985 book REVERSAL OF FORTUNE: INSIDE THE VON BÜLOW CASE, the film is directed by Franco-Swiss director Barbet Schroeder as the follow-up of BARFLY (1987), when he firstly took a stab in Hollywood. Overall, the film garners 3 Oscar nominations including BEST DIRECTOR for Schroeder and ADAPTED SCREENPLAY for Kazan, plus a substantial win for Irons in the BEST LEADING ACTOR race. So, let's discuss Irons' performance first, wearing a bald wig, Irons' Claus establishes his ambiguity through his Englishman suaveness (from both his style of intonation and vague slyness in his demeanour) and an outward moral superiority. It is a perfect exemplar of his screen persona, fragilely lithe, intelligently elusive, and poisonously charming. In my book, he completes a more demanding and inspiring work in Cronenberg's DEAD RINGERS (1988, 7/10), but I have no qualm of his victory, however, it is patent that alongside a fertile career-path, he hasn't been invited back for another nomination since, which may partially bespeaks that the academy reckons his win is quite enough to acknowledge his versatility in a generous gesture.
A much more perplexing case here is Glenn Close, who was on a hot streak in the 80s and conquered 5 Oscar nominations in 7 years, is completed snubbed here, one possible reason is the category misplacement, because Close is first-billed, thus she might be considered as a lead, however her screen-time is massively less than Irons and Silver (a very coincidental admixture), but she is superb as the rich woman who has nothing to live for, cannot be satisfied sexually and emotionally by her distant husband, stranded in the shore of aberrant medication, while Close manages to squeeze compassion out of the audience, simultaneously, her Sunny is a monstrous pain-in-the-neck to be around, Close influences great driving force for the film, not the least as the solemn voice-over narrating the story in a flashback structure, which brings about a verisimilitude of an uncanny experience where Sunny is coming back from her vegetative state. She is my current win in supporting actress race if there was any justice for her hallow prestige and consistent caliber.
Ron Silver as Alan himself, represents a more mundane facade on the case - the legal activity, although his supposedly dialectical speech can barely be convincing when one of his student Minnie (a young Felicity Huffman) threats to quit because she thinks Claus is not innocent and they should not defence the perpetrator, since it is impossible to erase the whiff of money-grubbing in the process, so within all his movements, at least one part serves as a justification for a more self-seeking cause, which is the sad reality of the legislative system, not so far away in Satan's service. Performance-wise, Silver and Sciorra (as his fellow college Sarah) are a far cry from the elite group of Irons and Close, in any rate, viewers are not interested in their stories at all.
In hindsight, the film is an adamant advocate in defying our conception of "seeking the truth", truth only exists in those who are personally experienced in the particular event, as for outsiders, for the most part, we cannot get an unmitigated version of truth or whatsoever. Let's just forget the fanciful obsession and instead, try to reconcile with the world in a more pliable perspective, that is the spirit!
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