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What a lovely film!
Sometimes I can see why someone would "hate" a film that I love. This time I just don't see why anyone would dislike this film.
It's a simple, unpretentious, lovely film. I've recommended it to several people (male and female) and they've all loved it.
The soundtrack's lyrics hint at a very different film, with more of the predictable sex/possessiveness/anger/painful character arc thing that we usually see, and perhaps people are missing when they criticize this film.
I found it refreshing NOT to see those things, to know perhaps that a decision is wrenching but without the melodrama. And even more refreshing is a script that never once beats us on the head with information, but lets us "hear" the characters not only in the songs (in fact the lyrics are not "on the nose" as they generally are in musicals but instead simply add nuance, flavoring the script) but in what they don't say, and in the choices they make without exposition and explanation.
I didn't notice any of the technical flaws people have mentioned. Any lack of "polish" in the camera work only added a hint of realism to me, as if it were my eyes instead of the camera watching this vignette, as a warmly invited guest. Little time is spent showing us unnecessary views of the city, or vistas to long after. It could be anywhere in the world, because the world is reduced, for a few days, to what's important to these two people, and we fall for them as they fall for one another.
The film does have an ending, it's not left up in the air (contrary to some comments here) - but it may not be the one everyone wishes for, or has been conditioned to expect.
More than one person, including folks commenting here, have said the same thing: What a lovely film . . .
Red Road (2006)
Excellent, challenging film
I at first reserved comment on this film, sat with it as it settled in and began to resonate.
Red Road is a challenging film on several levels. It requires us to pay attention; it doesn't hit us on the head with flashbacks or expository "on the nose" dialog. Instead the script is frugal, casually exacting, and the discovery is in the subtext rather than "what's on screen".
When we first meet Jackie, all we see is a head and shoulders, hands manipulating the CCTV cameras so she can get a better look at the nefarious goings on she is trained to know what's worth looking at and what she can let go.
Jackie remains rather disembodied throughout much of the film - even during sex it seems she's not really connected to anything below her neck, including her heart. She's passive, running away from even the slightest emotional exchange.
Except for Clyde. Clyde changes everything. She loses perspective and we follow along with her, despising Clyde because she does. Everything he does looks vaguely criminal because we see him through Jackie's tainted eyes.
But again we are challenged to see Clyde (and other characters) as layered individuals. The waste-nothing script gives us insight into their motivations sure, it could have had some sort of perversion or "twisty" ending, but the point really is that sometimes what looks strange and frightening on the surface is actually benign and familiar on a deeper, more personal level.
A lot has been said here about the sex scene, which is pretty explicit, although only one scene. But it is the pivotal scene in the film. In order to insinuate herself into Clyde's world, she has to engage with him in a way she's been avoiding with anyone. But she ends up letting go completely, more than she "has" to. And in doing so she not only accesses her pain and anger, but remembers her body and its need for nurturing, remembers her heart and her compassion, and begins to see Clyde in three dimensions for the first time. As do we.
I did have a problem with the police aspect of it, because here in the states what Jackie put into motion would not have been stopped just because she decided not to press the issue.
The success of a quiet story like Red Road, sans neon "American-style" exposition, exists largely in the way the characters are brought to us by the actors. Kate Dickie and Tony Curran are excellent, and it's nice to see the underrated Mr. Curran in a lead role, and not invisible, quickly dead or, uh, undead.
The Riches (2007)
So NOT a disappointment
Sometimes I'm not sure people are watching the same show as I am. (I posted this elsewhere also.) First, the accents were perfectly fine, and could only be distracting to someone who is holding their breath waiting for these darned English actors to sound, ya know, like they're English. They didn't.
Second, I fell in love with this family. Each character has layers of nuance, down to every kid. Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver tell us more in a couple seconds of silence than any 10 minutes of dialog in most other TV shows. A simple touch on the wall where the youngest boy has drawn his grief and fear and love . . .
I want to see how they deal with this. There is a wealth of "riches" in the concept that we're all a bunch of con artists in our own way, and who's to say who deserves the "American Dream" and who doesn't? These guys defy the stereotypes, the careless grifters, laughing gypsies. Driver's character is tormented; the Travelers have a code of honor that her beloved husband has broken - and she's already in full crisis mode - but she loves him so dearly, and in his own way he's purer of heart than a lot of snakes out there. So who's the bull**** artist in this new town?
What in the heck show were you watching? I saw brilliant - BRILLIANT - acting, a luscious script filled with nuance and subtext, excellent use of visuals to convey the story.
Oscar nominated Minnie Driver did not need to be redeemed. She's always been an excellent actress, and both she and Eddie acted circles around anyone last night. The supporting cast, especially the kids, were excellent. In fact, the casting is spot on in general.
If you came looking for broad comedy (no pun intended . . .) you won't find it here. But there is humor, and pathos, and emotion and heart, and you will laugh, if sometimes at the irony (for example, Dahlia trying to hide her illegal drug use from a neighbor who, seeing her in distress, proceeds to offer her prescription drugs).
The show hides these surprising, delicious little chocolate bits throughout, in the script, in pieces of scenes that seem to be there casually but are not, in the actors' faces. It keeps you a bit off kilter, wanting to be horrified but instead transfixed, rooting for the least worst lying sacks of crap, forgiving the Malloys for being honestly greedy and falsely friendly almost more easily than we forgive the man with the heart of a poet who genuinely tries to fit in with the neighborhood sharks. Almost as easily as we forgive ourselves for the games we play in pursuit of the American dream . . .
I have to see this movie again!
I was looking at the Emmy nominations for 2005 and saw The Wool Cap and the name Gigot. I had to look it up to see if it was the same story - because although I haven't seen this movie since I was probably 10 or even younger, it remains one of my favorite films.
I am moved to tears at the memory of this film. Jackie Gleason as the gentle giant Gigot - one of the best performances I've ever seen. His relationship with the little girl is lush and expressive without words. He loves her so much your heart aches watching it.
Someone wrote "You HAVE to see this movie!" Agreed. And I HAVE to see it again.
That I can remember this film from so long ago is a testament to its emotional punch. It's a sweet and touching film.
Coming Home (1978)
Even more poignant now
I'd seen this movie a couple of times, the first time in the theater when it came out.
At that time, it seemed we'd learned a lesson about war. Viet Nam was over.
So watching it again last night was even more poignant - did we really learn anything, back then? I don't think this is a heavily politicized movie, although it doesn't really show any positive effects of war, doesn't say anything positive about fighting in Viet Nam. How could it, really? They had the recruiter speaking at the high school, about duty and honor and serving the country, all true. But could he say, about Viet Nam, that we "won" or "freed" anyone?
So showing an unflinching catalog of the aftermath of battle becomes anti-war, simply because war is horrible. Very little dialog is devoted to telling us war is wrong. We can decide for ourselves based on what we see.
Another comment says this: "One could actually describe the film as the 1970s' answer to William Wyler's The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). " That's an excellent point. Nothing was said in "Best Years" (one of my favorite movies) that was anti-war. In fact, there is a scene in that film where the lead characters get in a fist fight with a man who says the war was a mistake. But we still saw the aftermath, the horrible wounds inflicted, the PTSD that they called "shell shock" back then, the disruption in home life, the difficulty resuming life at home. The film manages to tell the truth about war (up to a point) without being "anti-war".
Fonda's character does not become politicized. She wakes up to a certain extent but never takes a side on the issue. She supports her husband and hurts when he hurts. She supports Voight's character and hurts when he hurts. She's compassionate with the soldiers she encounters at her job. She never comments on whether Viet Nam was right or wrong. She only reacts to the pain she sees around her. Taking off her bra and letting her hair curl again, dressing like a hippy, aren't political statements about war. That was just the end of the 50's/early 60's mentality she'd been living under.
Dern's character doesn't have a lot of screen time but what he does have is riveting. He's tormented. He has no opinion about whether "the" war is right or wrong, only that "war" is awful.
People can say what they want about Fonda, but she plays this one pretty close to the vest. Her character never says "Gee, we shouldn't have gone to Viet Nam." She reacts with compassion, not judgment or recrimination.
I don't necessarily like Fonda in most films, but her turn in this one is excellent. Voight and Dern are likewise excellent, making us feel the confusion, anger and pain of their characters.
A classic movie that everyone should see.
Ran into this film by accident
This film was on cable TV in Los Angeles. It caught my eye because of the contrast of a very young Hugo Weaving and the man we've seen in later films. The relationship he has with his "housekeeper" had me staring at the t.v., then slowly sitting down engrossed in the film. Only later when he appeared on screen did I even know Russell Crowe was in the film. He, too, was quite young and rather a sweet character, although he's apparently supposed to be a troublemaker. He's very easy with Weaving's character, very kind, but real.
Juxtaposed with the blind photographer having his life recorded in a series of snapshots (that others have to describe to him), is this story being revealed largely through visuals - because he is blind the dialog often has little to do with the activity that is going on around him. We learn more from the non verbal than the verbal. He doesn't have that luxury.
His deadpan (because he has no idea what's going on) is priceless.
*Spoiler* - For example, when he is at the housekeeper's house surrounded by photos of himself - We are dumbstruck; he is clueless. His lack of reaction makes the evidence of her obsession all the more creepy.
In the end, the movie is about trust, and about the risk we take when we trust other people. And about the isolation that we face when we don't.
Agreed - Heart wrenching film
I came upon this film by accident while scouting for Charlotte Rampling films. Ms. Rampling is only in a few scenes, but I was so mesmerized by the rest of the cast that it didn't matter. Someone said that Stellan Skarsgård is "the best actor ever". I can't attest to that since I'm learning via films like this that we don't see the best there is if we don't scour art houses. He does, however, give a performance that would be considered Oscar worthy had the film been more mainstream (i.e. if it had been seen by more people). Skarsgård's acting is unflinching, from inside the character, and technique free. We need to see more of him in lead roles.
The entire cast is excellent. So much of the story is told without words - a towel wrapped around a waist instead of covering breasts, a man secretly observing his daughter's pain, a lover's halting, wordless goodbye, characters' emotions playing subtly across their faces. The story is wrenching.
And in another break from mainstream films, everything isn't tied up neatly in a bow at the end - we are not told what happened "ever after" to these characters. We can decide for ourselves what comes next. We are treated like adults, not told what to think, not overly indulged with explication, not bashed over the head with morals or lessons. Just a study of the dynamics of a family who love each other desperately and who each show it in their own damaged way.
Io non ho paura (2003)
Not Particularly Impressed
First of all, the children in this film are far better actors than any of the adults - Every scene with children alone is excellent, and every scene with adults is almost painful to watch - or perhaps this is really a function of all of the adults being written as two-dimensional characters.
Not to mention that the adults are uniformly unsympathetic, ranging from hateful to weak-willed to simply dull-witted.
The movie does move quite slowly, the child's innocence and trust in his parents - leading to inaction - eventually becoming grating and frustrating. Yet he ends up being heroic, as does the young victim of the greed and viciousness of the adults.
Frankly, the movie made me angry. Perhaps this is a sign of a good movie - its ability to engender emotions in the viewer. But it was difficult to tell if the anger was at what happened in the story or at the writer for the plodding, uneven pacing and then "blasting" us with a story that likewise pisses us off.
The movie could have had a real menacing undercurrent, but the emotions for the most part remain on the surface. It reminds me of one of those crummy TV ads where the music doesn't sync and seems too quiet and rather removed - the emotional content is too quiet, too removed (sometimes all but silent) for what is happening on the screen.
Agreed that in the end the plot is interesting and the final scene was moving - but again, except for the kids, rather lacking in any passion, so not as moving as it could have been.
Ha-Asonot Shel Nina (2003)
Lovely Little Film
I was recommending this film to a friend this morning, but had to carefully avoid mentioned the "teenage peeping tom" aspect of the plot. It's difficult to imagine peeping toms and exhibitionists as being sympathetic, but this movie does imagine them that way.
I have to agree with the above assessment: "fully-rounded characters, a tight script and a uniformly excellent cast." The acting is excellent and effortless, the characters unique and well defined, and all of the characters, even the more "minor" ones, are interesting and compelling.
This movie could have been all kinds of farce, but instead deftly expresses the depth and complexity of the characters' emotions in the face of some really strange goings on - and in the face of tragedy, pain, love and loss.
Ayelet Zurer has us immediately engaged with and caring about Nina. I look forward to seeing more of her work.
Very moving film.
La meglio gioventù (2003)
It's hard not to feel like an "easy" grader to give this film a 10, given that it is the very simple story of a family over 4 decades, no quirky writing or the eccentricities of "indie" films - just beautiful scenery, characters that move us and that we care about, and a sweet and believable story. The acting is excellent.
To say this is a miniseries is misleading and adds the impression of a "cheese" factor that is not present. There is a reason that this film has been taken from the small screen and released in theaters - I didn't even know it had been a miniseries until I read some of the comments here.
The story is simple but it is not trite; we may not have a huge number of surprises and no amazing plot twists and contortions but it is an emotional, moving, satisfying story.
The most moving part of the story is the love and connectedness between the characters, and how this is expressed - here in the U.S. physical display of platonic affection is virtually non-existent, unless you count athletes hitting each other on the rear. You can tell these characters really care for each other.
I sat for the second three hours today with people who sat through the first three hours with me yesterday. Some yesterday just got back in line for part 2. There was a line waiting to get in today - all people who had seen part 1 already.
Saying this movie is like Zelig as someone here did is false and insulting. We couldn't tell a story about a U.S. family that spans the 60's to the present without mentioning Viet Nam or Watergate or 9/11, so this story of course mentions events internal to Italy during that time. The historical events are a backdrop to the story, not the story itself.
The story is about this family, and we care about what happens to them. We become engaged, we sit and watch and laugh and cry with them. That's what movies are supposed to do.