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intriguing blend of obsession, sibling rivalry and magical realism
I saw this today as part of the Alliance Francais film festival in Brisbane.
While not Ozon's best effort (for me Swimming Pool remains his masterpiece) this is an intriguing whimsical story with disturbing undertones of obsession and sibling rivalry.
The story really makes most sense when considered from Lisa's point of view (a powerhouse performance by the young actress here). I took the fantasy aspect of the story to be a metaphorical expression of integrating new members into a tightly knit family of two (and not just Ricky either). This magical realism is very strongly grounded in the emotions of the characters and this is what gives the movie impact in spite of its imperfections. Ozon likes operating on the boundary of fact/fiction mind/reality, and takes huge gambles here which don't always come off--but in the moments they do the film is very satisfying.
The Lovely Bones (2009)
Thoughtful, spiritual and visually beautiful film
I saw this tonight in spite of the negative reviews that have been pouring out on various forums.
Scratching my head to try and understand the vituperation against this movie, which seems to be for two main reasons:
1) Peter Jackson chose not to include the rape scene on screen.
2) Apparently there was too much CGI used to convey Susie's spiritual experience of the 'in between'.
Before I go further I'll make it quite clear that I feel this is neither a perfect film nor Jackson's best work. It's obvious Mark Wahlberg's part has been edited down and I can't help wishing Gosling had been able to stay on in the role of the father. He would have brought an emotional depth to the role which Wahlberg lacks. However, in the scenes that were included I didn't have a major issue with Wahlberg's performance. The rest of the cast were very good, except for the girl who played Holly who was not a particularly good actor.
People claim that Jackson has dishonored Sebold's novel by choosing not to show Susie's violation and death explicitly on screen. I think the opposite. Jackson has understood that whatever he tried to film would be inadequate to convey the horror of such an intensely personal violation. Those who have read Sebold's novel will no doubt remember that while she makes it clear what has happened--most of it is expressed by suggestion and metaphor rather than blow by blow descriptions. Jackson, in my view, rightly felt not only that we do not need to see blow by blow details but was perhaps concerned that from a victim's point of view it might actually be disrespectful to try and do so? I'm not trying to speak for anyone, just batting around ideas.
As for too much CGI; for me this was not an issue at all. Jackson has a terrific visual imagination and this greatly enhanced and helped to convey Susie's struggle to come to terms with what had happened.
Perhaps Jackson's purposes in making this film simply did not match the majority of viewers' expectations. However, even when his movies don't totally work, for me they are never boring.
Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
walks an emotional tightrope with astonishing finesse
This is not a perfect movie--and may be too uncynical about ourselves and our world for the taste of some.
For me, however it was an unqualified pleasure to see a director, screen writer and cast bring a story to the screen that could have gone horribly wrong in any number of excruciating ways, and actually pull it off.
Nine actors out of ten would have run a mile from playing Lars, and wisely so, as Ebert points out. Thank goodness for Gosling's willingness to take the risk--the result is a performance which is a study in the art of understated acting. The effortless grace with which Gosling inhabits the role makes it seem a deceptively simple accomplishment--in reality it is anything but; Lars could easily have become pathetic, ludicrous, or irritating. Gosling balances between comedy and pathos with the skill of a tight-rope artist and never falls off the edge.
See this film if you like movies that are different and ambitious--in this case recklessly so, but the risk pays off handsomely in my view.
The Dead Girl (2006)
one of the best US films released in Australia this year
Since Reign Over Me, this film has, in my opinion, been the best non mainstream American feature film to be released in Australia.
The five stories are in some cases only loosely connected; it is clear, though, that each of the women featured, the stranger, sister, wife, and mother, like the 'dead girl' of the title are also in some sense dead. Her death sparks a new lease of life for each of these other women, in different ways. It seems there are a lot of women walking around who might as well be dead, and the movie is rather scathing about the possibility of positive relationships between men and women, choosing rather to focus on women's relationships with each other and the things that damage them psychologically. Very thought provoking stuff.
Best Australian Crime thriller since "Two Hands"
I thought this movie was exceedingly well written, plotted and acted, without trying to explain everything or tie up everything at the end. The characters were engaging, and the performances convincing.
The cinematography, music, sound effects and other elements of the movie all come together to enhance the way the story unfolds for the viewer.
As is characteristic of "Two Hands" (the film I see as its predecessor in many ways), this movie is able to examine some very painful subjects and situations yet interlace this with moments of genuine humour. You wouldn't think it would work, but somehow it does.
Some viewers may be a teeny bit frustrated by the ending, but I won't say any more than that.
A much better film than the recent "Solo"; I am very interested in any future work that Matthew Saville may do.
Half Nelson (2006)
This is what movie making should be about
I was one of the lucky ones to get a free ticket to a preview of this film prior to its release in Australia
As far as I'm concerned, out of the five performances nominated for best actor this year, wonderful though Forrest Whittaker was, Ryan Gosling's performance blows Whittaker's right out of the water. Very hard call between Gosling in this film and Peter O'Toole in Venus in terms of outstanding acting in a difficult and provocative role.
Particularly amazing scenes include the moment when Drey, the young student first finds Dan in the female toilets at the school, shaky and on the verge of collapse from drug use.
Another is when he attempts to tell Frank, a local dealer, to stay away from Drey.
For me the emotional centre of the film comes at the moment when Drey walks in on one of Dan's 'rave' parties and they look at each other for a brief moment as the money changes hands. So much is communicated without the use of a single word.
Dan's speech about the dichotomies evident in Western thinking and the East's ability to accept paradox, imperfection and contradiction seems to encapsulate what the movie is trying to say.
Nevertheless this film is fearless about leaving all kinds of things unresolved at the end of the story, and it works because the screenplay is excellent.
Wish the Americans would make more movies of this kind--provocative, thought provoking stories about real people living real lives will always find an audience.
Little Children (2006)
Who are the real adults?
This film is delicately crafted, intelligent and thought provoking.
As the title suggests, the story involves children, but not in any conventional sense. A common modern reality is explored: there are many so called adults in the world who have never crossed the bridge of thirteen in their emotional lives.
This movie also poses a number of painful questions to the viewer.
What factors do each of us have in our lives that hinder us from maturing? What things help us to mature? Why does the current generation have much more difficulty taking on adult responsibility than previous generations? Finally, who are the real adults? Are children as immature as is commonly thought. This story suggests not.
From the opening shot to the final frame, a great deal of care has gone into the making of this film. As a result, it is a true delight to watch.
Stranger Than Fiction (2006)
death and taxes...
Being a huge Emma Thompson fan, I decided I had to see this one. I wasn't disappointed. Will Ferrell does very well in a part that's more serious than the roles he usually tackles, and Maggie Gyllenhall and Dustin Hoffman clearly enjoy their roles.
A movie that reflects on all sorts of issues--isn't real life almost always stranger than fiction? Why is it that we expect a story to be a comedy or a tragedy? And why is it that people seem to think they can get out of dying someday, whenever or however it happens. Overall, this is an interesting interpretation of the Benjamin Franklin quote that death and taxes are the only things that are certain in life.
For those who like movies that are funny and intelligent.
Marie Antoinette (2006)
French Court a la Hollywood
Sofia Coppola has produced another interesting and enjoyable offering, though her best effort for me remains "Lost in Translation" Marie-Antoinette displays her usual masterly creation of atmosphere--a world so artificial it is difficult to be convinced of its reality. Yet don't we see such a reality every day around us, in Hollywood? In the end I think Coppola suggests that the public's image of Marie Antoinette and the disjunction between their image of her and the real person is just as great as that of actors who achieve fame in Hollywood and become grist for the rumour mill.
If you like movies with lots of action, Coppola is not the director for you. If you're drawn to thoughtful movies that rely more on the creation of atmosphere and development of character, you will enjoy this movie.
La tigre e la neve (2005)
Give this one a go
Despite the critics' uncertainties about this one, and despite the fact that it isn't as brilliant a film as "Life is Beautiful" this one is still definitely worth watching. Benigni gives a genuinely compassionate performance; his humour heightens the effect of the pathos rather than detracting from it. I also enjoyed the fact that everything is not tied up in a neat little bow at the end, although you can guess at what will probably happen.
For some people, Benigni may be too over the top; for others this very exuberance will make them smile. If anything in this movie he has matured as a performer; the serious scenes are well done and believable throughout.
Shame if this one dies due to mixed reviews; its certainly more enjoyable than your average Hollywood pulp.