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Casanova is an exuberant, funny film with a clever plot, quality acting, witty dialogue, action, and of course, romance. Of special note are delightful turns by Jeremy Irons as the dastardly Inquisitor and Oliver Platt as a hilarious, bumbling lard merchant. The lush Venetian location shooting and charming soundtrack also add considerably to its appeal. I found Casanova great fun to watch and well worth repeat viewing. It's too bad it didn't get more attention when it was released at the end of 2005 and I feel it deserves a higher ranking on IMDb. But then I am a sucker for well-made, light-hearted movies that exist purely for the sake of entertainment, and that is exactly what Casanova is.
Unmistaken Child (2008)
Interesting, raises questions
I am a practising Tibetan Buddhist and take seriously the teachings of reincarnation, including the existence of 'tulkus', children who are the reincarnation of enlightened masters who have chosen to return to the world to continue to help other beings. Naturally, I was drawn to this film.
However, that does not mean I do not have criticisms of the tulku system, and Unmistaken Child does not flinch from showing all sides of the issue. Taking a child away from his parents at three years of age is a highly questionable act in my opinion, and it is clear that the parents have no real say in the matter. The monk is a very kind and faithful person but also seems to be kind of unbalanced from grief and his search borders on obsessive. The tulku certification process also seems too vulnerable to subtle manipulation and cues by the people who really want the child to be the reincarnation of the deceased master.
But to the film's great credit, it does not attempt to take sides, presenting a very different way of life, reality, and set of values than ours, and it is important to question the automatic assumption many of us make that our culture is inherently superior to others.
The cinematography is also outstanding and the landscape of the Himilayas truly stunning. The depiction of the peasant's way of life, virtually unchanged for centuries, is remarkable and an important cultural document as this lifestyle vanishes from much of the rest of the earth.
The Grey Zone (2001)
Extremely disturbing film, and yet...
I had a hard time getting to sleep after watching The Grey Zone. It is the darkest film I have ever seen. It is a stark contrast to Schindler's List in the fact that it is focused on the experience of the great majority of the people who were sent to the death camps and died. Nobody helped them. It is also raw in its presentation of the gas chambers, crematoria and the Sonderkommandos, Jews who volunteered to do the dirty work of processing the people who arrived at the camps and then their dead bodies afterwards in exchange for a few more months of life.
That takes nothing away from the extraordinary Schindler's List, as it is very important to show the deeds of people like Oskar Schindler. His story and the story of many others like him is also true. In my opinion watching both films makes for an effective portrayal of the Holocaust on film, and an exploration of the nature of evil and humanity.
Although the Grey Zone is a bleak story of utter human depravity, the darkness is not total. In an extraordinary turn of events that actually happened in October 1944, the very people who at first abandoned their morality to keep themselves alive threw the Nazis' deal back in their faces and sacrificed themselves, taking a part of the Auschwitz death factory with them. Their actions suggest that even though it flickers, the eternal flame that makes us greater than what we may appear to be is always present within.