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Well made movie, but dark and depressing
Czech film makers seem to prefer dark stories of human misery, weakness, and unhappiness. They make such pictures rather well, but it seems to be the only genre that they produce. This movie is true to this general mold. It's a story of a family that consists of the parents and teenage son and daughter. They seem to be caught in a web of hopelessness and despair, and there is pathetically little in their lives to give them joy. Their problems seem ordinary enough, but it's their attitudes of apathy that predicts that whatever the outcome, they will be unhappy. Only the son finds a brief moment of happiness with a stripper, but the viewer realizes that the boy is too naive to anticipate the course that relationship must take. I can find no fault with the movie other than its depressing message, which seems to be that "life sucks." The acting and the cinematography support well this general premise. The movie is well made and for this reason worth seeing. I just wish it was more upbeat, giving at least a glimmer of a "happy end".
One Last Dance (2003)
For dancers only - does not appeal to the average viewer
This movie was probably meant for a very specific audience, one that I do not belong to. Reading these reviews here, it seems the movie was appreciated by professional dancers. I once considered myself a dance, though certainly not a professional, but I still found this movie very VERY boring. I thought that the star - Patrick Swayze - could carry any movie and could do no wrong. Well, apparently even Patrick Swayze needs some substance to make a movie a hit. I have seen other low budget films and being low budget does not necessarily mean the movie is bad. I don't think low budget is this movie's problem. This movie appeals to a very specific and narrowly defined public. It's definitely not aimed at the "average viewer". If you are not a professional dancer, or one who appreciates their world, you will probably find this movie as boring and soulless as I did.
Le violon rouge (1998)
Did not rise to its potential
I enjoyed historical movies and in general find the life of a priceless antique worth reading about (or watching). I find it amazing that we can know every owner for example of a specific pearl going back several centuries, but most folks know about their own families usually just two generations back. So I thought this movie would be one I would enjoy. I also expected to hear some beautiful violin music. Wrong on both counts. The violin's history seemed too manufactured for the film's sake, not a real logical progression from one owner to another. Some of the major changes of ownership were left to the viewer's imagination and at least in my own case, I was unable to make the leap. The change did not make sense. How did the violin get to be owned by gypsies? How did it get to China? It would have made an interesting story, but where the manufactured history is stretched way beyond anything credible, the change of ownership is simply not explained. While I liked the overall concept of following the life of an object, the music, which I expected to be a major part of this film, was beyond disappointing. I don't play the violin but I can certainly appreciate beautiful music. There was very little "music" per se in this music. The only time anything that could be called "music" was played was some Chinese children's performance and it was made by accordions. The only sounds we heard coming from this supposedly incredibly valuable violin was the endless screeching, and this in spite of the fact that its journey took us through times when some of the most heavenly music on earth had been composed. Not one piece from Mozart, or resembling Mozart's style, had been offered. Just screeching. No music of any of the music's great composers was played at any time. More screeching. The sounds this violin made could have been compared to a cat scratching on a metal roof. That bad. Wonder how many CDs with the soundtrack they managed to sell. That would tell them just how "wonderful" the soundtrack was. The soundtrack was thoroughly modern, something that may be considered all the rage today. The music was probably difficult to play, but there is no sugarcoating it - the music is nothing but screeching. No melody, no rhythm, no emotion. No sweet sounds that leave a person in awe of beauty of sound. So no music, just noise. The ending climax likewise is not really any surprise like it is supposed to be, and most certainly not a shocking surprise, because I thought "the secret" was already implied in the beginning and so it didn't seem like any kind of surprise, at least not to me. If you can stand the noise that passes for a soundtrack, this is not a bad film. It's different. It's not very entertaining, but just the fact that it doesn't follow the standard mold makes it interesting. Best film ever made (as some of the reviews here indicate)? Most definitely not. I am writing this in 2013 (saw the film for the first time yesterday) and the film is all but forgotten today, 15 years after it was made. I happened to pick up an old VHS tape in a second hand store. Otherwise, it's forgotten.
La môme (2007)
A powerful movie in spite of its flaws
I enjoyed this movie immensely, even though I was unaware that it was in French with English subtitles when I bought it. However, I do believe it could only be made in French. I had some French in high school so here and there I caught some words, but would not be able to follow the movie without the subtitles. But because of my high school French classes I knew who Edith Piaf was and the lyrics to several of her songs before watching the movie. I think that's what got me interested and also understanding the lyrics of her songs I believe is an important component of appreciating the songs and her art. For those who do not speak any French, translations are available online. As for the movie itself, the only part I really did not enjoy was the time travel back and forth throughout the movie. I would much prefer a orderly chronological telling of the story. However, other than that, I found it both interesting and enjoyable. The experience left me wanting to learn more about the singer and spend time online looking at videos of her singing, reading more details, etc. I was surprised to learn that many people here have no idea who she was and never heard of any of her songs. For those who fall into this category and have no interest in history, only the here and now, this may not be a good choice. But or those who like to be transported into another time and another life, this true story is certainly gripping. I know it's one of those movies I will enjoy watching over and over again.
Disneyland version of history but still enjoyable to watch
The last of the three Sissi movies continues with the idealized version of her story. Just like in Disneyland, no one ever ages and all ends well. This third film shows events that probably did happen sometime during her 45 years on the Austrian throne, but by now the overall story can only be called fiction. The second movie ended with the coronation of Sissi and Franz Josef as King and Queen of Hungary. That happened in 1867. By that time, Sissi gave birth to three children - Sophie in 1855, Gisela in 1856, and Rudolf in 1858. Her firstborn Sophie died in 1857. A fourth child, a daughter, was born in 1868. Yet this third film, presumably a continuation of the second film, shows the imperial couple visiting Venice, which happened in 1856, and shows only one child, a girl, who appears to be about 4. So the chronology is obviously all wrong here. While the illness she suffers from in this movie is based on fact, Sissie should have aged in the movie about two decades by the time these events were presented. I gave this movie a relatively low mark because of the many historical inaccuracies and omissions. In spite of these shortcomings, I still enjoyed the movie. This third movie includes some breathtaking scenery of the Mediterranean coastline, and the Venice visits appears to have been shot on location. One almost feels like a part of the crowd. Franz Josef likewise seems to be forever young and is not shown with the facial hair that distinguished him for most of his reign. He already sported the beard and mustache by the time he was crowned King of Hungary in 1867, so he should have had the facial hair already by the end of the second movie and throughout the entire third movie. But that would probably spoil the Prince Charming image the film makers were aiming for. This movie should be viewed more as a fairy tale that is loosely based on the life of the imperial Austrian family. It is not an historically accurate portrayal of their life story.
Sissi - Die junge Kaiserin (1956)
Historically inaccurate, but still enjoyable
This is the second film in the Sissi trilogy. Like the first movie Sissi, this continuation is equally idealized, but here the movie actually disregards historical fact so that a more fairy-tale-like storyline can be presented. It is historical fact that by the time Franz Josef and Elizabeth were crowned King and Queen of Hungary in 1867, Elizabeth already gave birth to 3 children and her oldest child, daughter Sophie, had died. These are huge events in the lives of both parents and monarchs. Yet, in the movie, only the oldest daughter had been born, the second born daughter and third born son do not exist, and by the end of the movie no child is ever mentioned. These are serious omissions which can be problematic if the viewer assumes the story as told in the movie is historically accurate. It's not. I have no doubt that some scenes were totally invented - such as the Tyrolean holiday sequence. I realize that film makers of historical drama need to take some liberties since there is no time to present all of the events truthfully and accurately. In this movie, the film makers wanted to focus on the empress's influence on the resolution of the conflict with the Hungarians. Unfortunately, it was done at the expense of leaving out the ongoing drama and suffering of the real Elizabeth - as opposed to the idealized Elizabeth presented here. Her mother-in-law's extreme cruelty toward her is minimized, and though the emperor's love for his wife was never in doubt throughout their lives, he completely failed to protect her from his mother - a situation that is not portrayed in the movie accurately. In spite of all this, the movie is still enjoyable and hopefully viewers will realize they are watching a very idealized fairy tale and will not confuse the story presented here with historical fact. The opulent ceremonies of the era, the pomp and splendor of the monarchy, are all well portrayed and definitely enjoyable to watch. I missed some explanation, even a very simplistic one, of why a dual monarchy was formed and its importance. But politics do not fit well into fairy tales, so this was likewise completely omitted.
Thoroughly delightful movie
I am well familiar with the story of the Empress Elizabeth. While the basic facts are all here, the story may have been both simplified and sweetened to present it in a movie. However, the end result is a thoroughly delightful and strongly idealized version of historical events. Both Sissi and the emperor are presented as extremely likable, visually appealing characters, interacting in a fairly-like story. The entire movie plays like a fairy tale and is visually very appealing. The majestic beauty of the Bavarian scenery contrasts with the opulent setting of the Viennese court. The costumes, manners, music, dances - all true to the period. I did not expect to like it as much as I did and would recommend it to all lovers of historical drama and 19th century Austrian history in particular.
The Twelve Chairs (1970)
Watchable, not highly entertaining though
I chose this movie because it was set in Russia and was pleasantly surprised, because I felt it presented a reasonably accurate portrait of the post-revolution Soviet Russia - obviously, that's just my opinion, but in this respect the movie delivered what I was hoping to see. I am not familiar with either Mel Brooks or with the original book so I did not know what to expect. The plot was pretty simple to follow, however, I didn't really feel it was enough to carry the whole movie. I think it was supposed to be funny, though I wouldn't call it a comedy. It had moments that elicited a chuckle or two, but that was about it. I would recommend it to get a glimpse of 1928 Russia which I thought was the strongest asset of the movie. If possible rent it rather than buy it, because I don't think this is a movie you would want to watch more than once.
Typical Example of Contemporary Czech Cinematography
The reviews here are mostly from Czechs, or Americans. My perspective is somewhat different - I was born and raised in Czechoslovakia but have lived most of my life in the U.S. Therefore, I see the movie more through the eyes of an American, yet understand the language and the circumstances the movie portrays more intimately than an American ordinarily would. Overall, I found the movie confusing and depressing. Confusing in that it's difficult to follow the plot, particularly the relationships between the various characters portrayed. I had a hard time keeping track of who's who, who lives where, who's whose father or mother, girlfriend, romantic boyfriend, platonic boyfriend, just in general I found it difficult to sort these things out. I also agree with another reviewer here that Czech cinema is going through a dark phase. It seems like so many of the movies coming out of the post-communist era are so similar. I would call them black comedies. Other movies with generally the same overall essence as this movie are Horem Padem (Up and Down), Kraska v nesnazich (Beauty in Trouble) and Zeny v pokuseni (Women in temptation). They all portray contemporary Czech society in a very depressing way, choosing dark and depressing images whenever possible. Naturally attractive women are poorly groomed and unattractively dressed; only ugly countryside is shown, ugly living conditions, etc. While there is no doubt that there are Czechs who are unmotivated, careless about their appearance, and who live in poor conditions such as portrayed in this movie, there are also those who are determined to succeed, take care of their appearance, raise happy families and live very well, but they are apparently completely ignored by today's film makers. Somehow, only the dark aspects of life are considered "art" by the contemporary Czech film makers. They seem drawn to this type of realism, as if intrigued by that which is ugly, depressing, twisted in some way. From the perspective of an American, we go to movies to be entertained, not to engage in philosophical discussions about the meaning of life or happiness. This is more the domain of European film making. Fellini's La Strada and other such movies were the pioneers of this new Czech genre focusing solely on the harsh and dark realities of life and none of its beauty or joy. This Czech realism is different from what Americans are used to. I imagine most US audiences would not find this movie appealing or entertaining. But the small group with eclectic taste that seeks to view the dark side of life and to be challenged by movies into engaging in philosophical contemplations this movie delivers big time.
The King's Speech (2010)
Disappointing - could have been so much more!
In spite of the many rave reviews, I must admit that I personally found the movie disappointing. Unlike most viewers, I was well acquainted with the story of this royal couple before viewing the movie. Bottom line - I expected more. Their story is so rich with material. The king's speech problems were just one of the many issues the royal couple faced, particularly during the wartime. Yet it was the only one singled out here as a theme for the movie and I felt that it was simply not enough to carry a whole movie for 2 hours. Otherwise, everything else was fine - the settings, costumes, acting, choice of actors etc. - it all was done well as far as it went, but I felt it simply didn't go far enough. The wartime sacrifices of the royal couple were not sufficiently highlighted, their bravery, their struggles. All were more of a background to the central issue of the king's speech problem. I would have preferred a rich tapestry where the speech problem had equal footing with the many other issues confronting the royal couple. For those not familiar with the royal couple's story, dealing with the speech impediment might be enough. For me, it wasn't. I wanted more.