Reviews written by registered user
|711 reviews in total|
Beyond being a well told, charming and ultimately touching film, this
tale of a young girl trying to find a place for herself amidst the
sexist rules of Saudi Arabia is noteworthy for a number of things,
chief among them that it's the first film shot completely in Saudi
Arabia and the first Saudi feature ever made by a woman director, who
had to hide in a van and direct by walkie-talkie for a number of
scenes. (Movie theaters themselves are outlawed in the country).
The story is largely a familiar underdog tale, and the pace can be too leisurely at times, but the specifics that surround the main character her mother's emotional struggle with the possibility her husband may take a second wife against her wishes, the absurd danger of a pre-adolescent girl simply having a boy pal, the constant teaching that women shouldn't even be heard by men, help the film feel more unique and disturbing than all the western equivalent. "outcast kid joins contest to prove their worth" films we've seen. Indeed, even the contest here is loaded with complexity. Wadjda isn't particularly religious, but the contest is about a verbal recitation of sections of the Koran, so she takes it on as a means to an end (money to buy a bike she wants another thing girls aren't supposed to have), not as expression of piety.
If not quite as powerful as some films about repression, it's certainly a worthy and well acted one, and a brave leap for a film-maker whose greatest triumph may have been getting the film made at all.
Determinedly, odd, over the top and a lot of fun., This strangely
sentimental, wonderfully photographed, very violent black comedy is
like some demented marriage of a sincere Disney film about a 12 year
old girl looking for a father (or, in an intentionally disquieting
French twist, a lover), with the over the top darkness of David Lynch,
or Kubrick in his "Dr. Strangelove" mode, and some John Woo action
thrown in for good measure.
Sound weird? Well, it is, and there are some huge logic jumps and gaping plot holes. But the film disarms those potential problems by never pretending to be the world as we know it, but creating a heightened, strange, through- the-looking-glass reality where hit men are sweet softies at heart, and New York cops are not only corrupt but openly bat-sh@t insane, gunning down whomever gets in their way with gleeful abandon.
Gary Oldman goes way, way over the top as the baddie, and is a blast in the process. Jean Reno creates some real pathos in his sad faced, killer, who is so alone that he's almost child-like in his having to learn to relate to another human, and Natalie Portman gives a shockingly complex performance for an actress so young, playing so tricky a role. A film I could understand someone hating if they didn't get into Besson's decidedly off-beat vibe, but if you go with it, it's that rarest of film creatures, something unique.
Entertaining, well made documentary on the sport of body building
(circa mid 1970s) focusing in particular on then 28 year old Arnold
Schwarzenegger, who can be charming, funny, and as when he's explaining
his admiration for dictators in his Germanic accent ("People remember
them") or playing psych-out mind games on his so-called best friend,
but also rival, before a competition he can be more than a bit creepy
While always enjoyable, and fascinating for where Arnold's life led him after this film made him a star, it's not a super deep or moving documentary. Its too lightweight,repetitive and self- consciously funky for that, along with the fact that sections are admittedly semi-staged for the cameras.
But if it's not quite a great film, its certainly a good time.
If a bit awkward and rough edged in form, a bit on the nose in it's
politics, and a bit melodramatic in it's telling, this is an
historically important early 'independent' film. Made by artists
largely blacklisted from Hollywood for liberal beliefs, and/or for
refusing to testify against others, this was the only film in America's
history that was itself blacklisted, and kept out of theaters despite
Yet what it preached; basic dignity and rights for Hispanics, for women, and for workers could hardly be seen, even then, as a real threat to America -- had it not been for hysteria towards all things liberal, progressive, or intellectual - those things being lumped in with communist revolutionary activity.
It's remarkable for a 1954 film to see an American film with all the leading roles being Hispanic, and played by Hispanics, not white actors in 'brown face'. Even more impressive is the film's early but potent feminist viewpoint.
The issue of women also adds a nice level of complexity to a story that could have felt too simplistic in terms of right and wrong. The male Hispanic workers are almost as guilty of oppressing their wives as the Anglo bosses are of oppressing their Hispanic workers. So there's an acknowledgment that everyone still had a lot to learn about creating an equal society in those days.
Along with the occasionally awkward acting (most of the cast were non-professionals) and occasionally too blatant speech-making, there are some very moving, human and inspiring moments.
And in a nice twist of fate, after being blacklisted from theaters and kept from the public, the film now resides on the national registry of important films.
Berri once again turns a book into a near masterpiece, as he did with
"Jean de Florette" and "Manon of the Spring". This adaptation of Emile
Zola's dark polemic novel abut the hard lives of French miners in 19th
century France is both political and epic, with neither element
drowning out the other.
Very strong performances abound. Miou-Miou is heartbreaking and, at times, frightening in her rage, as a mother and wife trying to help her family survive on the slave like wages paid buy the mine -- her anger growing ever harder to control as the mine literally consumers her family. Gerard Depardieu is also excellent as her husband, a big, likable fellow who is finally pushed too far by the bosses and working conditions. He joins with a more educated newcomer to the area, played by the also excellent Renaud, to help start a strike against their bosses, who plead poverty, and the inability to pay the workers more (indeed they want to cut wages), but who live in "Let them eat cake" splendor.
While the film may be heavy handed at times in its cross cutting between the lives of rich and the poor, it escapes the trap of making "the poor" just a lovable, or pitiable mob .These are well drawn individuals, with light and dark sides, (some with more of one than the other) and the violence of the mob is shown as ugly and brutal, if also understandable. Berri is not above acknowledging that it sometimes takes violence to force change, but even if that change may be for the good on the large scale, the violence also always leads to tragedy in the realm of individual human beings.
The film is beautifully shot and art directed, the grim hard life in the mines brought to startlingly real life, full of details and specifics that help, once again, the film transcend generalizations about being poor. These men and women take pride in their difficult, dirty and dangerous work, even as they have reached the end of their tether with their poverty.
Enjoyable documentary about 1960s and 70s children's book author,
creator of powerful, iconic anti-war and other political posters, and
artist of erotica, often with a bondage or S+M theme. As diverse as
this work is, it all shares Ungerer's trade mark dark sense of humor.
The film follows his interesting life, from Childhood in Nazi occupied Alsatia, to his coming to America, his success as an illustrator, and then hugely as a children's book author, his politicalization and involvement with erotic, to the fateful moment when they all came together after he was attacked for his sexual drawings at a children's book convention, and was almost immediately black-listed. His books were taken out of libraries, publishers dropped him, publications (including the New York Times) refused to review his work. Much of the film is Ungerer himself, a very engaging interview subject, now in his 80s ruminating on everything; art, life, death, sex, politics, success and failure, children, fear. He is eccentric to be sure but in a way that feels very open and inviting.
All that said, there's a lack of emotion for the great majority of the film. Also, I'm just slightly mistrustful of how complete a portrait the film actually is. Growing up in NYC I happened to know Ungerer's daughter when we both were about 10 years old. Yet there's no mention of her, or her mother in the film, which gives the distinct impression that Ungerer was a wild man bachelor until he met his later wife, with whom he moved to Canada, and then Ireland. It troubles me a bit that feels like such a through portrait and deals so much with children, sex, morality, and 'the swinging 60s,' there's no touching on what his 'first family' situation was like, or even that they existed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A devastating film. An amazing debut from Ryan Coogler that worked in
spite of all sorts of what could have been serious obstacles. Not only
did I know the true story the film was based on, but the first two
minutes of the film gives away much of the climax, so I was very
worried that I'd find it interesting, but not emotional.
But by filling the movie with rich, real, human characters who we get to know and care for, by casting and shooting the film brilliantly, and filling it with all those little details that make you feel like you're watching real people, knowing the outcome didn't matter. By about a third of the way in I was hooked, and by the end I was in tears in a way no film has done to me in a long while. It also manages the always tricky feat of being terribly sad without being depressing or nihilistic. Coogler treats all his characters, even the 'villains' with grace and humanity. I can't wait to see what he does next.
More a character study than plot driven film, it tells of the lost,
screwed up 27 year old Francis, played with lost, screwed up
lovable-ness by co-writer Greta Gerwig. She has what seems an amazingly
close relationship with her roommate and best friend Sophie (a terrific
Mickey Summer), but it all comes crashing down when Sophie decides to
move out (and maybe grow up) for a better apartment, leaving Frances
suddenly uprooted and alone.
We follow Frances as she pin-balls through places to live and people to connect with (or not), seeming too childlike for her own good, and unable to take control of her life. But she never sinks so low that she loses the spark that makes us want good things for her, in spite of her continually getting in her own way.
While the film has some very touching moments, and generally excellent acting and writing, something in it made me feel held a bit at arms length. For all the joy and sorrow in Frances' life, I felt more like a clinical observer and less like a participant than I wanted to. And while some of Baumbach's nods to French new wave film-making work wonderfully (the high- spirited musical romp Frances takes down New York streets is wildly infectious), some of them, like the constant use of music from those seminal films as score was, for me, distracting and too self-conscious. Frances is a good enough character, and Baumbach a talented enough story teller that it the film didn't need such heavy handed style laid over it.
Still, a unique, if flawed film about a unique if flawed character. It's good to see Baumbach stretch, even if he like Francis hasn't quite figured out where he's going yet.
While the often noticed aping by Bertolucci of his hero Godard in this
early film is quite true (even the film itself admits its debt to
Godard right on screen), there is more here than mere imitation.
Whether intentional or not I saw plenty of other influences from
Bunuel, to the paintings if Rene Magritte. A loose, examination of
schizophrenia; an inhibited intellectual young man spawns a separate
self who is confident, aggressive and revolutionary.
While vaguely based on Dostoyevsky's "The Double", this is very much it's own story, and a hell of a lot of fun. I found Bertolucci's surreal playfulness more inviting than most of Godard's work from that period. It asks many of the same questions, and has much of the same distain for modern consumer society, (and film narrative conventions) but does it with an absurdist sense of humor that give rise to some moments that now seem as much "Monty Python" as they are French New Wave.
The most egregious Godard rip-offs can be annoying (sudden inappropriate music, etc), but they are for the most part mercifully brief. Mostly this is more influence and homage than theft, and creates a time capsule that still has relevance and interest, and pleasure in the watching. Pierre Clementi does a fine job playing the two different versions of the hero Giaccobe.
Well acted by Ugo Tognanzzi as a self made cheese factory owner whose
son is apparently kidnapped, although we can see there's a real
possibility the kidnapping was staged so the son could raise money for
left-wing causes he supports. Most of the film is about Tognazzi
dealing with the kidnapping by pondering selling his factory, and
getting to know two go betweens who may or may not have there own
agendas (the son's girlfriend, and a leftist sort-of priest), as well
as dealing with his wife, Anouk Aimee, who is far more anxious to sell
everything they own to pay the kidnappers than the more cynical and
What was hard for me was that, unlike it's spiritual forerunner "The Spider's Strategem", the more satirical, lighter-toned edge seems to work against the drama and vice versa. None-the- less this is interesting and thought provoking. And if not among Bertolucci's greatest works, still well worth seeing.
|Page 1 of 72:||          |