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Charlie Wilson's War (2007)
Messing around with destiny
Aaron Sorking raises the same questions as Shakespeare did or does. How could they possibly know so much about the inner workings of palace life. Here like in The West Wing, Sorkin opens surprising doors that are hardly a shock but seem ton confirm our worst fears. Everything is so casual and at the same time so directly responsible for so many people's lives. A puffy Tom Hanks tells us one way or another that things can be manipulated with semi pure intentions but without weighing the consequences and Julia Roberts in a blond southern hairdo reminds us of the powers harbored in the sidelines. The subject is serious but the treatment is light, intelligent but light. Philip Seymour Hoffman, as the invisible middle man, steals every scene he is in, just like Charles Laughton did in every movie he was in.The dialogue is fast but not fast enough for us not to catch up and discover that this is not an ordinary comedy. The seemingly casual pace filled with strokes of wit and provocation grants another badge of honor in the Mike Nichol's collection.
K. Il bandito (2008)
Advanced Screening for a remarkable film
I was privileged to assist at the first public screening of "K. Il Bandito" This fictional life of a Venetian bandit is told through an artist's eye with a remarkable disregard for all of the present trends. That is to say I've never seen a film quite like it. An emotional ride through an inedited, unknown and fascinating Venice. Martin Donovan, the director, makes his first Italian language film, without following any pre- existing guidelines. Before the screening, Donovan, introduced it to his cast saying:"The film is strange and imperfect like me but fortunately it has inherited your beauty" He wasn't kidding. The beauty of the film is sometimes breathtaking. The cast of mostly unknown actors is one of its most startling aspects. Pierluigi Coppola stars as the "K" of the title. He carries the film with the aplomb of a seasoned player. Physical, sensual, a sort of Mediterranean Errol Flynn with heartbreaking depth. His transformation throughout the film is not just convincing but deeply moving. Martina Stella, his wife, a ravishing presence that dives deep into the psyche of a character trapped in her love for a man destined to be defeated. Every character in the film is treated like a protagonist without ever detracting from the main story. Lina Sastri, as the mother, is another standout. She goes for her tragic prostitute with her humanity coming to the fore only when nobody can see her. The narrative is at times a bit jumpy, or at least that's what I thought then. Now what remains in my mind is a vivid recollection of the emotion in the faces that dominate the film, a powerful hunting score and a visceral need to see it again.
A Prophet known as Paddy Chayefsky
To think that this blackest of black comedies was made in 1976 could only means two things: 1) Nothing has changed or 2) Paddy Chayefsky was seeing the future with the most disturbing clarity. I endorse the later of the two because I believe things have changed since 1974 - I wasn't born yet, but I know because of my parents, the movies, literature, etc, etc, etc. Peter Finch as the mad prophet of the airwaves gives Chayefsky a riveting and powerful voice. The scenes between old chums Finch and William Holden are some of the best written scenes in any American movie until the Coen brothers emerged. Finch is superb, superb! and Holden, at the end of a legendary career, gives a performance of such ferocious sincerity that I rediscovered the man, the actor and felt the need to revisit some of his opus. From Golden Boy to Sunset Boulevard, Holden was a man who carried his own discomfort as a weapon. Extraordinary! However, the most alarming character in the whole thing is Faye Dunaway's. She is magnificent in her thin, nervous, bra-less attitude. She is a monster of commercial amorality. Everything in this incredible movie moves with the precision of an inspired clairvoyant's vision. Duvall's executive, Beatrice Straight's betrayed wife and Ned Beatty's god like big shot makes this one of the most frightening, entertaining, funniest, remarkable film from the 70's. Sidney Lumet proves once more that he's as good as his material. Here he is at his zenith.
The Pink Panther (2006)
A Funeral Of Sorts
I knew, of course I knew it couldn't really be anything like the original - The word original in itself tells you something. But I went because I love and respect Steve Martin and thought that perhaps he had some ace up his sleeve and was going to delight and surprise everybody. Stupid me, really. But I couldn't possibly have imagine that the movie was going to be the moronic disaster it turned out to be. Not a moment of real comedy, not a moment! Leave poor Clouseau in peace! Invent something new! Greed, I imagine is at the center of it all. The famous franchise syndrome. Let's beat the whole thing to death, without realizing that it's been dead now for quite some time. The scenes between Kevin Kline and Steve Martin should have been classic (They were funnier in Grand Canyon) instead a sad forced unconvincing attempt to justify their pay checks. I'm totally disappointed and depressed.
A Little Thing Called Murder (2006)
The Judy Horror Picture Show
We're told that the Sante and Kenny Kimes is a true story. Not even Tennessee Williams would have dare to dream up a mother/son relationship like this one. Horribly funny. Monstruosly entertaining. Judy Davis is, quite simply, spectacular. Although Richard Benjamin (the director) seems to go for the campy aspects of this outrageous tale, Judy Davis keeps it rooted to some kind of illogical logic. Sante's madness is a first for the screen. Part Bette Davis, part Judy Garland but one hundred per cent Judy Davis. If that seems like an absurdity, look at the movie. Sante/Judy is in constant movement even when she's standing still. A fearless magnificent performance. If this little murder had been a big screen movie. Judy would, certainly, be nominated for an Oscar.