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French Cancan (1955)
Refreshing French Twist
There are frames in this film that could be Renoir paintings with vivid colors against muted backgrounds. The humorous combination of sexual honesty and innocence is refreshing in this fifties film and makes palatable the old story line of the ingenue that becomes a star. The can-can number at the end seems realistic and exciting but not over the top as in an American dance sequence.
Small Time Crooks (2000)
Top Talent Under-utilized, Dated Script
Outstanding cast with Hugh Grant and especially Tracey Ullman. Woody Allen does a tired imitation of his stammering stock character. The best part is the potential sweetness of his relationship with his wife(Tracey), but the audience I was with didn't seem to agree. Some walked out while others roared at feeling superior to the dumber characters. The how stupid can you be lines of the fellow crooks, especially Elaine May, were painful, reminiscent of the lines of the B- (Dagwood films) of the early '40's. References to Harry James mistaken for Henry James could best be understood by the Seniors in the audience and they only winced. The Twenties type music at the beginning suggested another wonderful, winsome Sweet and Low Down, but sadly this film was not.
Est - Ouest (1999)
Is it east and west, or east "or" west? One has to decide.
Having spent some time in Russia from 1973 to 1995, I was relieved to find that the details of the everyday life in the Soviet Union presented in the film mostly counteracted the stereotypic quality of the harsh interrogator. I found the scenes of the interaction among the inhabitants living in the communal apartment to ring the truest. The ability of the Russians to suffer and celebrate at the kitchen table also seemed humanly authentic and prepared me to accept the Dr. Zhivago story line. I found myself questioning if I or my wife would give up the comfortable life the family had found at the end for the freedom of one of us separating.
Honest view of an unloved woman
The film presents a harshly realistic psychological view of a woman whose love is unreturned by a narcissistic man. Sex with mutual love becomes elevating. Without love, sex turns to desecration and self destruction. Her natural desires lead her through a series of graphic but horrendous encounters. The naked images are challenged by the woman's internal thoughts disregarded by most image oriented males. Ironically, the S&M partner shows the most tenderness towards her ultimately being witness to her fulfillment as a woman and mother. The scenes of the internal exams a woman undergoes reveal to a male viewer a nakedness he never experiences.