Reviews

384 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
The Souvenir (2019)
7/10
Fascinating in places, self-indulgent too
15 July 2019
A young woman--Honor Swinton Byrne was just 19 when this film was shot--wants to become a film-maker. There are doubts among her friends and associates that she has the talent and skills to realize this dream. One compares her to a "trainee Rotarian". The woman perseveres through many difficulties, the main one being her sado-masochistic relationship with a bogus intellectual whom you would gladly shoot if you could. Joanna Hogg has directed a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating film that shows some affinities with Jacques Rivette's work. The method of showing the audience the bare minimum of fact and situation then demanding the viewer put it all together in their head was Rivette's, and led to great works like Va savoir and L'amour par terre. Joanna Hogg isn't on this level but I kept watching.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
4/10
Not a great Becker film
10 July 2019
There's not much fun in this film, despite the talents of the director and several of the actors. The story is trivial, no more than puff pastry. I think of Louis Malle's Le voleur, which has so much drama as well as comedy and satire of bourgeois values, and has fine actors too. The pity is that a director like Becker--and how I admire Goupi mains-rouges, Casque d'or, Touchez pas au grisbi--could allow himself to get involved in this trivial project. Must have been financial reasons.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Not the best, not the worst
8 July 2019
1. I don't know why IMDb has chosen to list this opera under the Japanese title transliterated into English. It makes it harder to find it in the filmography for Gwyneth Jones, which I turned to when searching under Tristan was impossible. Foolish. 2.When Brangane (Hanna Schwarz) outshines her Isolde, especially in Act One, you have a major problem. I have Gwyneth Jones's Tannhauser video from 1978 when she was 42, and she is wonderful. A full, rich and powerful voice under perfect control: contrast that with this performance made when she was 57, the voice fraying at times and tentative. There is enough musicianship from all the singers to make this a satisfying experience, just not a thrilling one. 3. Thanks go to ARTHAUS MUSIK for putting out another fine production: sound, camerawork, lighting all topnotch.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Hemingway & Gellhorn (2012 TV Movie)
6/10
The cake did fall
6 June 2019
Philip Kaufman has given me some of my greatest film experiences. The invasion of Czechoslovakia in The Unbearable Lightness of Being is always close in my memory--what an emotional punch. But he's getting old; in his 80s now and showing his decline. This film is mostly a triumph for Walter Murch, the editor, and the set designs are splendid too. What's missing is the directorial shaping of the story and characters. History films should not have an endless procession of actors playing famous people for about 20 seconds of screen time, as we see here. Only Dos Passos gets any more than superficial treatment. Clive Owen does his best with Hemingway but it's really not his part. Nicole Kidman sure looks glamourous, but often disconnected from the proceedings.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Late Lubitsch is still fine
4 June 2019
This won't be considered among the greatest works of the master, but it is fun nonetheless. There really isn't much of a plot, just a series of vignettes and some very pointed jokes for Ameche and Charles Coburn. Gene Tierney is used for her loveliness, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Sin and marital boredom are treated very lightly, a far cry from today's overwrought angst. The Criterion issue is very well produced. I especially enjoyed the dialogue between Andrew Sarris and Molly Haskell. Lubitsch is given a fine tribute by these film scholars.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Stimulantia (1967)
4/10
Sketch films rarely work--here's the proof
6 April 2019
I say that sketch films, because they are so wildly variable in quality, are rarely worth watching, and this one is no exception. There are perhaps two sketches that hold interest:Gustav Molander's version of Maupassant's story The Necklace, in which Bergman and Bjornstrand play very well in a restrained classical style, and Jorn Donner's little comedy of two lovers who can't quite get down to doing the act they intend. I didn't realize how well Harriet Andersson can do comedy; she really gets in the groove here.

For the rest, it's easy to see why these directors made no name for themselves outside Sweden. I was particularly annoyed by Sjoman's silly, childish sketch with the man trying to hide a young black woman from his wife in his apartment.

Finally, I acknowledge Ingmar Bergman's supremacy in the film industry, but his grainy home movie is not in the least interesting. You find the impulse to fast-forward through this one is irresistible.
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Il trovatore (2012 TV Movie)
3/10
Bizarre
21 March 2019
I see that I wrote about another of Dmitri Tcherniakov's productions awhile back--I didn't like the staging for Eugene Onegin--and I have to criticize his staging and costumes here. The clothes the singers are wearing are cheap and tacky: Scott Hendricks looks like Marlon Brando in the Fugitive Kind in that lizard jacket, while Marina Poplavskaya looks like a tart in a train station. Terrible staging--imagine the anvil chorus without either an anvil or a chorus on stage and you'll see what I mean. You may want to listen to the soundtrack and skip the visuals.
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Enjoyable murder mystery
24 December 2018
I didn't think about Laura so much as I watched this but rather the Profumo-Christine Keeler affair that so fascinated English society in the early sixties. Losey did a fairly entertaining film around a manipulating society woman and a hapless young artist. The performances by Micheline Presle and Stanley Baker are expert; only Hardy Kruger disappoints with some unfortunate mugging. It's a shame they couldn't have had Horst Bucholz for that part. The sets were done by the splendid Edward Carrick, son of Gordon Craig. The décor of the dead woman's flat arouses the scorn of proletarian Baker, it's so exotic and you really feel you're in Losey territory.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
So many Highsmiths
6 December 2018
I was surprised to find that I've seen nine films based on Highsmith novels, including the two versions of Talented Mr Ripley, one by Clement the other by Minghella. Where would I put this most recent one?--in the middle of the pack, I guess. If lacking the visual brilliance that Hitchcock, Clement, Chabrol et al have brought to these stories, it still has some very satisfying acting, especially from Patrick Wilson and Eddie Marsan. Jessica Biel does well enough as the whiny, frustrated wife who wants out of her marriage, but the part is not interesting enough to spend much time thinking about. The ending may seem a little haphazard as some users have noted, but the film doesn't really suffer from this.
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Unlikely story but some visual bravura
25 November 2018
You won't rank this one among the classics of the genre, but it has its pleasures. Dirk Bogarde behaves like a criminal and debates with Knox like a member of the Oxford Union, so there's a contradiction there. Alexander Knox as the psychiatrist who's supposed to help Bogarde to resolve his conflicts behaves recklessly, leaving his wife exposed to B's advances and even acting as accomplice after the fact when he arranges for the return of money the young man has stolen at gun-point! Then there's Alexis Smith who has to play ice-goddess a la Grace Kelly while enticing Bogarde into her arms. All very complicated, and not well handled by Joseph Losey who was a refugee from McCarthyism in the 50s. You'll enjoy the interiors of the doctor's house, and how Bogarde is able to use chairs and couches to his benefit.

I was attracted to this story by the presence of Alexander Knox (1907-1995). He'd been so effective as Ingrid Bergman's husband in Europa 51, as the scientist in The Damned, as the president in Wilson, to name only three. As a supporting player he had very few equals.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Viveca Lindfors brought me to this
24 November 2018
Yes, I'd seen the Swedish delight in The Adventures of Don Juan, romancing Errol Flynn, and thought I'd like to watch her play a sculptress who runs afoul of some really vicious louts in a small English town. I'd say she's the most interesting character in this uneasy blend of juvenile thuggery (cf The Wild One) and nuclear disaster-as-moral-issue. Certainly Macdonald Carey (poor man's Gregory Peck) and starlet who never went anywhere Shirley Anne Field have little to offer the viewer, and Alexander Knox has to struggle with a bland scientist's part.

Joseph Losey directed, so we are assured of some wonderful interior scenes (Freya's house is beautifully rendered, with the jagged sculptures mounted everywhere) but the night invasion of the top-secret nuclear facility is poorly executed. Losey was never good with action sequences, and there are several here. So you must choose style over dramatic tension if you want to enjoy this picture.
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Jules César (2011 TV Movie)
8/10
A fine production overall
25 August 2018
The only performance I can compare this with is the Salzburg Whitsun Festival of 2012, directed by Olivier Simonnet. I found the Salzburg staging deficient in most respects, although the singing was pretty fine; I prefer this version, directed with great verve by Laurent Pelly, because sets, costumes, orchestral contributions (love Emmanuelle Haim's conducting) and most of the singers are first rate.

The idea of having the characters as museum sculptures works wonderfully well, especially for Lawrence Zazzo as Caesar. He sings and acts with great panache, and I much prefer him to Scholl in Salzburg. Natalie Dessay is wonderful as Cleopatra--she's fast and light in her coloratura, whereas Bartoli sometimes gives me the feeling she's singing Aida, she's that full-voiced. The only weak link in the cast is the underpowered Varduhi Abrahamian; Anne Sofie von Otter is clearly superior in the part of Cornelia. Unless I can meet up with the Glyndebourne production, this must be my preferred version.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
3/10
Film by a prematurely old man
4 August 2018
Kiss Me Stupid is so lame, so lacking in wit, sophistication and just plain laughs that it's hard to believe this was made by the same man who made Sunset Boulevard, Ace In The Hole, Sabrina... Wilder shows he didn't have any feeling for American life in the 1960's, and he was not quite 60 when he made the picture. I didn't laugh once, and can't imagine how anybody could laugh at this mess.

I don't see Peter Sellers improving it, even with his superb comic timing, for there are no jokes, nothing to work with. Felicia Farr is very graceful and lovely to look at, and Ray Walston moves and speaks with practiced ease: the 3 stars are all for them.
0 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Cortex (2008)
7/10
It must be hard
1 August 2018
It must be hard for an actor to work with reduced faculties. I think of Mathieu Amalric in The Butterfly and the Diving Bell, only able to move one eyelid, or John Hurt locked into that deformed body cast in The Elephant Man. But most of all I think of Julie Christie and Michael Murphy carrying on a love affair while suffering from Alzheimer's disease in Away From Her. I think the writers of Cortex must have seen Sarah Polley's film because the lives of the patients here are brought to life with impressive skill. I salute Andre Dussolier, Aurore Clement, Marthe Keller and Anne-Marie Faux (as Claire, the silent one who manages to give the clue to Charles in a painting--a great feat of crime fighting) for making these damaged people engrossing for the viewer.

I was wrapped up in Charles's attempt to solve a crime at the same time as he struggles with a debilitating disease: that's a fine piece of acting. Now if the director had just known how to cut 20 excess minutes out of his final cut, we would have had a really superb film.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Parrish (1961)
8/10
Tobacco's perils
31 July 2018
I admit not knowing that tobacco grows in Connecticut, and that there were so many diseases that struck the leaf, but now I know so much more about it. Daves's film is so engrossing, has so many fine performances that I deeply regret never seeing it on first release (in 1961 I was only 14, too young for the movies in Quebec). It's an actor driven picture in which the plot is relatively unimportant (sometimes I barely registered what was going on, so engrossed was I by the actors).

Karl Maldon had a reputation for playing solid, likeable characters whose motivations were usually honourable: I think of the priest in On the Waterfront, the baffled husband in Baby Doll, the grim suitor in A Streetcar Named Desire. Here he's astonishing in his forceful, even relentless playing of the tobacco boss who will stop at nothing to get the upper hand over the other growers. Hard on himself as well as on others. Shame there was no Oscar for him. Claudette Colbert was always a sympathetic type, not instinctual like Crawford or Stanwyck but a thinker. You always knew she was going to work it all out in her mind. I liked what she did here; tough to convince us she could be happy as Malden's wife. The other performers give solid support. Dean Jagger as rival grower Sala Post has to put up with a lot, stoically. Connie Stevens whom I can remember only from Hawaiian Eye, does an excellent job as Lucy, sexually free and touchingly vulnerable. Diane McBain, faced with the near-impossible part of Alison, manages to cope. Sharon Hugueny is determined and little else. I don't know why Daves used Troy Donahue so many times--recall Sirk and Rock Hudson--maybe there was no other male actor with that athletic physique? Anyway, Donahue delivers his lines capably enough, and even shows some panache in the party scene with Hampton Fancher (the creepiest actor imaginable).
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Wonderful singing!
27 July 2018
I've now seen Marcelo Alvarez in two productions of this opera: the first from Parma in 2010, and this one from the Met in 2011. The Met performance is far superior to the one from Parma in every way. The Met Leonora is far better than the no-name soprano from Parma, the Count is leagues ahead, the Azucena is the superb Dolora Zajick. I can't improve on the reviews of the two previous users, so will just finish by saying what a tremendous loss to the opera world was the death of Dmitri Hvorostovsky, whose Count di Luna is one of the great performances by a baritone I've ever heard.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Nathalie Baye shines
18 July 2018
Juste la fin du monde is a play that enjoyed a great deal of success in the 1990's while the AIDS epidemic was still raging. A mother and her two sons and daughter settle down to a long day of anger and recrimination as her eldest son Louis returns to the family home after a long absence. So long an absence that he doesn't recognize his sister-in-law Catherine, while his brother sulks and spouts insults towards everyone. The film version makes what I believe is a grave error in casting: Vincent Cassel, 50ish, plays Antoine who is the elder brother here. Since Cassel is almost 20 years older than Gaspard Ulliel (Louis), and since the first born son is usually the one favoured by his mother, it doesn't make much sense to have Antoine bitching about his brother's supposed advantages in life. Louis should be the one vehemently protesting the raw deal he got in life.

If birth order is of no concern to you, I'd like to say that Nathalie Baye gives another superb performance as the mother. She's a gold standard now among French actresses. Lea Seydoux does well as the confused, lonely Suzanne. Cassel and Ulliel do the best they can with their parts.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Adele Haenel shines in a difficult part
17 July 2018
When you settle down to watch a Dardenne brothers film, you know you'll be put through the wringer. Desperate people, harrowing situations--your emotions will be put to the test. I wanted to yell at Jenny Davin at several points "You are not a character in a Dostoevsky novel! Don't take all this grief on yourself!" But so compelling is the story, and so successful is Adele Haenel at embodying this young doctor, that my sang froid soon returned.

The stalwarts Jeremie Renier and Olivier Gourmet contribute solid performances here, and bit players are often effective (the black actor playing the pimp is really scary) but it's Haenel you'll remember for a long time. She was the girl on a survival course in Les combattants, and the really vain teenager in Naissance des pieuvres; now she has made a really important title for her filmography.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Nelly (2016)
5/10
I liked Mylene Mackay
15 July 2018
... but I didn't like the film much. Slow moving, disjointed and vague on Nelly's personality disorder, it could have benefited from more expository material than a couple of scenes from her childhood (where are her parents? we never see them).

Mylene Mackay is an actress new to me; I'll be watching out for her work in the future. She has a long, angular face that reminds me of Julia Roberts... and in a way her film is like Pretty Woman, only there's no part for Richard Gere.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Carmen (2003 TV Movie)
7/10
Generally good production
18 June 2018
The Arena di Verona, where this performance took place, must be a big building indeed, because the chorus and townspeople fit easily onto that big stage. I can't recall seeing a production that has that much bustle and vigour going on around the principal singers. When Marina Domashenko makes her Act One entrance, it's really gorgeous how she comes down into the crowd--and she reminds me of Gloria Swanson in Sadie Thompson, an added pleasure. She sings well, as does Maya Dashuk as Micaela. Raymond Aceto as Escamillo handles his part pretty well, but is not very charismatic. The real weak link is Marco Berti, who looks like an accountant and sings, well, ineffectually. This would have been a much better show with a Don Jose like Jonas Kaufmann. Addendum: I see that I failed to compare the two Zeffirelli productions. The Carmen film from 1984 is superior to this production in almost every way. If the female leads are comparable, the earlier film has Placido Domingo in excellent voice, and the charismatic Ruggiero Raimondi has never been better. It's a clear first choice.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Maigret: Maigret et les plaisirs de la nuit (1992)
Season 1, Episode 4
8/10
The better one
26 May 2018
Now that I have seen Rowan Atkinson's version of this story, I can say that Bruno Cremer does a much better job of playing Maigret as he tries to unravel a very tangled knot of plot lines. It isn't so much that the English actors are less authentic in their performances, it's that the mystery and suspense are handled so much better in the older version. Only the Grasshopper, the man who acts as tout for the strip club has a more vivid presence. If you can manage to find this episode, Marina Golovine as Lili, the murdered stripper has a show stopping few minutes at the police station as she--very drunk--tries to give a statement to a very bored cop.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Maigret in Montmartre (2017 TV Movie)
7/10
Good acting, clumsy script
25 May 2018
Maigret au Picratt's, a novel from the 1930's, has gotten at least three TV treatments: Jean Richard's in 1985, Bruno Cremer's in 1992 and now Rowan Atkinson's. This latest film has some good acting by Douglas Hodge as the oily Fred, Adrian Rawlins as the crazed Oscar and Sebastian de Souza as the pathetic Philippe, but it still suffers from a weak script that lacks atmosphere--I mean emotional atmosphere not the Budapest street locations that look pretty wonderful at times. Atkinson uses his mellifluous voice to good effect but is unconvincing as Maigret.
1 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Something missing
19 May 2018
I could grumble about the missing elements in this episode: how there is very little suspense (the shooting of the jeweller's wife is so cursory, so hurried that we barely register it), how the plot gets mangled in the course of the story--it's a major flaw to omit the Paris scene, or Andersen's flight to Belgium, the mediocrity of some of the actors. Still, the decors look pretty good--those Hungarian technicians are capable of recreating French country scenes--and Atkinson is settling down in his part. The Bruno Cremer version is the one to see; it has far better acting and the action is more convincing.
2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Box of chocolates
8 May 2018
This "documentary"--I don't like using the word when talking about this film--is like a box of chocolates: there are delicious ones (live performances), and foul-tasting ones (those awful interviews with smug TV presenters). I looked at the booklet and whenever we were about to see Russell Harty or another one of his ilk I used the track skip button on my remote. I subtracted two stars for the interviews, thus 8/10. The performances are glorious. I've never heard Entwhistle's bass sound so vibrant, and Moon is playing the hell out of the drums--great sound. Won't Get Fooled Again is my favourite song, it's given a great rendition here. Townshend is often inspired, Daltrey's in good voice. What a treat.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Good production values but implausible story
5 May 2018
Well, I have now seen all three films Gabin made with Georges Lacombe, and can say that this is the weakest. It's made weak by a story that stretches credulity to breaking point. Someone should have pointed out that the trades of librarian and gangster require completely different skill sets, aptitudes that cannot be imported from one to another. I can believe Gabin as a tough guy--he played one in Touchez pas au grisbi, to name one among many--but never as a mousy librarian. Madeleine Robinson is an actress I never especially warmed to, but she is capable here. This may be avoided.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An error has occured. Please try again.

Recently Viewed