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8/10
Baldwin's tap-dance
16 November 2013
Everything was painfully familiar to me but I managed to laugh nonetheless. The meeting with Avi Lerner should be obligatory viewing for beginners. And Mark Damon? He was an actor in Italian films of the 60's, not Fellini mind you but the others who made low budget epics. The landscape of "how to get financing for movies" has changed radically in the last few years but this is a residue of something that is still very much alive. Alec Baldwin pitching the idea to tired foreign sales agents is a delight and the comments from Martin Scorsese and other giants, are priceless. If you're in the business you'll laugh in recognition, if you're a civilian with ideas to join the film world of independent movies, this may give you pause.
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10/10
A War Like All Wars A Film Like No Other
31 January 2010
"The Deer Hunter" is 32 years old. How extraordinary to sit through it now. Walking over the politics that divided , somehow, all of its admirers then. "Great film but..." How silly to think of it now. Michael (a sensational young Robert De Niro) is as extreme a character as Rocco was in "Rocco And His Brothers" His goodness, the one that was always there but that he discovers under the most horrendous circumstances, underlined by Stanley Mayers's "Cavatina" permeates the entire film. I remember thinking, when I saw the film for the first time, that I couldn't or wouldn't spend ten minutes with Michael and his friends, the ones we meet at the beginning of the film but by the end I thought of them as brothers and I loved them. I actually loved them. That in itself is a sort of film miracle. John Savage will break your heart, it certainly broke mine and Christopher Walken is absolutely riveting. How strange to tho think that Michael Cimino, still a young man, is nowhere to be seen. Is still a punishment for "Heaven's Gate" and "Indecent Exposure" or there is something else we don't know about. The Cimino behind "The Deer Hunter" is a true master.
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Luna (1979)
8/10
Mother
16 January 2010
A childhood memory, looking into his mother's face with a full moon creating a halo around her. Beautiful and so Italian. The mother in this case is Jill Claybourgh, she was raiding the crest of the wave then and it's very telling that she would choose to play a part that required, not just appearing completely nude but making love to her teen age junkie of a son. She is awkwardly terrific. Her face is a voyage in itself. I would have use quite a different wardrobe for her character as well as make up and hair style but maybe that was just a sign of its day. Jill laughs saying "I am crazy" and that would explain some of the dangerous nuttiness she indulges in here. Her son, played beautifully, by unknown - before and since - Matthew Barry. A Bertoluccian teen sex object if I ever so one. The film has oodles of moments to cherish. Tomas Milian plays the boy's real father. They've never met, His father still lives in a rather intense relationship with his mother, the stunning Alida Valli. In small, very small parts, Carlo Verdone, Roberto Benigni and Renato Salvatori. A film to enjoy with your heart, your gut and your libido but not your brain. Just live your brain for other Bertolucci jewels.
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9/10
A Comedy Of Horrors
3 October 2009
Brad Pitt sticks his index finger in Diane Kruger's leg wound and keeps it there until he gets what he wants. Funny, horribly so. The invented yarn takes "The Dirty Dozen" for a ride and sometimes abandons it to pay tribute to other movies. Lots of fun. Even "Paris when it sizzles" is mentioned in a delightfully organic piece of dialog. I was thrilled by Christoph Waltzer's character and by his sensational performance. Brad Pitt creates a true original. I love the actor's lack of vanity. There's a quirk in the character that is pure Brad Pitt. Tarantino visits a new universe but. fortunately, his hand. his brain and his heart are visible all over the place.
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Live-In Maid (2004)
10/10
Two Women
28 June 2008
This is a film I can't shake out of my mind. The upper class woman, a remarkable Norma Aleandro, faces the economical horrors Argentina went through in 2001 and as a consequence she can't afford to pay her live in maid, the sensational Norma Argentina, that was at her service for a quarter century. The film doesn't tell you anything but shows you everything even the most invisible of details. Pride and humbleness co-mingling, switching places in a pacific duel of profound, silent emotions. The stories painted in both actresses faces are nothing less than extraordinary and I've them both in my mind daily since I saw the film for the first time, weeks ago.
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Jolene (2008)
9/10
A Star Is Born
28 June 2008
Jessica Chastain gives one of those performances that make history in this wonderful Dan Ireland film based on a short story by Doctorow. She goes through a life of radical changes, so much so that it could be considered a multi character study if not for the amazing truth in Chastain's portrayal. The exteriors may change and circumstances may appear diametrically opposite but at its very center she's the same girl we met at the beginning, never ever betraying that spirit or that thirst for life. Like in Dan Ireland's "The Whole Wide World", that launched the career of Rene Zellwegger, "Jolene" may do the same for Jessica Chastain. I don't think I'll see a better performance this year.
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The Brave One (2007)
8/10
Death Wish For The Thinking Woman
29 September 2007
Jodie Foster is a bit like the modern version of Barbara Stanwyck or one of those other powerful female stars that took the role of the woman in society into actions and attitudes that had been the male prerogative since time immemorial. Jodie's Erica carries the movie and a gun in a succession of common places that become never seen before thanks to the commitment of the star. She is fantastic and I suspect Jodie Foster will use her age as an allied so there is a lot to be looking forward to. If I had a wish, for me as an spectator and huge fan of Jodie Foster, will be for her to continue working with directors that allow her many different faces to come out fully formed because that's a guarantee that it will startle us. Neil Jordan was a great idea and the results are there on the screen for everyone to see. A vigilante yes, but Jodie Foster style which means, like no other. I would like to see her do a movie with Fred Schepsi ("Plenty" "A Cry In The Dark") because the characters in Schepsi movies are memorable, all of them, always) With Martin Donovan ("Apartment Zero" and his new stunning "K.Il Bandito") because I know the man and I've witnessed the magic communion he establishes with his actors and Donovan loves to move into the faces of his actors/characters in the most powerful and loving way. With François Ozon (Swiming Pool, 8 Women) because of his understanding and commitment to the female character, never superficial. I can name others of course but I think I already made my point. I love Jodie Foster and I hope to be around when she's 70 because I have the feeling we ain't seen nothing yet.
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10/10
The Look Of Love
20 September 2005
I don't remember when was the last time I felt a movie like I felt Ang Lee's extraordinary "Brokeback Mountain". I can safely say it's the greatest, original American melodrama since the times of Douglas Sirk and I'm sure that even the great Todd Haynes would agree with me. His stunning "Far From Heaven" is an exquisite reproduction, this one updates and reinvents it without betraying it. My girlfriend had tears in her eyes and so did I. Heath Ledger's character spoke to me directly. And the word sex hasn't come into the equation yet. Love takes over the whole story and Heath Leger will be the dominating star of the next decade, if he wants to. Jake Gylenhaal is also superb but his character, nags,understandably so, but we know Heath much better than him and we're on Heath side. The buttoning of the shirt is already a landmark scene in my mind. I'm sure this film is arriving at just the right time. It will teach without preaching and many will learn.
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8/10
Come back Mr. Murrow!
18 September 2005
My hat to George Clooney. He doesn't take the easy way out. His seriousness of purpose is undeniable and his talents as a filmmaker a concrete reality. This, his second feature, is a no frills account of a period in American history that left visible scars but, as it happens, many have forgotten. History repeats itself but its protagonists seem diluted in this modern obsession with political correctness. David Strathairn - best actor at the Venice Film Festival - is chillingly perfect as Edward R Murrow, reminding us that TV times have changed in an unrecognizable way. The space for real thought on network news has been replaced by the circus atmosphere of 24 hour cable shows with loud mouths, sound effects and video graphics. The inter-cutting between Murrow/Strathairn and the real Senator McCarthy creates the perfect illusion of a startling reality. The timing of the film couldn't be more perfect. I hope we can all fill in the voids and connect the dots. It's time to look back and think before our past becomes our future. Thank you Mr Clooney, thank you very much.
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Birth (2004)
6/10
Coitus Interruptus
15 May 2005
There is much to admire in this frustrating classy, pretty film. Nicole Kidman's performance for starters, an intriguing premise and a beautiful score. But this is a partial birth. Nothing is taking to completion. Scenes seem to start and then we're left with nothing. Important plot points are merely hinted while unnecessary repetitions are inflicted upon us with infuriating monotony. I'm not going to enter into details but just let me say that I was worked up to a frenzy without allowing me a climax of any kind. Nicole Kidman however is sublime. She is a fearless, sensational actress. She has one of the longest close ups in recent history and that is one of the greatest moments in a film full of almost great moments. There is something about Sean that doesn't make any sense. I'm not talking about young Sean but about the dead one. The Anne Heche's character is as absurd as Camilla Parker Bowles, with the difference that we know Prince Charles and the absurdity becomes him. We can't make head or tail of the dead Sean and as a consequence his life was merely a writer's excuse. Utterly unconvincing. In spite of all that I may see the film again and I've actually recommended it for Nicole Kidman's performance and a score that I've already bought and I've been playing incessantly.
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7/10
The Showgirl Reigns
12 March 2005
I've seen enough of Laurence Olivier's work for the cinema to understand why, previous generations, considered him the greatest actor that ever lived. I was introduced to him in "The Boys From Brazil" so I didn't quite get it. Then in "Marathon Man" he was chilling. Only recently I've seen "Wuthering Heights" "Rebecca" "Hamlet" "Henry V" and "The Entertainer". He was unquestionably great. "The Prince and the Showgirl" presents an interesting picture of that famous "test of time" thing. The greatest actor that ever lived is, this time, not only acting with Marilyn Monroe but he's also directing her. Apparently they didn't get along. Olivier was, naturally, fed up with her lateness and her moods. He wasn't a model of diplomacy. He complained that her teeth looked yellow on the screen. That alone put her out of business for a couple of days. But now in 2005 we look at the film, forgetting all those amusing bit of nonsense and what do we see? The greatest living actor, acting, yes, acting up a storm. Doing justice to Rattingan's words and rhythms in the most respectful theatrical tradition. His performance, amusing as it is, seems completely embedded in 1957. Marilyn Monroe on the other hand travels with the times and her performance is as fresh and natural today as his is stuffy and calculated. She is glorious. Isn't funny, how time does what it does? I call it justice.
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The White River (1992 TV Movie)
9/10
Alternative title for "Seeds of Tragedy"
10 March 2005
"White River" is in fact "Seeds of Tragedy" A stunning, almost unknown, little gem of a film. Lhamar and Larenz Tate give spectacular performances in a staggering journey full of remarkable performances. The film starts in the Peruvian highlands where a very poor family survives collecting and selling coca leaves and ends in the streets of L.A with kids buying and selling crack. It sounds like a routine drug yarn but believe me it isn't. From the lyrical opening where poverty is wrapped in a veil of desperate hope to the closing where the hope is verbalized in a desperate cry for help. The look of the film is as if Caravaggio had made a documentary. The crack house is a terrifying figment of the filmmaker's imagination. The faces on the screen have all something in common as if they were all related somehow. The score changes with the film and is one of the most perfect marriages between dramatic images and music. The fact that this film is practically unknown is a mystery not me.
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9/10
The Mystery Of It All
6 February 2005
Johnny Depp takes us by the hand and in the gentlest most reassuring way leads into the heart, soul and mind of an artist. How easy is for the world to judge. How frightened we still are of all we don't understand. The very nature of innocence is suspect because innocence belongs exclusively to the innocent. Every time the world claims to protect it, tends to destroy it. "Finding Nerverland" is filled with moments of enlightenment. Moving and powerful moments but none more so than Julie Christie's face as she applauds, converted to the fantasy transported into her daughter's house. The moment and the enlightenment are short lived, but, somehow, remains in my mind as a glimmer of hope. If for a moment she accepts the mystery of it all, maybe we all could. Johnny Depp is the best American actor of his generation, period. Kate Winslet is a stunning rarity among her contemporaries. She doesn't look like anybody else and the camera catches every tiny little thought that crosses her marvelous face. Congratulations Mr. Forster you can count on me from this moment on as a devoted fan.
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10/10
Uncle Hitch
23 January 2005
Uncle Charlie did it for me. I mistrusted the uncle thing as a term of endearment ever since. Joseph Cotten is the perfect charming monster. Uncle Charlie's urbanity becomes his most frightening feature. So plausible. So real. Thornton Wilder was Hitchcock's partner in crime this time and it shows. The structure is Our Townish, the characters, deliciously rich. Patricia Collinge's performance is so spot on that you're longing for more. The scenes between Henry Travers and Hume Cronyn are how I imagine the story meetings between Thornton Wilder and Alfred Hitchcock. Teresa Wright's eyes tell the whole story from the audience's point of view, even if the audience is one step ahead of her. Brilliant, because in Joseph Cotten's eyes we find his need for redemption or are we falling in the trap of this master manipulator? We are torn, just like Teresa Wright. I've seen "Shadow of a Doubt" 3 or 4 times but every time you're forced to take the trip with the same amount of commitment. I've been toying with the thought of a remake, I've been doing this lately, although I hate the idea of remakes of great movies, this one is one of those that in the right hands could have a real impact. Using Thornton Wilder's original script as the Bible, Steven Sodebergh could do scrumptious remake for the new millennium. Tim Robbins as uncle Charlie, can you imagine? Natalie Portman as his niece. Joan Cusak and William H Macy as her parents. Wouldn't you go to see that?
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Wild Side (1995)
8/10
Donald Cammell
13 January 2005
I met Donald Cammell shortly after he finished production on "Wild Side" We were at director Martin Donovan's house in Los Angeles. It was one of those eclectic memorable evenings in front of the fire in that fabulous Italian villa of Whitley Heights. Johnny Whitworth and Liv Tyler were there, so was Renee Zellwegger with her director Dan Ireland, Valeria Golino and Benicio del Toro, Shirley Knight and even Fabrizio Mioni with Faith Domergue, yes the legendary Faith Domergue, Howard Hughes's protègè. Donald Cammell dominated great part of the evening, exhausted but bursting with energy. So excited about his new film, about Joan Chen, Steven Bauer and Christopher Walken's performance. Editing with his long time collaborator, Frank Mazzola. It was a dangerous movie, it walked a very thin line, but he trusted his abilities as an tightrope walker. Years of experience. A few weeks later I was invited to see his cut of the film. I must admit, It took me by surprise. The darkness of the film didn't seem to match the lovely, kind, gentle Donald. The film was also brutally funny. A very individual, frightening, fascinating vision of the world. Shortly after I found out the film had been taken away from him and re edited. I saw Donald Cammell a couple of times after that, he smiled, he was charming and kind as usual, but in his eyes you could see his sadness. The next time I went back to Martin Donovan's house was to attend Donald Cammell's memorial service. He had killed himself, leaving a tangible, painful, tragic void. That day was also memorable, to be part again, with China, Donald's wife, of an eclectic group, from Drew Hammond and Bud Cort to Ken Russell and Cassian Elwes, to pay tribute to Donald Cammell the man, the artist, the friend. The other version of "Wild Side" hit theater for a second and disappeared without a trace. Frank Mazzola, the original editor, has restored it since, with love and for love of an unforgettable friend.
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The Ref (1994)
7/10
Lloyd and Lester
12 January 2005
Have you noticed? Lloyd, Kevin Spacey's character in "The Ref" is closely related to Lester, Kevin Spacey's character in "American Beauty" if you see both movies, back to back, you'll notice the astonishing similarities between the two. Twins? Maybe. If they are, or were, poor Lester, a lot of things will become immediately clear. To start with, he had Glynis Johns for a mother. Miss Jones creates such a frighteningly funny portrait of a castrating mother that Lester's emasculation is perfectly explained. Not to mention their choice of spouses, time bombs Judi Davis and Annette Bening This little piece of trivia will add, to the considerable pleasures of this delightful and underrated Ted Demme's dark fairy tale. The opening at the marriage counselor's office is just superb, I can see it endlessly, it never fails to make me laugh. Kevin Spacey and Judi Davis are a couple part Edward Albee part Terence Rattigan. They are priceless. Dennis Leary's energy is contagious and relentless. His best part to date. The clunky sub plot involving their son and, what it appears, like a hurried ending, doesn't spoil the fun. The writing by the brilliant Richard LaGravenesse and Marie Weiss is pure joy. Ideal to see with a bunch of friends.
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10/10
love with the proper stranger
3 January 2005
The book on which this film is based is a very thin volume, thin in every department. As a matter of fact I gave up after a few pages. The film is something else entirely. Meryl Streep plays an Italian living in rural America and she is out of this world. Her opening scenes at the breakfast table are staggeringly beautiful, it could have been a silent movie, we would've understood and live Francesca's story just by looking into Meryl's beautiful face. Every laugh, every move, every nuance is so Italian and so real that I went to look up her background to see if there was some Italian blood in her. Apparently not, but she reminded me of Anna Magnani and of my mother - she's Italian too, so I should know. Clint Eastwood's performance is tender, powerful and generous. I started going to the movies in the 70's and part of the fascination was to go and see movies with adults doing adult things, behaving and reacting to life the way adults do. "Five Easy Pieces" "Coming Home" "Sophie's Choice" and then the old great old ones from "Sullivan's Travels" to "All About Eve" As a side note I should inform the decision makers that on my second visit to the theater I took five kids with me, two 17 year old boys and three girls, 18, 16 and 16. They went back to see it a few days later with some of their contemporaries. The comment of one of the boys was: "It made me think of things I don't usually think about". He invited his mom to the movies to see "Bridges of Madison County" According to his mother, that was the first time ever, but, as it happens, not the last.
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Joy House (1964)
8/10
Threesome, in the best possible way
29 December 2004
I can tell why Delon and Fonda were the wet dreams of the previous generation but nobody ever mention Lola Albright to me. She is exquisite, she exudes an European kind of thing and yet she's totally American. A cross between Doris Day and Ava Gardner. The film is a delight. A sexy thriller soaking in a sticky, tingly atmosphere. I've seen the English and the original French version. Go for the French, the adaptation of the dialogue in English is silly and pretentious. Although I don't like the idea of remakes this is one lends itself beautifully for a juicy rehash. I have a brilliant idea about how to update it, not to mention, how to cast it and as far as a director is concerned, I know the perfect one. I, of course, don't intend to reveal a thing here, you may steal the idea and strike a deal with Miramax.
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9/10
A Prophetic, Wonderous Wonder
23 December 2004
It won the people's choice at the 1984 Berlin Festival, Panorama section. Shortly after, it vanished into thin air. It tells the story of a young man (Nigel Court) in a small village, anywhere in the world. There is something willful and strange about the boy. Autistic, perhaps, we don't really know, but we certainly never met anyone like him. He never knew his parents, raised by the local parish priest (the director, Martin Donovan, himself)The village is a fairy tale village. An extended, harmonious family. Until one day, a small military platoon headed by a mysterious Captain (David Meyer)arrives to the village with a mission. From that moment on, the tone of the film changes. Soon after, we discover the platoon is there waiting for a group of rebel freedom fighters headed by an outlaw leader (Tony Meyer, David's twin brother) The captain, after finding out that the young boy lives alone in the mountains, tries to convince him to stay in the village until the danger is over. But the boy doesn't understand the concept of danger. The scene between the two could be an allegorical piece, staging an imaginary encounter between a pacifist and George W Bush before attacking Irak. But State of Wonder was made in 1983. The freedom fighters call themselves the WFP the War for Peace Movement. He will become the go-between for the two confronting groups trying to avoid a bloody conflict. At the end innocence will pay the heaviest price, but even then, Martin Donovan doesn't allow that death to be in vain. Shot in 13 days in Ireland. It looks like a naive painting. The story is told from the boy's point of view, as a child would have told it, with a child's voice and and language. Unique.I looked for it everywhere, I found old, glowing reviews in some European publications, and a disastrous Variety review. The question is, the film is not available anywhere. If I know so much about it is because I met Martin Donovan, the writer, director, many years ago. I was a fan of "Apartment Zero" "Mad at the Moon" and "Seeds of Tragedy" but it was by chance, reading a reference book, that I found out about the existence of "State of Wonder" I was a bit surprised he had never mentioned it, let alone anyone else. I felt, perhaps,it was, you know, bad. But one day I asked him. He smiled and said, "if you want to see it, there is a tape somewhere, a copy of of a copy, the sound's not very good" You may have guessed I wasn't prepared for what I was about to see. I wept, I laughed and then I wept again. The film has never left me. The central character's nick name is Pichirica. I've only recently found out, Pichirica was the nick name of one Martin Donovan's younger brothers who died some time before he made the film. Personal, honest, visionary. Maybe that's it, "State of Wonder" reveals the heart and soul of its maker. I know. abelardo64@yahoo.com
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10/10
Queen Mary Stuart
15 December 2004
Firstly, this strange, moody and fascinating film reminded me what an amazing actress Mary Stuart Masterson really is. She grows in front of our eyes without betraying for a moment the romantically lyric aspects of the film. I've noticed a similarity with "Male Di Luna", an episode of "Kaos" a remarkable film from the Taviani brothers, but "Mad at the Moon" explores a universe all of its own and it does it with a score worthy of an Academy Award. The look of the film is also a standout. Hart Bochner, Stephan Blake and Fionnula Flanagan give subtle, moving performances but what I felt as soon as the movie ended was the need to shout: Long Live Mary Stuart.
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