Friday, January 31, 2014
Home, and now her latest movie, SISTER, French filmmaker Ursula Meier has given us two very different but equally worthwhile films that deal with fractured families -- the first an odd but involving saga of location, the second a more standard yet affecting tale of class and need. In it a young-approaching-teenage brother and his adult sister fend for themselves, the latter doing odd jobs and usually getting fired, the former stealing possessions of wealthier families that frequent the nearby ski resort.
Léa Seydoux (above right) plays the sister (and very well), the film belongs to the young boy, Simon, essayed by Kacey Mottet Klein (above, left and below, right) of Home and Gainsbourg), who is so consistently real and needy, while alternately strong and vulnerable, that he becomes as memorable, I believe, as was Antoine Doinel of Truffaut's landmark film.
Gillian Anderson, above, left) who takes a liking to the boy -- creates a marvelously multi-faceted character who, by film's end, does not easily let go of heart nor mind.
Martin Compston (above, right) who plays a restaurant worker who tries to befriend our boy. Ms Meier understands wells how our motives are always mixed between our own needs and those of others, and she continually makes this clear throughout the film -- which leaves us, as well as her characters, duly chastened and somehow appreciative by film's end.
Netflix streaming, via Amazon Instant Video or on DVD.
Thursday, January 30, 2014
TIM'S VERMEER, the new documentary that was shortlisted for Best Documentary award but did not make the final cut. No matter. (Except maybe for its box-office take.) The film itself will thrill, surprise and entertain art-loving audiences across the globe, especially those who treasure the "inspired-by-light" paintings of the 17-Century Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. Inspired by light, indeed! More than we knew, evidently, as entrepreneur/inventor Tim Jension pretty much proves that, to create his amazing paintings, the artist used a kind of very early photographic technique.
Penn & Teller duo who, evidently, when the pair got wind of Jenison's interest in Vermeer and what he was doing about it -- setting out to somehow prove that the artist used a kind of photographic technique to create his famous photo-realist paintings that were done some 150 years prior to the invention of actual photography -- decided to film the fellow's "experiment. They succeeded quite well -- Teller, (shown below) directs, while Penn (shown at left) produces and also appears in and helps narrate the film. Jenison
David Hockney (above, left) -- and in the end, Tim does indeed create his own Vermeer, even if it is probably but a pale imitation of the real thing. I wish the filmmakers had given us a better look at Tim's work, and compared it more closely with a reproduction photo of the actual painting -- now owned by the current Queen Elizabeth of England. The difference, of course, is that our Tim is no artist, as he readily admits. Vermeer was a great one.
Sony Pictures Classics and running a sleek 80 minutes, the movie opens this tomorrow, Friday, January 31, in New York City, at the Angeli-ka Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, and in Los Angeles at the Arclight Hollywood. In the coming weeks, it will open in cities all across the country. To view all currently scheduled playdates, simply click here.
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
MITT -- all about how a certain former governor of Massachusetts who campaigned for Presi-dent, first in the 2008 Republican primary, where he lost, and then again in 2012, where he won, but then lost the election -- will probably not change a single mind regarding whether the outcome of that election was deserved and appreciated. What it does--pretty well, too--is humanize a man, who, from all we could tell at the time, appeared to be a lying (oh, sorry: make that "flip-flopping"), conniving and uber-entitled fellow.
Greg Whiteley, shown at right, is a Mormon, just like Mitt Romney and his family, and so, one suspects, was able to become a much more trusted source and guide to enable the Romney clan to relax and just be them-selves so that he could bring to the screen the correct semblance of jus' plain folk that a movie like this requires. Mr. Whiteley, also the director of New York Doll and the debate documentary, Resolved, does it. In his hands, the family seems like a really nice bunch of people. Convincingly, too. They appear to be a close-knit group who care about and rely on each other for everything from encouragement and honesty to a shoulder (a number of them actually) to lean or cry on.
Netflix organization, made its streaming debut this past Friday, January 24, and can be seen now, exclusively via that service.
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Bombay Beach is one good example of the latter form, and now comes another, perhaps not quite so successful, but certainly worth viewing: 12 O'CLOCK BOYS from first-time filmmaker Lotfy Nathan (shown below).
Oscilloscope, opens this Friday, January 31, in 21 cities -- from Miami to New York, Baltimore to L.A. You can check out the entire list of playdates, cities and theaters by clicking here.
Monday, January 27, 2014
CHARLIE VICTOR ROMEO (or maybe not, given the mostly unhappy endings to these six drama-tized black-box-transcripts that show-and-tell us of what transpired just before the landing/crash. For the rest of us, the movie is one very odd experiment. Filmed in the kind of 3D that makes Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder look like a Michael Bay special-effects extravaganza, this film has perhaps the least reason for being shot in three dimensions than anything seen so far. It's a confined-space movie, for god's sake, in which we're trapped, over and over throughout six different scenarios, in a tiny cockpit, where traffic is restricted so nobody much moves, and the set, such as it is, changes little.
Gravity, this ain't. (Although, once Ms Bullock is inside a space capsule, the two films begin, unfortunately, to resemble each other.) Further, the film is taken from a theater piece first staged here in NYC nearly fifteen years ago that has since traveled the country. The film's theatrical roots are never out of sight, right down to the casting -- for budget reasons, no doubt -- of the same six actors to play the 15 to 20 different roles required to fill the six episodes. You'll figure this out soon enough, and of course go with it, but the doubling and tripling of the cast members means that the film never begins to lose its on-the-cheap, off-off-Broadway quality.
Film Forum, where Charlie Victor Romeo (we might as well call this a documentary of sorts: maybe an "acted documentary") gets its U.S. theatrical premiere for a two-week run beginning this Wednesday, January 29. It will then play at the Downtown Independent theater in Los Angeles from January 31 through February 6.
Note: Meet the directors in person at Film Forum,
as Robert Berger, Patrick Daniels & Karlyn Michelson
appear on Wednesday, January 29, at the 8pm show, and
Berger & Michelson only appear on Friday, January 31 &
Saturday, February 1, also at the 8pm screenings.
Sunday, January 26, 2014
A ROYAL AFFAIR (2012) is a story of doomed love that works with a glass of wine and a tissue box. Second, it's a true tale from Denmark that oddly creates context for our own American Revolution. A.O Scott, The New York Times movie critic, rightly called it an "advanced placement bodice-ripper" for its entertaining and useful blend of romance, scandal, and history. Evidently based on both the 1999 book, "The Royal Physician's Visit," by Per Olov Enquist, and "Prinsesse af blodet," an erotic novel by Bodil Steensen-Leth, the film was directed and co-written by Nikolaj Arcel (shown below), nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and won a Golden Globe in 2013. It streams on Netflix.
Denmark in the early 1700's is run by Catholic dogmatists out of step with political change -- their Denmark, they believe, is the last decent outpost in a depraved Europe. The conser-vative privy council is in league with Dowager Queen Juliane Marie, pious stepmother of the infantile, mentally ill young King Christian VII, whom Juliane hopes to replace with her own son. The council runs the country coaxing Christian to sign its decrees. An arrange-ment is made with King George III of England to marry off his 15-year-old sister to Christian. (Yes -- the same King George who taxed our colonies into revolution).
Alicia Vikander (Kitty in Anna Karenina ), British Princess Caroline Mathilde sets foot on her new homeland as a hopeful bride to discover that her spouse is infantile and very unpleasant husband material. They have a son, Frederik, and soon the council hires a doctor to treat Christian who wallows in brothels and makes a spectacle of himself in public.(Two modern theories of his condition are schizophrenia and Porphyria. In this telling, it looked to me more like bi-polar illness combined with mental retardation.)
Mads Mikkelsen, shown above, right, and below, left), brought with him from Europe the Enlightenment era writings of Diderot, Voltaire, and Rousseau. To describe Struensee in our own terms, he believed in the 99% rather than the top 1%. He could have been John Adams who famously said "Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write." (Adams and the German doctor were born two years apart.) Before his Danish assignment, 'free-thinker' Struensee wrote papers on issues of freedom and individual human rights.
Struensee's child) and the Doctor ("the foreigner") for Christian's interference in state business. They attempt to have Struensee arrested, but Christian by now differentiates bad government from good. He dismisses the entire council and installs the doctor as his chief and only minister. Struensee's tenure was under two years, but it jump-started backward Denmark by abolishing corporal punishment and torture of prisoners, ending capital punishment for theft, permitting freedom of the press, reducing revenues to nobility, banning slave trade, et al. Minister Guldberg says to Struensee, "You are destroying my country," to which the doctor replies, "Who is destroying the country: the King, or someone who believes the earth was created in six days?"
Mikkel Boe Følsgaard (shown above and below) as young King Christian VII, for which he won a best actor award at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2012. Følsgaard creates a believable portrait of a mentally ill child-man unable to function as an adult while having innate sense. He is sympathetic as he vacillates between infantile and courageous acts, blossoming under the intelligent caring of his wife and doctor.
This post was written by Lee Liberman,
who will be joining us now and again
--maybe weekly--to cover the occasional film.
Her ability to weave both history and criticism
into her writing is much appreciated by TrustMovies.
Saturday, January 25, 2014
THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY again, almost fifteen years after its initial release, turns out to be a major pleasure, for reasons both expected and not so. Having just recently seen once again, Purple Noon, the original film adapted from the Patricia Highsmith novel, and then coming upon the version written and directed by the late Anthony Minghella, suddenly available via Netflix streaming, a chance to view this film again proved irresistible. And worth every one of its 139 minutes.
Cate Blanchett (below) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (two photos below) for major support, plus a roster of terrific actors, American and Italian, in the more minor roles. As good and as groundbreaking as was Purple Noon in its day (1960), this later version of the novel was able to do much more with the Highsmith property, thanks to the change in mores and movie "morals" over the 40-year span between the two. Minghella also allows much more psychology and character(s) into the mix, broadening and deepening the story.
Truly Madly Deeply, and the award-winning The English Patient, which garnered the filmmaker his Oscar (along with eight others).
Nine, anyone? Didn't think so. Anyway, he wasn't responsible for the ham-fisted direction but only co-wrote the screenplay for that second-rate musical) and he did a few films that were good but not great. Yet imagine what he might have given us had he lived another couple of decades.
Netflix and is also available elsewhere and on DVD and Blu-ray. (And that's Mr. Minghella, at work, below.)