Saturday, March 18, 2017

DVDebut: Asif Kapadia/Christopher Hampton's featherweight but very pretty ALI AND NINO

A movie that has much in common with last week's offering, The Ottoman Lieutenant -- same time period (World War I) and same location (the middle east) -- ALI & NINO, from that very up-and-down director, Asif Kapadia, and similar screenwriter Christopher Hampton, has all the markings of a work-for-hire done by people who were not especially enamored by their subject matter but labored dutifully and professionally to produce a decent product.

They have, and at only 100 minutes, the movie is not difficult to sit through. Visually, in fact, it is quite a treat, what with its gorgeous interiors (homes/palaces of the uber-wealthy) and exteriors (it was filmed in Azerbaijan and Turkey in some pretty spectacular locales). But the writing by Mr. Hampton is merely workmanlike, telling its story pretty much as expected, while the direction by Mr. Kapadia (shown at right) is of the same ilk.

The two leads are played by Palestinian actor Adam Bakri (above, right) and Spanish actress Maria Valverde (above, left). Both are charming, attractive and play well together. Though limited by what they were given to do and say, they acquit themselves professionally. As does much of the oddly starry and underused supporting cast, led by Mandy Patinkin (below) and Connie Nielsen and Nino's parents, with the standout performance given by Italian actor Riccardo Scamarcio (at bottom, right), playing the rather quickly dispatched villain of the piece. He's hissable and more.

A lot of incident is packed into the movie's running time, and as this piles up, it simultaneously seems to somehow lessen in importance, even though it deals with issues like life and death and love. But we've seen it all before, even if not perhaps in such picturesque locations.

From IFC Films and after a very limited and don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-it theatrical release, the movie hits DVD this Tuesday, March 21 -- for purchase and/or rental. 

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