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Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
From The Vast Agatha Christie Collection
Why remake Murder On The Orient Express when there are so many titles from Agatha Christie's bibliography that have never been made. Specially this one, directed in 1974 by Sidney Lumet - a genius at having many great actors within a confined space, think 12 Angry Men - with a cast that was to die for. The 2017 Kenneth Brannagh couldn't survive the comparison and it doesn't. I missed the elegance and the wit. Albert Finney got an Oscar nomination for his Hercules Poirot here Kenneth Brannagh's mustache will get all the attention as well as Johnny Depp's incomprehensible performance. Then, of course, the score. The original Richard Rodney Bennett became a classic. So, I ask you, was this necessary?
Anderson and McDowell - A revolution.
I was in a sort of daze for hours after seeing If...for the first time in 2017. A work of art? Certainly but also a poetic historical document. After all the film dates back to 1968. 1968! when things were really changing and youth was taking a step forward, reminding the older generation that we'll be suffering the consequences of your thoughtlessness. So move over or else. I remember my father despising this film, he call it, propaganda. Propaganda?Maybe that's why I never saw it, until now. I was really moved by the film. Malcolm McDowell is the perfect man to incarnate the revolution that was about to come. It also made me look for all of Lindsay Anderson films - Just half a dozen feature films but my God! What an extraordinary director.
Mother Of Intentions
Try to imagine Darren Aronfski with all his talent, preparing Mother in silence working with great actors, re-polishing the script and without the weight of a huge budget. I'm sure Roman Polanski had pressure from the studio to make concessions here and there but look at Rosemary's Baby and tell me. What concessions? I heard Martin Donovan, the director of Apartment Zero, a few months ago, explaining why he hasn't made an American film in 20 years. It was an explanation I'll never forget. He didn't blame anyone or anything, there was no blame of any kind but a deep and I should say, humble reflection and the fruit of his reflection was expressed, beautifully, in his excitement as he prepares his next film. I remembered his words as I watched Mother! Try to imagine Darren Aronfski with all his talent, giving time for the baby to be totally form and ready to be born. Working with great, new, unknown actors, without pyrotechnics but just the truth within the symbols (if any) - I love Jennifer Lawrence and I would have loved to see her play this role at the time of Winter's Bone - regardless of her youth. I believe that small private dreams/nightmares should be told with a feeling of privacy. Think Roman Polanski himself played the meek tittle character in The Tenant and the journey in Mia Farrow's eyes throughout Rosemary's Baby, Colin Firth's invisibility in Apartment Zero. In Mother there is also a Luis Bunuel touch from The Exterminating Angel but in Bunuel we live the surreal mystery with all our five senses. In Mother, we keep questioning, at a distance. No matter how close you come with the camera. Jennifer Lawrence is lovely but she starts with fear in her eyes and she stays there throughout. Javier Bardem is a sloppy variation of John Cassavetes in Rosemary's Baby. Ed Harris, as usual, superb as the Sidney Blackmer of the situation and Michelle Pfeiffer, who provides the biggest and most welcome surprise in a character clearly based on Ruth Gordon's Minnie in the same Polanski masterpiece. For all of the above I felt, sitting through Mother! A long and irritating experience. Now, I'd like to set a complaint about this, who shall I call?
Le locataire (1976)
Our mutual universes
How can it be that something so distant can feel so close. This is one of those films that makes me wish I had made it. Crazy I know, but the feeling is real. It's like saying, "oh no, I wanted to tell that story myself" It rarely happens to me but it happened before, I had that feeling with "Purple Noon" and "Apartment Zero" - What's wrong with me, right? - All films of lyrical darkness. "The Tenant" is terrifying and you don't want it to stop. All those Oscar winners, Melvyn Douglas, Jo Van Fleet, Lila Kedrova and Shelley Winters for goodness sake - permeating the horrible attraction to the building - yes just like in Apartment Zero. Roman Polanski not only directs but also plays the title character, to perfection, I hasten to ad. Like most works of art, it's not for everybody, I know some people I admire who, hate, hate! The Tenant. I get it but I'm sorry because I know they are missing something, I don't know what, but something.
All the President's Men (1976)
A Powerful Reminder
We're in June 2017 and "All The Presiden's Men" from 1976 reminds us that film, sometimes, is the strongest historical document we've got. The Washington Post raising alarm signs then and now. Alan J Pakula is one of the greatest directors of his generation. Jane Fonda during her AFI Lifetime Achievement Award told us that working with Alan J Pakula was like dancing with Fred Astaire. Here the chemistry between Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman is such that, at times, it feels like a romantic comedy, warts and all. Astonishing. Hal Holbrook as Deep Throat gives the feeling of "thriller" to this incredible story. We know how the story ends but that doesn't diminish our nervousness that it's perhaps a bit of impatience, just like now in 2017, to see justice be done.
The Collector (1965)
Stamp Of Approval
Gorgeous in a rather creepy, uncomfortable way. Terence Stamp is superb and Samantha Eggar, extraordinary. The sexual tension is tangible even if it is one sided. That's were the sickness resides. He is convinced that she will eventually love him. Isn't that the definition of madness? But when that madness looks like Terence Stamp, everything becomes immediately more complicated. I sat hoping for both their hopes to be fulfilled. Absurd, right? Perhaps but I wanted her to escape and I wanted him to have a moment of real honest intimacy with her - Impossible I know but that's what makes The Collector so compelling. The scene where he takes her out of the bathtub is one of the most perverse sex scenes without sex I've ever seen. Samantha Eggar was nominated for an Oscar but not Terence Stamp. In my own wishful mind, he won, big time. He certainly deserved it.
Secret Ceremony (1968)
A Gothic Triangle
What an unexpected, odd, treat. Films that travel undetected, spotted by accident - as it was in my case. I was reading about this startling Argentinean writer, Marco Denevi, when I discovered that one of his short stories had been adapted for the screen, directed by Joseph Losey of "The Servant" fame and with a cast to die for. Elizabeth Taylor as a prostitute that takes advantage of a peculiar girl, played with real zest by Mia Farrow who mistakes her for her mother, and Robert Mitchum, as the disruptor. This classy if bizarre production also includes Pamela Brown and Peggy Ashcroft in the cast. I enjoyed the weirdness thoroughly. It unsettled me and made me wonder how this film had been received in 1968. Apparently not very well. The one thing that made people talk about Secret Ceremony at the time was an infamous still with Elizabeth Taylor and Mia Farrow in a bathtub together. For lovers of the odd and unique this is a real treat.
The Sound of Music (1965)
We are alive with The Sound Of Music
Let me confess I'm not a Catholic, I don't have children, I can't stand schmaltz and yet I love The Sound Of Music. I've tried to explain this to myself, let alone to others, without ever finding a satisfactory answer. Yesterday I sat to see it again with a group of kids who hadn't seen it before. They all loved it even the ones who loved Transporters. I asked them afterwards why did they loved it so much and a 12 year old boy's reply was: "It makes you feel alive" Wow, I thought, Wow! Of course, that's what I felt too and a 12 year old found the perfect words to express my feelings. Julie Andrews is a the center of this little miracle. She is Sister Maria and her wishes, thoughts and fears are recognizable automatically, because they are, in many ways, my same wishes, thoughts and fears. Perfect. Thank you.
Roman Holiday (1953)
Emma Thompson and Audrey Hepburn
A comment made by Emma Thompson made me want to see "Roman Holiday" again. Miss Thompson said about Audrey Hepburn "she has no bite" Implying that Miss Hepburn wasn't much of an actress. Well, I don't know what she was talking about or perhaps she doesn't either. To see "Roman Holiday" again in 2017 was a moving and wonderful experience. Audrey Hepburn's performance is as fresh and enchanting as I remembered. Perhaps even more. So I arrived to the conclusion that Miss Thompson is talking about a different kind of acting. When a performance travels in time with the same power, decade after decade, for me that's great film acting. In "Roman Holiday" she took me with her and convinced me, heart and mind, that she was that princess and I loved her. William Wyler, the wonderful director, knew what he was doing - he always did. By introducing us to Audrey Hepburn he reinforced and reinvigorated his own prodigious legacy. I love Emma Thompson as an actress but she's totally wrong about Audrey Hepburn.