Michael Kohlhaas is a horse dealer living a simple but idyllic life with his beautiful wife, children and their quaint home. He buys some carefully selected horses to take home from a nearby town but on the way he is stopped by a greedy local baron who removes several of his horses apparently unlawfully. When Kohlhaas protests his rights, he discovers that his beloved wife has been ruthlessly killed and so he decides, with his whole world crashing down around him, to embark on a fearless voyage of vengeance. While attempting to gather an army to destroy the monsters who ruined his life, he is confronted by his own religious beliefs which tell him he must forgive his enemies. However, is seems Kohlhaas is willing to face the fiery depths of hell for what those enemies have taken from him.
Directed by Christine Jeffs, whose Rain was a poignant look at a young girl starting to realize her own form of beauty, Sylvia takes us through the tempestuous relationship between Sylvia Plath (Paltrow) and Ted Hughes (Daniel Craig). They meet, quickly mate, his philandering tendencies are revealed, he leaves, she kills herself. The end. Of course, all of this is public knowledge already, so the details of the travails would be what makes or breaks the film, and unfortunately more stock is put into getting the facts right than in creating much interest in them.
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Anatomy of Hell starts off just dandy in a gay nightclub where the techno is thudding as we see "the woman" (Amira Casar) watching her boyfriend make out with some guy. She goes to the bathroom and slits her wrists, only to have "the man" (porn star Rocco Siffredi) walk in on her. He hauls her off to the doctor to get stitched up, they have a nice, tense walk, and after going down on him, she says she'll pay him to come watch her: "Watch me where I'm unwatchable." It's all rather dark and disconnected, but there's an insistent, punishing quality to these early scenes that highlight writer/director Breillat's abilities as a filmmaker. She has a slithery way with the camera - especially in a scene shot from above where Casar sidles across the nightclub dancefloor, grabbing hands and shouldering past the dancing men with a liquid malevolence - which should have made this a more enthralling film. As it stands, though, Breillat lets her talents as a sensual visualist go to waste in the name of sheer agitprop of the dullest kind.
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An appropriately moody, gray and madly passionate ode to misery-embracing, famously suicidal author and poetess Sylvia Plath, the biographical "Sylvia" nonetheless paints a very incomplete picture of its subject's life. In fact, it doesn't have much to offer anyone who isn't already well versed in Plath lore.
With only a few scattered, out-of-context quotes from her works (the film went ahead despite disapproval and refusals from the Plath estate), the film provides little sense of her emotionally blistering talent, instead relying on the appraisals of peers. "The wealth of imagery," one friend exalts. "Such horrors but expressed with such coolness."
With its awkward sense of time passage, the storytelling sometimes feels like Cliffs Notes. In one comprehensive segment Plath (Gwyneth Paltrow) and husband Ted Hughes (Daniel Craig) move from England to Boston (where Plath's mom is played by Paltrow's mom, Blythe Danner), then live on the coast for a summer, become frustrated by writer's block, move back to England, become college lecturers, begin struggling with marital problems, and have a baby -- all in 1960. Then suddenly it's two or three years later and she's launching a book of poems ("The Colossus") without even a mention of her revitalized inspiration or a shot of her actually writing.
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Michael Kohlhaas is a horse dealer living a simple but idyllic life with his beautiful...
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