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Lola (1961) Review


Extraordinary
In an time when gunmen walk on ceilings, when men morph into monsters before our eyes, when future governors of California are shorn of their human skin to expose the glistening steel and circuitry underneath, Jacques Demy's classic 1961 Lola is a breathtaking reminder of what magic in the movies used to mean. Lola is a work of romance, and the magic on view is all of the fairy tale variety. What's transformed in Lola isn't a cyborg or a lycanthrope, but rather life itself.

Or maybe I should say "lives." Set in the dreary French port of Nantes, Lola tells the story of the title character, a cabaret dancer and paid companion to the American sailors who prowl the streets and bars of the city on leave. She's a single mother, the child's father having abandoned her during pregnancy seven years before. What sustains her is the hopelessly naive belief that this man will return to her - return to her rich, no less - and that her drab, hardscrabble life will become the vision of happiness she never stops imagining.

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La Dolce Vita Review


Essential
Fellini's La Dolce Vita and Antonioni's L'Avventura were the dawn of the Italian New Wave in 1960, movies about the decadence, glamour and emptiness of middle class life. Placed side by side, they're a portrayal of Rome after the post-World War II economic boom, which led to a new distribution of leisure time for the privileged.

Antonioni's world is stark, cold, confounding, and filled with dead end corners. Fellini's world is more like a circus -- and while his characters are no less doomed than Antonioni's, coming face to face with a great emptiness underneath the glamour, they'll drown with pasted smiles on their faces, dancing the conga.

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1999 Madeleine Review


Grim
Snip-snip, Short Cuts. Magnolia, make room. The Decalogue, find a different audience. You guys have company. This company: a 10-year, 10-film series following 10 intersecting French men and women. The first part of the first act in this sequence, 1999 Madeleine, is a film that I am sure I will praise when I have seen the entire, 10-film sequence. It is also a film that, at this point in time, is so incomplete, such an incompetent piece of storytelling, that part of the audience uttered a few laughs when the words "To Be Continued" appeared at the end.

Such is the fate of fifteen-hour films.

Continue reading: 1999 Madeleine Review

La Dolce Vita Review


Essential
Fellini's La Dolce Vita and Antonioni's L'Avventura were the dawn of the Italian New Wave in 1960, movies about the decadence, glamour and emptiness of middle class life. Placed side by side, they're a portrayal of Rome after the post-World War II economic boom, which led to a new distribution of leisure time for the privileged.

Antonioni's world is stark, cold, confounding, and filled with dead end corners. Fellini's world is more like a circus -- and while his characters are no less doomed than Antonioni's, coming face to face with a great emptiness underneath the glamour, they'll drown with pasted smiles on their faces, dancing the conga.

Continue reading: La Dolce Vita Review

A Man And A Woman Review


OK
French writer/director Claude Lelouch remains a prolific artist (he even made a 9/11 movie), but it's one of his first films, made almost 40 years ago, for which he remains best known.

A Man and a Woman was France's definitive love story for a decade, the Love Story of its generation and a thoroughly French example of its take on romance. Laconic, wandering, and bordering on hopeless, it's easy to see why the film has more fans among the heartbroken than the lovey-dovey.

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Lola Review


Extraordinary
In an time when gunmen walk on ceilings, when men morph into monsters before our eyes, when future governors of California are shorn of their human skin to expose the glistening steel and circuitry underneath, Jacques Demy's classic 1961 Lola is a breathtaking reminder of what magic in the movies used to mean. Lola is a work of romance, and the magic on view is all of the fairy tale variety. What's transformed in Lola isn't a cyborg or a lycanthrope, but rather life itself.

Or maybe I should say "lives." Set in the dreary French port of Nantes, Lola tells the story of the title character, a cabaret dancer and paid companion to the American sailors who prowl the streets and bars of the city on leave. She's a single mother, the child's father having abandoned her during pregnancy seven years before. What sustains her is the hopelessly naive belief that this man will return to her - return to her rich, no less - and that her drab, hardscrabble life will become the vision of happiness she never stops imagining.

Continue reading: Lola Review

Festival In Cannes Review


Excellent
Attending a film festival is a remarkable experience. For a few solid days, a individual can recline in comfortable movie theater seats, consume buckets of warm, buttery popcorn, and enjoy cold fountain drinks. People can also relish that rare film which hasn't been mistreated by studio budgets or stipulations by censor boards. It's altogether a little slice of heaven, and Festival in Cannes provides an insider's look at such an experience.

Each year, hundreds of film festivals transpire, but Cannes is definitely one of the most celebrated. Indie director Henry Jaglom takes us within the 1999 Cannes Film Festival and regenerates the flavor of what it's like to be there. As the movie opens, Jaglom inserts a montage of photographs featuring actors and filmmakers who have visited the festival earlier. Actors like Grace Kelly, Charlie Chaplin, and directors like Alfred Hitchcock have attended.

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Ready to Wear Review


Grim
Ready to Wear, a supposed send-up of the fashion world, is a big disappointment, this time from Robert Altman. I got the feeling that Altman didn't really have any idea what he wanted to say with this film (which he later conceded in a TV interview). Altman has to resort to slapstick and dog excrement to make the audience laugh, despite about a zillion big-name stars. Occasionally, people manage to shine despite the cheesy story, making it mildly entertaining.

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8 1/2 Review


Extraordinary
If any film embodies what most film school wannabes aspire to make it's Fellini's 8 1/2. That's not to say the film is without merit -- though some complain it is self-indulgent and ultimately without meaning -- it is in fact a seminal work of cinema. In other words, those film school geeks know a good thing when they see it.

Federico Fellini (who, more or less, had directed eight features and one short before this point, hence 8 1/2) found himself at something of a crossroads at this point in his career. He had come off of La Dolce Vita, widely considered his greatest work, in 1960. Fellini, searching for something that would be a worthy follow-up, he finally settled on 8 1/2, an idea which had been languishing with him for years. The story is priceless -- and has been widely copied ever since. Marcello Mastroianni plays a famous Italian movie director named Guido Anselmi, who... get this... is coming off a big hit and is searching for his next project. He finally finds one, but due to the outrageous antics of his old cast and crew, problems with his personal life (wife and mistress, natch), and an increasingly perplexing series of dreams and waking fantasies, getting the movie underway proves challenging indeed. As the project nonetheless gets underway with no script and Guido's cluelessness about what to do next, somehow the movie gets made. The irony, of course, is that there wasn't much of a script for 8 1/2 either (the actors were given their lines for the day each morning, often verbally) -- it's art imitates life imitates art imitates life. A film within a film within a film. Genius!

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Festival In Cannes Review


OK

Ten years ago Robert Altman's mordant Hollywood farce "The Player" premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and became an instant sensation. In 1999, writer-director Henry Jaglom took cameras to Cannes to give a similarly sardonic treatment to the increasingly commercial atmosphere surrounding the festival itself.

The resulting picture is "Festival In Cannes," the kind of sweet-and-sour insider movie that film buffs will eat up like so much gelati.

Borrowing visual, narrative and performance stylistic cues from Altman, Jaglom fuses together several astute and entertaining showbiz stories of wheeling and dealing, wonderment, deviousness and schmoozing on the red carpets, at the parties, in the street cafes and in the bungalows of five-star hotels.

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