In adapting Satrapi's book for the screen, the filmmakers could easily have gone the route that Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller did with Miller's Sin City, after all, her emotive but simple black drawings would be many times easier to represent in film than, say, the luridly complex and many-colored works of many other graphic artists. But instead of simply replicating what was on the printed page, Satrapi and Paronnaud went to a much more expressive place, choosing instead to keep the spirit and basic look of those dark, simple pages of art, and just add a natural fluidity to it. The frame doesn't move much, leaving one with the impression of looking through a window into another world, where the characters practically float like dancers amid the layered fields of beautifully grey-shaded art, and the mood is grim and poetic. There is little background music or noise except when necessary, eschewing the clouding clutter of a Disney production, with the bright and clear vocals of an early Peanuts film -- and all the heartache-inducing simple truths which that implies.
Continue reading: Persepolis Review
Put simply, Alexander the Great is a colossal bore. Directed by Robert Rossen (The Hustler, All the King's Men), this visit to the epic well comes off far worse than contemporaries Ben-Hur and Cleopatra. What's the problem? Well, the troubles are legion. Start with Richard Burton, engaging here in the lead role of the philosopher/warrior/conquerer, but given a series of brooding sermons to deliver for well over two hours. Burton doesn't carry the movie as he absolutely has to; the result is an experience not unlike attending a late night lecture. Then there's the warfare. Those of us spoiled on modern epics like Troy will find the playful skirmishes here on the laughable side. Sure, you can stage a battle with just a couple hundred men and no special effects if you shoot it carefully, but if your warriors look tired and on the verge of striking, you won't quite get the necessary effect. My little brother and I had more authentic swordfights when we were kids, using sticks in the backyard. Pretty sad considering Alexander conquered Europe and Asia.
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Before pondering this, the question of whether or not a frivolous film is acceptable needs to be addressed. Mindless eye candy is redeemable when a) at least one character is fun to follow; b) some of the humor is fresh instead of feeling like a bunch of regurgitated stereotypes; c) not every single scene or line of dialogue is predictable, including the supposedly surprising conclusion.
Continue reading: 8 Women Review
An affectionate, sophisticated parody of Technicolor melodramas and musicals of the 1950s -- with a some mock-Agatha Christie thrown in for fun -- Francios Ozon's ironic, estrogen-overloaded "8 Women" is a cinema-couture candy whodunit, full of frivolous twists and frothy performances.
Set at a snowed-in country chateau in France where the man of the house has been found dead with a knife in his back, the artificially stylized film (sets are deliberately soundstagey, Dior-inspired costumes pop with color, characters are mock-'50s stereotypes) traps all its impeccably attired suspects in the house together (The phone line's been cut! The car has been sabotaged!) and slowly reveals each of their deep, dark secrets to fuel whimsical paranoid conjecture.
Could the killer be the man's well-bred bourgeois wife (Catherine Deneuve) who was never all that fond of him? How about their chic, beautiful, ostensibly virginal elder daughter (Virginie Ledoyen) or her tomboyish teenage sister (Ludivine Sagnier)? Perhaps his live-in mother-in-law (Danielle Darrieux) -- who had been faking the need to use a wheelchair for reasons unknown -- did it?
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