Dominique Sanda

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The Conformist Review


Essential
Bernardo Bertolucci has always been one of the scant few directors to actually understand the art of eroticism. There's an irrepressible elegance in the way he films women and the way they look when they're just existing or preparing for a tryst with a lover. His early films have a way of stressing those flippant eyebrows and coy smiles over the quick glimpse of the nipple or (god forbid) full breasts. The lilting gasps and moans of lovers preparing and engaging in their blissfulness is a nervy symphony for his acutely shot images. Even now, 36 years after his best film and three years after his amicable The Dreamers, Bertolucci's films seem to careen with seduction in ways that no other filmmaker can possibly recreate. Though best known for Last Tango in Paris, The Conformist still holds as Bertolucci's most provocative work and a classic of Italian New Wave.

Marcello (the great Jean-Louis Trintignant) has a common yearning in his life, though he puts it much more bluntly than others would. Marcello wants to be normal. Normal as in Fascist, normal as in wife, children and government job, and, finally, normal in that he represses and attempts to forget all his dark dreams and past deeds. The charge from his hushed organization is to assassinate his old philosophy professor (Enzo Tarascio) in France while on a fake honeymoon with his "petty" wife, Giulia (Stefania Sandrelli, playing the part with a marvelous mixture of oblivious commitment and hollowed sexiness). While on assignment, he flirts and sneaks to hidden corners with the Anna (Dominique Sanda), the professor's volatile, anti-Fascist wife, and attempts to keep his agency contact (Gastone Moschin) happy.

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The Garden Of The Finzi-Continis Review


OK
Here's an odd combination: A tepid love story is set in 1938 Italy amidst a backdrop of political turmoil. The oddity is the tepidness of the love story -- even Enemy of the Gates, an otherwise weak film, had the good sense to make the romance sizzle in its historical context. Although it plays an admittedly smaller role in the film, the movie's look at the apathetic, disbelieving rich of Italy during the dawn of WWII is a far more compelling tale. Somewhere in the middle lies Finzi-Continis' look at Anti-Semitism in Italy, where the "what happened in Germany could never happen here" mentality reigned. One of Vittorio De Sica's (The Bicycle Thief) final films.

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I, The Worst Of All Review


Weak
This historical drama may be authentic, but it's also deathly slow, to the point of becoming a snooze. The story holds immense promise -- a Mexican nun during the era of Bubonic Plague and the Spanish Inquisition finds her penchant for writing poetry thanks to the local viceroy's wife's "erotic" inspiration. Lesbianism is really just an allusion in the film, as the movie tells its story in slow conversations (one of the parties always seems to be behind bars) and long moments of churchiness. The natural energy of the story is sapped through its telling, which does an injustice to Sor Juana's true tale torn from the entwinements of literature and history.

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The Crimson Rivers Review


Good
Judging from comments strewn across the web, I'm not alone in my bafflement over The Crimson Rivers' subtext and meaning of its ending. It begins with two apparently disparate crimes, the neo-Nazi desecration of a dead girl's mausoleum and the discovery of a mutilated body on a mountaintop -- and the two crimes inexorably draw each other's investigators (Jean Reno and Vincent Cassel) together. But the cat-and-mouse game of Rivers quickly becomes so convoluted that I still don't quite know what to make of the mountaintop showdown at the end.

Still, this French thriller is so stylish it transcends its numerous problems. It has nail-biting suspense and some great performances. It's the kind of movie America remakes -- think George Clooney, Ben Affleck, and Catherine Zeta-Jones while you're watching -- but of course, Hollywood will screw up the ending even worse, I'm sure.

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The Crimson Rivers (Les Rivieres Pourpres) Review


Weak

If the play-by-their-own-rules cops in "The Crimson River" weren't speaking French and driving those little tin can police cars, it would be hard to distinguish this murder-mutilation psycho thriller from a Hollywood production starring, say, Morgan Freeman.

Taking atmospheric cues and unnecessarily lingering close-ups of corpses from American genre high-water marks like "Seven" and "Silence of the Lambs," writer-director Mathieu Kassovitz seems to be using the movie to angle for a Tinsel Town job offer. He shows off his action scene abilities with a seat-gripping car chase and a barely-in-context kickboxing fight. He sidesteps plot loopholes like a pro. He offers up comic relief sidekicks. But at the same time he spins a complex and exponentially tense mystery that inspires the audience to wrack its brain along with the heroes to put together the clues before the killer strikes again.

Said heroes are Jean Reno ("Ronin," "The Professional") and Vincent Cassel ("Elizabeth," "The Messenger"), a Paris detective and a local cop whose investigations collide in a string of gruesome murders dripping in symbolic suggestion and apparently connected to the private university in a quiet mountain town where the locals have become plagued by inexplicable birth defects.

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The Crimson Rivers (Les Rivieres Pourpres) Movie Review

The Crimson Rivers (Les Rivieres Pourpres) Movie Review

If the play-by-their-own-rules cops in "The Crimson River" weren't speaking French and driving those little...

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