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The Falling Review


Extraordinary

While cinematic blockbusters tickle the eyes, this film dazzles the soul. This is a remarkably evocative drama that gets deep under the skin, challenging us to see ourselves in a rather outrageous situation that shifts from quietly disturbing drama to unsettling freakiness. It's strikingly written, directed and performed to get into our heads and stay there like few movies do.

The story is set in 1969 in a girls' school located in the lush English countryside, where 16-year-old Lydia (Maisie Williams) and her best pal Abbie (newcomer Florence Pugh) are members of the Alternative School Orchestra. They're also inseparable, carving their undying love into a tree trunk. But once Lydia has sex with a boy, their relationship begins to shift. And when Abbie faints in class, it seems to become contagious. Suddenly girls are collapsing all around the school, much to the consternation of the headmistress (Monica Dolan) and her stern deputy (Greta Scacchi). As the hysteria spreads, Lydia gets increasingly confused by the occult beliefs of her older brother (Joe Cole) and the agoraphobic behaviour of their mother (Maxine Peake). But what she really misses is her childhood connection with Abbie.

Writer-director Carol Morley (Dreams of a Life) lets this play out like a deranged fairy tale in which Lydia's voyage to self-discovery is both wondrous and terrible at the same time. In its vivid exploration of feminine adolescence, the film echoes such classics as Picnic at Hanging Rock or Heavenly Creatures, by way of David Lynch and Nicolas Roeg (whose son Luc is one of the producers here). And the bold, knowing themes are echoed in gorgeously artful cinematography by the great Agnes Godard plus a stunner of a soundtrack by Tracey Thorn. Amid this sumptuous atmosphere, Morley weaves an enigmatic story packed with mystery, revelations and yes, burgeoning sexuality. But even more than this, the film taps in to the earth-mother power girls discover as they emerge into womanhood.

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The Falling Trailer


In 1969, an all girls' school in rural Britain come under attack from an unknown epidemic. Strange rashes and frequent fainting begin to affect the young girls, leading to some serious changes having to be made. The young girl seen to be at the centre of the epidemic is Lydia Lamont ('Game of Thrones' star Maisie Williams) and her best friend. When the two vow to never part from one another and carve their initials into a tree in the school, they come under fire for suppose occultist tendencies, forcing Lydia to search out and find the cause of the outbreak herself.

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The Browning Version (1994) Review


Excellent
Smitten with the original Browning Version, and rightly so, Mike Figgis remade the lovely little film in 1994. It's quite a faithful remake, updating it to the present day but leaving virtually all of the story and much of the dialogue intact. In many ways it's unneccesary as a remake -- the original still stands up well -- though Albert Finney is perfectly cast in the role of a hated prep school teacher on his last day on the job... and how that might change, however slightly, before the day is out. Watch both versions together if you can to catch the little nuances that Figgis tweaks and fiddles with, though for God's sake watch a comedy after the double feature is over.

The Red Violin Review


Excellent
A sprawling epic and a would-be masterpiece, The Red Violin is the story of an ill-fated violin, from the moment it is crafted in 1600s Italy to the day it is sold at auction in millennial Canada. The violin is passed through 1700s Vienna, to an Oxford virtuoso in the 1800s, and on to Mao's China for spell before landing in the lap of Samuel L. Jackson's instrument appraiser. Following the checkered past of such a fateful instrument makes you feel a bizarre sense of connection with it. But ultimately the movie rings a tad hollow -- with contrived plot points and an unbearable and unbelievable finale. But never mind that -- Violin is a grandiose production that should be seen and enjoyed.

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The Player Review


Extraordinary
From the master of independent cinema, Robert Altman, comes the blackest of satires, The Player. Postmodern, intelligent, suspenseful, funny, brilliant. All of these very useful adjectives apply to this film. There is no way around it: The Player is great.The Player, as I stated, is a black satire from the director of Short Cuts, M*A*S*H, and Nashville. It follows Griffin Mills (Tim Robbins), a villain we love to hate, and, ironically, our main character. Mills is getting postcards. Each one is a threat on his life, and telling others, due to the fact that his position as a studio exec is threatened by up-and-coming producer Larry Levy (Peter Gallagher), is a threat on his career.At the beginning, Mills is charismatic, even likable. But he's quickly shown for the snake that he is. In the words of Tim Robbins, who deserved but was not even nominated for an academy award for his role, "he's manipulative, he's a son of a bitch." It's true, it's all true.The threatening postcards lead him to believe that a writer is sending them. A rejected writer. However, in the cruel industry of movies which kills more ideas than WWII killed people, this does not narrow it down. What does narrow it down is one of the more bizarre moments of the film. He's in the hot tub with Bonnie, story editor and girlfriend (and, by, the way, the only moral character of the movie), when he asks her about his own life. However, unable to formulate it into his own life, he explains it through movies. He gives her a pitch, asks her how long it will be before the writer-in-question becomes dangerous, and she narrows the selection of writers down by providing a five-month time period before danger arrives.Using this, he selects David Kahayne, hack-writer of the bubonic plague of Hollywood: the unhappy ending. David's what movie people call "unproduced", a writer who's a member of the WGA (Writer's Guild of America, which holds a fairly good monopoly on writers in Hollywood) but who hasn't sold a script. He calls his girlfriend June Gudmundsdottir (Gretta Scacchi, pronounced good man's daughter) and finds out where to find him. The surprise there, of course, is that his nickname is, according to June is "the dead man".Kahayne is in Pasadena, enjoying himself at the Rialota watching The Bicycle Thief. Mills confronts him about the postcards, and, in a fit of rage, kills him in a parking lot. Of course, fitting with the Hollywood that it satires so well, he didn't kill the right person. And now, Griffen Mills is being investigated by the police, is falling in love with June, is trying to secure his position as head of the studio, and, on top of it all, fearing for his life.The movie is artistically brilliant and interestingly postmodern. In a very ironic way, the ending is the beginning: a pitch by the mysterious psychotic writer of a movie called The Player, about the events you have just seen. It references itself: naming the record for a tracking shot in an American motion picture (formerly held by Orson Wells' Touch of Evil) while breaking it. Having a main character from D.O.A. being asked if he remembers the film. Talking about eliminating the writers from the artistic process the day after Mills has murdered the writer.There normally isn't much I can say about a film. In my life, there are maybe ten films I could go on and on about, and you have the luck to hopefully see this one. It makes statements. It predicts things. It was ironic at the time it came out and is ironic now.For instance, Griffin Mills is quoted as saying "movies are art, now more than ever" while, at the very same time in the real world, movies were flocking back to the existence of the art film. It is sheltered in a unique ambiguity: June discovers the Mills killed her boyfriend and doesn't care. The good are punished, the bad survive: Bonnie is fired and left for proverbial dead while June and Mills live happily ever after.This is the film for movie buffs. It makes you stop and think about what speeds in front of your face at 24 frames a second. It states things about the industry in a uniquely detached manner, where people talk about all the dark things of the industry as if they were drinking cappuccinos.For instance, another quote by Griffin Mills, asshole producer but satiric god, addresses the elements needed in a modern studio film: "Suspense, laughter, violence. Hope, heart. Nudity, sex. Happy Endings."It is brilliant. It is one that you have to own. It is the movie to watch.

White Mischief Review


Good
It's lust and... more lust, under the Kenyan sun. In this pulpy 1940s period piece. On the eve of WWII, British colonists are living high on the hog -- none higher than a British noble (Joss Ackland), who returns to Africa with a hot young wife (Greta Scacchi, mostly naked throughout the film), who promptly gets into all sorts of trouble. Namely this involves an affair with a local womanizer (Charles Dance), who ends up dead, shot in the head, before too long. One of Britain's most notorious and "unsolved" murders, Ackland's character stands trial and ultimately goes free. This very interesting and authentically recreated (the story is true) tale is still a bit cold in the final analysis, though Scacchi hits notes she'd never reach again.

The Coca-Cola Kid Review


OK
Deep in the Culture Club era and far away down under, Dusan Makavejev took us on one of his most mainstream productions with this story of Eric Roberts as an Atlanta Coke executive who comes to Australia to sell more product. There he discovers a town that doesn't drink Coke at all -- because a local business-/mad-man is bottling his own soft drinks, loved by the locals. What follows is a bizarre tale of sexual ambivalence, oddball family relations, and a Cola war the likes of which the world has never seen. The first half is far better than the resolution, which eventually meanders off to the point of silliness.

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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Cotton Mary Review


Weak
Cotton Mary is a 1950s half-Brit, half-Indian woman in the colonies who runs afoul of her employers -- a stuffy British household featuring new mom Lily (Greta Scacchi). Lily's daughter is a sickly one, and Lily's a borderline unfit mother, so Mary whisks the kid off to her sister for nursing. Yeah, that's the plot -- and the tragic thing isn't that it's a frightful two-hour-long bore, it's that Scacchi is outfitted to look like a fat, frumpy old mom -- which frankly doesn't suit her at all.

The Red Violin Review


Excellent

Like a blending of great symphony and great cinema, "The Red Violin" is a magnum opus of musical-visual composition for French-Canadian director Francois Girard ("Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould").

The biography of a masterpiece musical instrument and its globetrotting passage through centuries of owners, this is a film overflowing with fervent movements of pathos, seductive tempos of passion, tragic refrains of sorrow and a riveting, recurring chorus that ties every measure beautifully together.

The resourcefully framed story of a violin set adrift in time begins in modern Montreal where the tattered yet still magnificent instrument is being sold at auction, with emotional bids ardently exchanged by several interested parties.

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Beyond The Sea Review


OK

This Bobby Darin biopic reportedly spent about 20 years going through various drafts by many different screenwriters -- including James Toback and Paul Schrader -- before Kevin Spacey grabbed it and made it all his own.

Borrowing more than just a little from Bob Fosse's "All That Jazz," the co-writer, director and star sets his film in a kind of flashback/dream structure in which Darin (Spacey) talks with himself as a little kid. This non-reality also allows for the 45 year-old actor to play Darin, who died at age 37, throughout his career.

Spacey's Darin thinks very highly of himself; when he snatches up teen heartthrob Sandra Dee (Kate Bosworth) as his wife, it feels more like trophy gathering than romance. Yet Spacey's own gigantic hubris fits the part perfectly, and when Darin grouses about not winning the Oscar for "Captain Newman, M.D.," you can feel Spacey going through the same thing. When Spacey sings in Darin's voice, it's an act of supreme ego; he's as sure of his Darin impersonation as he is of his own greatness, and it works.

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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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