Helmut Berger

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The Devil's Violinist Review


Very Good

Filmmaker Bernard Rose gives the period biopic a kick in the seat of the pants with this raucously creepy drama about 19th century violin virtuoso Nicolo Paganini, who played so innovatively that people thought he had made a pact with the devil. Rose takes this idea and runs with it, stirring in modern-day ideas of fame and celebrity and finding a series of very clever ways to make violin-playing feel fresh and intriguing. So it's a little frustrating that the central figure remains so oddly out of reach.

After struggling to get anyone to pay him any attention in early 1800s Vienna, Nicolo (played by real violin prodigy David Garrett) signs his soul away to Urbani (Jared Harris), a fast-talking promoter who turns him into a celebrity across Europe. In London, musician Watson (Christian McKay) wants Nicolo to play the Royal Opera House and restore the local fortunes, so hawks his home to bring him over. When he finally arrives, the streets are full of screaming fans, clamouring tabloid hacks (including Joely Richardson) and women protesting Nicolo's notorious womanising and devil worship. But Watson, his mistress Elizabeth (Veronica Ferres) and daughter Charlotte (Andrea Deck) try to sooth Nicolo's artistic temperament. Of course, Nicolo is immediately smitten by Charlotte.

The film has a refreshingly free-wheeling tone, with handheld camerawork, whizzy editing and a continual sense of the music, which is played at high-energy in a variety of colourful locations. Every scene is also layered with bawdy intrigue, as characters mistrust and/or lust after each other. The seasoned cast members have a great time with this. Harris is gleefully sinister with his towering hat and sinister accent. McKay is haplessly eager for his ship to come in far against the odds. And Richardson goes enjoyably broad as a journalist willing to do anything for a scoop.

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The Garden Of The Finzi-Continis Review


Good
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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The Damned Review


OK
Think of it as The Magnificent Nazi Ambersons. Luchino Visconti (Death in Venice) weaves a fictionalized account of 1933-34 Germany as the Nazis rise to power. He follows one family in particular, a wealthy upper-crust bunch of industrialists who throw their lot in with the Nazis, despite some clear abuses in the horizon. These are the titular damned -- having sold their souls pretty much literally in the pursuit of even more wealth.

Along the way Visconti tosses a litany of decadence at us. As if Nazism wasn't enough, we get incest in the family, a little pedophilia, and some cross-dressing and homosexual hijinks. It all culminates in a bloodbath -- the historical "Night of the Long Knives," a one-night, bloody purge of dissidents in Hitler's old private army, the SA (predecessor to the SS), brought on by fears of a coup against his budding rule. Hitler's rule would be solidified after this history-making event.

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The Devil's Violinist Movie Review

The Devil's Violinist Movie Review

Filmmaker Bernard Rose gives the period biopic a kick in the seat of the pants...

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