Claire Dolan (Katrin Cartlidge, Naked) is a high priced prostitute, so down on her luck she phones her johns from a pay phone. "I miss you. I want to see you. I really want you inside me. I can be there in ten minutes." All her human interaction is reduced to a minimalist bargaining of her goods for exchange.
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Modern wars (at least, those not involving the U.S.) aren't fought man to man, or even tank to tank. They're fought in the dead of night, when everyone thinks the United Nations "peacekeepers" aren't watching. By day, the U.N. "smurfs" (so called because of their ridiculous blue helmets) try in vain to broker half-assed ceasefires between sides that have extremely complicated reasons for fighting and have little respect for the men in blue.
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Despite the remarkable assemblage of talent, Cacoyannis' Cherry Orchard feels self-aware of adapting a renowned classic from stage to screen. The cinematography is handsome and stately, but more appropriate to the colorful orchards and vast family estate, the 1900 costumes, the theatrical entrances and exits, than to the intimacy of Chekhov's vivid characters. (It almost makes one long for the hand-held documentary treatment of Louis Malle's seminal Vanya on 42nd Street.) The stylistic choices here take a while to get used to, especially during a drawn-out prologue, absent in the original text, as Madame Lyubov and her buoyant teenage daughter Anna (Tushka Bergen) make elaborate preparations to return to their Russian estate after a self-imposed exile. Some may be exhausted by this Masterpiece Theater treatment (lingering over every piece of luggage) before Chekhov's social entanglements kick in -- which happens shortly after the dozen major characters have assembled at their estate.
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French ¾ber-actor Daniel Auteuil stars as Xavier, an investigator with a seedy past -- he's had a mysterious scrape or two, and now, to get by, he does double time, accepting money for an engagement only to blackmail the subject for more. When a wealthy woman (Nastassja Kinski) and her family hire Xavier to find a grown man who's gone missing, Xavier ends up cracking a child porn gang wide open.
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Back in 1993, the film was one of the first I tried to professionally review. I never did write it. I fell asleep in the movie theater. In 1998 I tried to watch it again on video. I awoke to static late that night after the tape ran out. I'd zonked out right on the couch.
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Director Kathryn Bigelow may produce broad, middling big-budget fare when she has a studio breathing down her neck and a big-name star to appease, as she did in this summer's Harrison Ford submarine thriller "K-19: The Widowmaker." But left to her own devices, she's capable of creating fine layers of intimacy and intensity, as she does in "The Weight of Water."
The film, released two years ago in Europe, is a character-driven dual narrative -- the story of a troubled couple spending a tense working vacation on a sailboat with the husband's brother and his enticing girlfriend, and the story of a century-old murder on the New England island where they're anchored.
The wife Jean (played by the wonderfully nuanced and inconspicuously beautiful Catherine McCormack) is an intellectual photographer whose assignment to take pictures of the island and the murder site for a magazine story is the reason for their trip, and the movie's passport into the past. The husband Thomas (a complicated, imaginative and sullen Sean Penn), is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who some years ago stopped picking up his pen and started tipping back the bottle. Their normally steadfast but strained relationship is put particularly on edge by the company they're keeping on this trip.
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A vivid yet distinctly fictitious recreation of the crime-plagued gutters of 19th Century London, the Jack the Ripper thriller "From Hell" is quite a homage to the dense graphic novel from which it was spawned.
It's nothing if not atmospheric, what with its opulently dingy, blood-red set dressings, its pinched-cheek and cheap-corset prostitutes, and its opium- and absinthe-addicted hero -- an unorthodox Scotland Yard Inspector named Abberline (Johnny Depp in lambchop sideburns) who discovers dangerous secrets in the Ripper's ritualized killings.
The film's talented directors -- brothers Allen and Albert Hughes ("Menace II Society," "Dead Presidents"), definitively demonstrating there's more to them than ghetto fare -- blend quite a transporting concoction with their viscous visuals, menacing moodiness, puzzling plot and heady performances.
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War movies have a tendency to be grandiose and didactic ("Saving Private Ryan"), action-packed and heroic ("Behind Enemy Lines"), maudlin and self-important ("Life Is Beautiful") -- or some combination thereof. But "No Man's Land" is none of the above, and above them all in its brilliant, unpretentious simplicity.
A small-scale battlefield farce, it speaks volumes about the absurdities of modern ethnic conflicts in the age of ever-present but under-effective UN Peacekeepers -- and it does so without soap box speeches, overblown battle sequences or playing any metaphorical violins.
Bosnian writer-director Danis Tanovic boils down the ironic truths of centuries-old enmity in his homeland and presents them in a meaningfully funny story about two soldiers from opposite sides of the war, trapped together between enemy lines in an abandoned trench.
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