Simon Abkarian

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Persepolis Review


Essential
What does one do, or even say, about a film that is, by any measurement that matters, perfect? When considering Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud's finely etched animated adaptation of Satrapi's two-part autobiographical graphic novel about growing up in Tehran during the revolution and the Iran-Iraq War, the problem (if one could call it that) becomes particularly acute. By compressing into this film the myriad of themes that it handles, from religious oppression to teenage rebellion to cultural dissonance and war, the filmmakers could have easily encumbered it with a weight that would have outweighed its many sharp delights. But by some strange and fortunate circumstance born out of vision, patience, luck, and sheer unmitigated talent, they have managed to incorporate each of those weighty topics into a work of art that's light as a feather, in the manner of the true masterpiece.

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.

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Ararat Review


Good
Life must be a nonstop party at the old Egoyan homestead. Our pal Atom comes home, tired from a long day's work, sits down for dinner with his wife Arsinée Khanjian, and finally they retire to the living room... where they get to discuss Armenia at length.

Atom Egoyan, the avant-garde Canadian filmmaker born in Egypt to Armenian parents, has a chip on his shoulder the size of the Great White North. And that chip is Armenia. Obviously harboring a deep guilt for his living high on the hog in the West while his ancestors were massacred in the motherland, Egoyan never misses a chance to revisit Armenia as a theme in his films -- even if, say, it's a movie about a strip club and a dead girl (Exotica). And invariably Egoyan casts his wife Khanjian as an Armenian of some sort, always taking the time to let us know she's Armenian with the subtext that she should be pitied.

Continue reading: Ararat Review

Yes Review


Bad
Rambling monologues featuring rhyming dialogue. Lead characters named "He" and "She." Camerawork aching to be lauded in Film Comment. A maid serving as a philosophical voice of reason. It's all there in Yes, Sally Potter's endless, numbing cinematic essay on... on... something.

"She" (Joan Allen) is a London-based scientist (born in Belfast, raised in America) whose open marriage to her stoic, stuffy husband (Sam Neill) is dying a slow, painful death. "He" (Simon Abkarian) is a cook from Beirut, who meets her at a party, beginning a torrid affair that puts both on a physical and emotional trek taking them to Beirut, Belfast, New York, and a groovy Cuba.

Continue reading: Yes Review

Almost Peaceful Review


Good
The problem with Michel Deville's soulful meditation on life for Jews immediately after WWII is that nothing much happens over the 90 minute running time. A Holocaust survivor opens (and overstaffs) a tailor shop, while each of the employees tries to put their life back together. Their featherweight plots connect at the shop, and give the movie the barest notion of forward mobility. This is the kind of movie that stuffy film critics rate highly out of a sense of guilt and fear, but which never connect with real audiences, desperately waiting for something to happen.

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Yes Review


Weak
I usually give Sally Potter a lot of slack; I've enjoyedall three of her feature films so far ("Orlando," "The TangoLesson" and "TheMan Who Cried"), even if I've been alonein doing so. She's an intelligent and sensitive filmmaker who usually establishesbreathing room for her deeply felt characters.

However her latest film, "Yes," is a failed experiment.Joan Allen plays an Irish-born woman stuck in a loveless, childless marriageto a philandering husband (Sam Neill). She meets a Lebanese cook (SimonAbkarian) who was once a surgeon in Beirut, and begins a love affair. Writtenentirely in verse, "Yes" requires the actors to suffer throughlong passages of blathering talk, and the scenes routinely dry out longbefore they end.

Potter attempts to add layers to the film by hinting atpolitical paranoia and showing scenes through surveillance cameras, butthe verse angle nullifies these attempts. The superb Allen is capable ofextremes: from icy control to dropping her emotional guard, yet she cannotmake this film's rhythms work.

Shirley Henderson, playing a maid who observes the actionand breaks the fourth wall by speaking directly to the camera, shows justhow the film might have played. With her silky, slithering delivery, sheplays with the words like a snake might toy with a mouse.

Ararat Review


OK

Writer-director Atom Egoyan's heartfelt passion project "Ararat" is an abstractly structured account of both the 1915-1923 Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Turks and the massacre's emotional reverberation in the descendants of its survivors.

It's an immense, dark chapter in world history, the gravity of which has never been given its due, especially in the West. As a character in the film points out, even Aldoph Hitler said, "Who remembers the extermination of the Armenians?" when lobbying reluctant underlings to continue with the Holocaust. And Turkey still denies the slaughter took place, despite evidence and eyewitness accounts to the contrary.

Such accounts and denials are an integral part of the truth and shadow at play in this movie, which weaves five stories from three time periods into an intricate elliptical narrative that is sometimes powerfully distressing, sometimes overly contrived and sometimes downright confounding.

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The Truth About Charlie Review


OK

Perhaps it's not fair to begin a movie review by comparing a remake to its original, but since director Jonathan Demme has been proudly trumpeting "The Truth About Charlie" as a reimagining of Stanley Doden's 1963 romantic thriller "Charade," he's practically asking for it.

What the films have in common is a plot centering on a beautiful young woman named Regina (Audrey Hepburn then, Thandie Newton now) who returns to Paris from vacation to discover her husband has stripped their stylish apartment bare, disappeared with a fortune she didn't know he had, and subsequently turned up dead. With the money still missing, dangerous strangers start coming out of the woodwork, convinced she knows where it is.

In "Charade," Hepburn's sprightly Regina meets the suave and cunning -- perhaps a little too cunning -- Peter Joshua, played by Cary Grant, and falls for him as he tries to keep her safe and help her solve the mystery of the absconded riches. In "Charlie," Newton's clever but ingenuous Regina meets gym-buffed paramour Joshua Peters, played by Mark Wahlberg, who may look classy in a '60s-homage pokepie hat, but as a character he's dry, dry, dry.

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Berlin House Where David Bowie And Iggy Pop Lived Marked By Plaque

Berlin House Where David Bowie And Iggy Pop Lived Marked By Plaque

The flat at Hauptstrasse 155 was where Bowie and Iggy lived between 1976 and 1978 in the city, which inspired the so-called 'Berlin trilogy' albums.

Rupert Grint To Star In TV Re-Make Of 'Snatch'

Rupert Grint To Star In TV Re-Make Of 'Snatch'

Grint will star alongside Dougray Scott and Ed Westwick in a 10-part TV series for Sony's streaming platform Crackle.

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Simon Abkarian Movies

Persepolis Trailer

Persepolis Trailer

PersepolisTrailerPersepolis is the moving story of a young girl coming-of-age in Iran during the Islamic...

Casino Royale Trailer

Casino Royale Trailer

Casino Royale introduces James Bond before he holds his licence to kill. But Bond is...

Ararat Movie Review

Ararat Movie Review

Life must be a nonstop party at the old Egoyan homestead. Our pal Atom...

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Yes Movie Review

Yes Movie Review

Rambling monologues featuring rhyming dialogue. Lead characters named "He" and "She." Camerawork aching to be...

Yes Movie Review

Yes Movie Review

I usually give Sally Potter a lot of slack; I've enjoyedall three of her feature...

Ararat Movie Review

Ararat Movie Review

Writer-director Atom Egoyan's heartfelt passion project "Ararat" is an abstractly structured account of both the...

The Truth About Charlie Movie Review

The Truth About Charlie Movie Review

Perhaps it's not fair to begin a movie review by comparing a remake to its...

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