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9/10
Inspiring and beautifully shot, though a bit flawed
17 September 2011
I have read many terrible reviews of this film and expected something bland and convoluted, but after a few minutes, the visuals and storytelling really drew me in. Yes, some parts of the dialog are quite cheesy or too obvious, and the combination of the stories of Manolo and Josemaria is far from perfect. But Joffé is a very visual filmmaker, and so he was able to achieve with his beautiful images (kudos to Gabriel Beristain for his stunning visuals!) what he wasn't perfectly able to do with his dialog: to impress and inspire.

It was especially interesting how delicately and plausibly Joffé handled many real-life events from St Josemaria's life - scenes that could have gone terribly wrong in less expert hands. He also payed a lot of attention to visual detail - for example, in the end titles, the photos of the actors that portrayed real-life people are combined with real photos of these people.

The less interesting storyline was that of Manolo, though the final revelations were nevertheless disturbing enough. (At the same time, the movie has an astonishing lack of both gore and even the slightest touch of sensuality in it - surprising for a film about war and a destructive passion... They probably didn't want to lose the PG-13 rating, did they? ;-))

I guess, it's a movie for open-minded people with a taste for old-school movie-making, grand drama and big moral questions.
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9/10
A classic cult comedy
27 January 2005
Though made as early as 1931, this film still has cult status in Hungary and was voted last year by a group of critics one of the 12 best Hungarian films of the century.

Mrs. Schneider, the wife of Mr. Schneider, a nouveau riche, wants to have a real butler to bring some 'class' into her household. This butler, Hyppolit, who had served at a count's castle before, turns everything upside down in the house. He changes the whole furniture as well as Mr. and Mrs. Schneider's eating habits. Things get more complicated, when Terka, the young daughter of the Schneiders should be married to a friend of her father's she does not love - and Mr. Schneider becomes seduced by a night club dancer called Mimi...

Some lines of the film as well as its songs 'Pá, kis aranyom pá' (Bye, Sweetie, Bye Bye) and 'Köszönöm, hogy imádott' (Thank You for Adoring Me) are still widely quoted and known in Hungary. A must-see for fans of old-fashioned, light-hearted comedy!
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5x2 (2004)
10/10
Beautiful, thoughtful and excellent
26 January 2005
As another reviewer before me, I also can't believe how badly people are writing about this film here. I adore Francois Ozon and I've seen all his feature-length films. This one seems quite different from the others (except, maybe, Sous le sable) and it's as low-key as Ozon could ever get, but it is still an excellently scripted and played film that makes one think.

I didn't consider the backwards structure to be gimmicky at all, it rather helped the viewer to better make out flaws early in the relationship. There is betrayal in each one of the episodes, starting with the last (chronologically the first) one. The film shows us that even little egoisms and uncharitable behavior can lead to grave consequences - in this case, to divorce. The woman, Marion, seems to be easily led anywhere, not having enough standing of her own, while the man, Gilles, seems to be egoistic, cowardly and sometimes just simply sex-crazed.

I think the structure rather helps us to understand the characters better, since we have already seen the consequences of their actions and attitudes. I didn't consider the large gaps between (and also in) the episodes to be a problem - they only acknowledge that the whole story can never be told because it is made up by every single moment between their first meeting and the last time they see each other. These episodes can only indicate what went wrong, they cannot explain - that would be too simplistic.

The actors were excellent, especially Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi. The way the looks of the main characters changed during the film (becoming more and more youthful and fresh as the story goes backwards), was also excellently done.

The parallel love stories (between Gilles's brother and his young lover, and between Marion's parents) shed some more light on the relationship between Marion and Gilles - also on what might have gone wrong.

This film should probably be required viewing for every couple wanting to get married... :-) Not in order to deter them, but rather to make them aware of the pitfalls of relationships and married life.
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Great Performances: Monsignor Quixote (1987)
Season 15, Episode 1
8/10
Nice film version of a wonderful novel
23 January 2005
A very nicely done film version of one of my favourite books. The screenplay follows Graham Greene's novel very closely, aptly inserting the problem of faith and doubt into a classic road movie. The locations in Spain were well chosen.

Though I sometimes had the impression that the film is little more than an illustration of the book by means of moving pictures, the performances, especially by the very touching Alec Guinness, are well worth seeing it. I especially liked the scene of Quixote's discussion with his bishop - in this moment, the film gained some genuine punch of its own.

I also loved very much how the final climax of the book was rendered - played by Guinness who was himself a devout Catholic in his lifetime: 'corpus Christi... companero, you must kneel, companero!'.
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Ae Fond Kiss (2004)
8/10
interesting film about different cultural mentalities
22 January 2005
I am feeling quite awkward about the characters in this film, especially the girl, Roisin. All through the story, I had the impression that she was behaving in an extremely selfish way - though this may also be understandable as she felt threatened by the behaviour of the Pakistani family. But still, she never seemed to understand any viewpoint different to hers - not even the fact that her boyfriend was torn between his love to her and his family.

The film exemplified very well the different mentalities of, on the one hand, a Western city single, completely unattached, and, on the other hand, an immigrant community where the family and honour are highly valued.

I had some trouble with Roisin's relationship towards her Catholicism: we were never shown if she was faithful or just a nominal Catholic who wanted to remain so because she wanted to teach in a Catholic school. She does not seem to draw any strength from faith, but lives in a rather self-centered manner. The introduction of the sectarian fanaticism of the parish priest was interesting, because the Catholics in Britain are themselves (and were even more so in the past) a rather close-knit community, similarly to the Pakistanis and Muslims in the country.

Some reviewers here seemed not to have understood what the priest's problem was with her - it was not (so much) that she was unmarried, living with a man, but that she was, in the eyes of the Church, still married to her ex-husband, but lived with another man (thus in adultery). It seems a bit mysterious to me why she hadn't applied for annulment herself, as is suggested by the priest (sometimes also called "divorce Catholic style"). But as I have already said, we don't get to know very much about her whole relationship towards religion anyway.
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The Edukators (2004)
8/10
Psychologically well developed
18 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
A very interesting, psychologically well developed film, that starts from the rather simple (the whole of the establishment are 'a wunch of bankers', as the British say) and then becomes more complex. The problem of social precariousness touches many young people today I think, though there are probably not so many around who'd also take 'revolutionary action' as the people in the film do.

The development of the Hardenberg character was also very interesting: at first, he is a very rich top manager, also a rather pathetic figure, but then, as he gets in touch with his own idealistic past, he shows much strength and wisdom. The story of the ménage à trois vs. 'free love' also shows that young people then where even more radical than they are now...

***SPOILERS!***

The ending left me bewildered though. After seeing the film, both my boyfriend and I interpreted it in he way that Hardenberg has succumbed to the establishment again. But here on IMDb I read some other interpretations, notably that it was him who helped them to get to the Mediterrenean and who gave him his boat and money. The message in the empty apartment, 'Some people never change', also pointed into this direction. But why the attack by the police - especially with anti-terrorist forces - was still necessary then, is quite beyond me. Also, Hardenberg didn't at all look amused or content in the police car - as he obviously would have if he had only wanted to fool the cops.
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Story of a one-headed dragon
30 August 2004
Süsü is a little dragon who is born with only one head, so he is despised and chased away by his family. On his search for someone who would be friends with him he encounters a Prince. When they get near a town where everyone is afraid of the 'terrible dragon', the Prince defeats his friend Süsü in a mock fight and wins the hand of the Princess.

Later on, the Prince and the Princess become King and Queen, and Süsü the best friend of their son, the Little Prince. Then Süsü himself falls in love with a dragoness...

Cute children's TV series with puppets and lots of songs, the best known is probably "Én vagyok a híres egyfejû" (I am the famous one-headed one). Gyula Bodrogi's voice made the nice, one-headed dragon unforgettable for everyone who grew up in 70s/80s Hungary...
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Wild and passionate melodrama
13 August 2004
A wild and fascinating melodrama full of passion, love, war, and hate.

Japan at the beginning of the 20th century. Okane, a beautiful girl from a poor family, must serve as a mistress to a much older rich man. When he and her father die, the young woman returns with her mother to their native village. The locals despise them because of Okane's past, the young woman meets them with arrogance and haughty behavior. But then everything changes when her mother dies and the handsome Seisaku, a young man who is regarded as a model soldier and the son-in-law of their dreams by the villagers, helps her in this difficult situation. The two fall in love and marry against the spite of the whole village (their passionate sexual relationship is emphasized during the whole film), but then Seisaku has to go to war against the Russians and their world falls apart...

Violent and passionate, wonderfully photographed and played (especially by the beautiful Ayako Wakao), full of hot tears but nevertheless never sentimentalist or kitschy, this Japanese film is a real discovery.
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Utter cr*p
30 July 2004
First of all: I LOVE Bollywood movies. I know quite a lot of them. I think I got most of the references to Indian culture/Bollywood here. I loved the trailer and expected an exhilaratingly funny parody.

But after having seen this movie, I just thought it was utter cr*p.

The dialog had a terribly "papery" feel to them - as if someone without any sense of humor had tried to write something 'funny'. (Akshaye Khanna saying about his real-life brother Rahul 'He's like a brother to me' - oh, what a laugh!)

And worst of all: the song/dance scenes are just bad - they are boring, badly directed and choreographed, and utterly uninspiring. This is probably the worst thing one can say about any movie that tries to have something to do with Bollywood...

The only redeeming feature here is Lisa Ray who is indeed a very charming, lively actress. So it is even sadder that she had to star in such a bad-bad film....

P.s.: 'Fire' was a quite good (albeit not perfect) movie though - maybe Deepa Mehta should stick to dramas instead?!
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Surprisingly subversive big-budget movie
5 June 2004
Warning: Spoilers
*MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS*

I was surprised to see 'The Day After Tomorrow', the new film by Roland Emmerich, to be a delightful and also quite satirical piece of catastrophe moviemaking, with impressive special effects and a sense of visuality that has already impressed in 'Independence Day', also directed by Emmerich. The movie was the more interesting as dangers such as these are much closer and more realistic than, say, aliens from outer space attacking us. Most of the physics of the whole thing were complete bogus of course (an ocean can't freeze in only a few hours, regardless of outer temperature; even at very low temperatures people wouldn't freeze in seconds; even if the Golf current was to stop, its follow-up effects would take years, etc.), but still I think it is important to tell people that global warming will have serious effects that will affect the global climate and all of us.

The most enjoyable thing though were the really nasty bits of satire about the US government and its politics: the president is an incompetent guy who reminded me of the one in Stanley Kubrick's 'Dr Strangelove'; the vice-president is a slave of big business for whom money is more important than the environmental dangers faced by humanity. There was also a lot of irony about US citizens crossing the Mexican border illegally - but in the other direction...

A really enjoyable and surprisingly subversive piece of Hollywood moviemaking.
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Bobby (1973)
Crazy Romeo & Juliet story
9 May 2004
A completely crazy Romeo and Juliet-style story about two teenagers, him rich and her poor, who fall head over heels for each other and defend their love against all adversity. Maybe not Raj Kapoor's best, but certainly interesting and groundbreaking for its time. This was actually the first Bollywood film I ever saw where it was clearly expressed (even though through a song and dance scene) that the pair was sleeping with each other - even more unusual as the couple consisted of two teenagers! Very Seventies in style with a severely overacting cast, but great fun nevertheless. In many ways a movie of a much freer and more uncompromising spirit than most Bollywood fare of today - but then, it was the Seventies...
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A very peculiar movie...
26 March 2004
A very peculiar movie. I don't really know what to think of it. It is certainly not as bad as many critics (especially here in Europe) said it is. Though I think many things could have been handled more subtly and there were some elements which were unnecessarily overstated, the movie in some ways still has its merits. It is certainly not the worst point that it indulged very much in blood, sweat & tears, though some scenes (especially the crucifixion) were hard to bear, but then, that was what the film was all about, wasn't it?

I had a very interesting talk about it afterwards with my boyfriend who is a devout catholic (I am an agnostic myself). He quite liked POTC, as it showed aspects of life - like pain and death - that often remain hidden in popular culture (especially in America).

Well, I think I still have to work it out what to make of it, and this will certainly take some time.

Concerning the criticism by historians: I am no expert, but I don't think the accents sounded so bad - I have no idea what historical Aramaeic is supposed to sound like (but then, I don't think historians know that so exactly either), but my previous fear that the actors would be having heavy American accents was unfounded. Sounded more similar to (modern day) Hebrew (Ivrit) to me. Concerning the Latin, with which I am more familiar, at least there were some choices made - like basing the accents on the Italian. This may not be state of the art in historical linguistics, but at least they bothered to think about it. As for Pilate, who, for some historians, was not portrayed as the tyrant he is believed to have been in real life: well, this is what the Bible portrays him to be, isn't it? POTC tried to be a faithful depiction of the Bible, at least in most parts. You can only criticize it when it is not.

I think the allegations that this movie was anti-semitic were unfounded. Though there was a brief scene in the beginning when Jesus was brought before the council, where I could see what some people meant by stereotypes of Jews resurfacing - but then there were also Jewish priests that protested, so no-one can say that even the religious establishment of the Jews was portrayed in a one-sided manner. Later on, Simon of Cyrene (who helps Jesus bear the cross) was himself called a 'Jew' in a despectable manner by a Roman soldier. While the common soldiers were not directly responsible for condemning Jesus, their over-the-top sadism was very disconcerting and certainly a sufficient picturization of evil. I think Gibson shouldn't have bothered with Satan turning up once and again, though I disagree with my boyfriend on this point who thought the insertion of Satan (not found in the Bible texts) was a good idea.

Well, certainly worth a look, especially for pious Christians. Everyone has to work out their interpretation for themselves - and this may differ very strongly from person to person.
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Cold Mountain (2003)
2/10
Baaaad....
12 March 2004
Such a bad-bad movie... I had quite high expectations before seeing it (even if the name of Anthony Minghella should have made me suspicious), but this film didn't even meet my lowest expectations. Though shot in beautiful landscapes (in Romania, I read), it is overblown, boring and didn't touch me at all. Only in a very few moments I felt that all this could have been much better - as in the sequence with the young widow (Natalie Portman) searching a moment of comfort with Inman (Jude Law). Renée Zellweger's genuinely comic performance was also one of the few good points - even though the script didn't help her much.

And please: Nicole Kidman is quite a good actress, but she was definitely too old for this part - especially with her Botox-ridden features... Compare her in this movie with her superb and fresh performance in the amazing "Dogville", only about a year earlier. What a downfall... :-(
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Kontroll (2003)
9/10
New hope for Hungarian film
3 January 2004
"Kontroll" gives me new hope that Hungarian filmmakers are finally capable to make pictures that appeal to audiences at home, movie critics (and probably also foreign audiences) alike. An excellent, though a bit weird mixture of satirical comedy, mystical drama and thriller. The metro stations become a world of their own, the neon lights create a new reality.

While in the beginning the film focuses on a whole group of ticket controllers and we expect a satirical comedy about their lives, in the second half the storyline concentrates on the terrifying experiences of Bulcsú, a man with a mysterious past. He used to be an artist or in some other kind of creative business not specified further, but left this life for unknown reasons and started to live in the metro. It also becomes clear that for some reason he is not able to leave the metro system until the end - when he overcomes the dark forces (that probably have also been lurking inside him). Everything about this story is deeply irrational (except for the satirical elements that are in some ways very close to reality :-)), this is just a terrible world, where love means the only hope (I was a bit reminded of Terry Gilliam's "Brazil").

An excellent movie that I would also strongly recommend to foreign viewers. I don't know if this will ever come to other countries, but I would very much like it to be so. So that Hungary could be put back on the landscape of international moviemaking.

P.s.: The Budapest multiplex I saw this in was absolutely packed with people. I was astonished what a great success "Kontroll" has become in Hungary, because I think that most people in the audience there have probably never seen anything that could only remotely be called arthouse - and "Kontroll" wasn't exactly an easy popcorn movie....
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Germany in the Fifties
26 December 2003
A wonderful little film, "Das Wunder von Bern" succeeds to capture the atmosphere of Germany in the mid-Fifties. The film is not so much about the football world championship of 1954 itself, but about how important this victory became for the Germans themselves. A nation torn apart and devastated by war, disoriented and sad, found new strength and something in which to believe in.

I first feared that I wouldn't like the movie so much as I am a Hungarian myself (the nation West Germany beat in the finals of the 1954 world championship in Bern), but in fact I was rather enchanted by the story. The excellent script brings the characters (above all little Mathias) to life. You start to care about them, to like them, to follow their ups and downs with interest. I especially liked the sensitive approach to the problems a family had to face when the father came back after years as a POW. As many other men in a similar situation, Richard Lubanski first wants to show strength and authority by being cold, arrogant and even violent towards his children - but later discovers that he also has to show his weaknesses and talk about his terrible experiences in war in order to get closer to his family again.

The parallel storyline of newlywed journalist Ackermann and his pretty and snobbish wife Anette was not very closely related to the main story, but I still liked it as the film showed through their lifestyle the beginning prosperity of the "Wirtschaftswunder" (economy miracle) years in contrast to the still bleak world of the industrial and mining town the Lubanski family lives in. And they also added some lighthearted comic relief to the film.

I would very much like people from other countries/cultures to see this film and understand better what Germany went through in these years.I am quite sure that they would not have big problems understanding "Das Wunder von Bern", as its main themes (family, war, traumatic experiences, failure and success) are quite universal.
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The Red Shoes (1948)
A woman torn between personal and professional fulfillment
13 November 2003
Warning: Spoilers
*POSSIBLE SPOILERS*

"The Red Shoes" is the story of a woman who would like to live a life that is both professionally AND privately fulfilling - but the two men in her life (one personifying Love and Private Happiness, the other her professional passion, Dancing) do not permit her to incorporate both in her life. The conflict comes from the fact that neither man wants to recognize her as an artist and a personality in her own right, but rather as a vehicle of their own aspirations.

During the budding romance with Craster, though, we see that her dream could be fulfilled: she dances to the music that he writes for her; both live a professionally and personally fulfilling life by cooperating. But Lermontov wants Vicky to be his creation and not to be attached to anyone or anything else except dancing. (It is obvious that he is not interested in her sexually or romantically - some said he might be gay, which can well be, but in the end, it doesn't matter, as Lermontov is rather the personification of his own ideal, a person only committed to his profession and to nothing and nobody else.)

As the story develops, it turns out that to Craster, she is nothing more than an inspiration for his own work (he doesn't seem to bother that she is professionally unfulfilled while he reacts aggressively when she takes a step to dance again); to Lermontov, she is the clay she wants to form his own creation (a "great dancer") of. Though most supporting characters seem to recognize Vicky as an artist in her own right, the two men that matter most in her life do not. This is what leads ultimately to her downfall, as she is not able to choose between love and dancing, because both form a whole inside her. She rather sacrifices herself (though in the end it is not clear, to what extent) and thus affirms herself as a person and artist.

A beautiful film (though not as supreme as I had expected it to be), with a great performance by Anton Walbrook and beautiful dancing scenes (though the not-so-perfect special effects in the otherwise highly original and captivating centerpiece were a bit disconcerting). I also like the passionate conflict of the story (the passion here is of the "sublimated" rather than of the downright erotic kind - it is very refreshing that the conflict between Vicky, Craster and Lermontov is not reduced to a mere love triangle). And, of course, a must for ballet lovers.
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Dogville (2003)
Heart- and gut-wrenching
26 October 2003
Warning: Spoilers
* POSSIBLE SPOILERS*

A new masterpiece by Lars von Trier. A most impressive film that reminded me a lot of "Breaking the Waves" (except for the ending). In the beginning, I had a bit of trouble with the shaky hand-held camera and the theater-like staging, but then I got sucked into the story and lived through it with all its ups and downs.

"Dogville" tells a heart- (and also gut-) wrenching story about a little town that is "tried" by the sudden appearance of a young female stranger. And the town fails.

While someone wrote here that the ending made them very happy, I was not happy at all. In my opinion, the ending expresses that even revenge cannot do anything about what has happened before. If someone takes revenge, they only do evil themselves. Once evil is done, it could only be eradicated by the clear acknowledgement of one's bad actions and by repentance, the film suggests I think. But neither character is capable of doing this, that is why Grace's tragedy engenders another, even more devastating one.

I think those who talk about anti-Americanism in the respect of "Dogville" are wrong. This story is about the nature of human evil (and the evil in human nature) and thus universal.

A most impressive, moving film that makes you think a lot afterwards. I recommend it to all open-minded people who are not put off by the experimental staging and the length of the film (which I didn't even realize as I was so absorbed by the story).
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Sitcom (1998)
Black farce version of Pasolini's "Theorem"
24 September 2003
I love Francois Ozon's films. Together with this, I have seen all his feature-length work (Sitcom, Criminal Lovers, Drops Falling On Burning Rocks, Under the Sand, 8 Women, Swimming Pool). "Sitcom" is the film by him that I found the most bizarre and unsettling (even though I had some good laughs). The ending was a bit too much, but otherwise, I quite liked it. The atmosphere and the bizarre events sometimes reminded me of "Criminal Lovers", that he made immediately afterwards, but with more focus on black humor than in the latter.

The whole way through, the story of "Sitcom" reminded me of Pier Paolo Pasolini's "Theorem" (Teorema) - much more than of Bunuel's "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie", already mentioned here. In Pasolini's 1968 film, a strange visitor unsettles the life of an Italian bourgeois family: after he leaves, the daughter loses her mind, starts lying catatonicly on her bed and has to be transferred to a mental institution; the mother, in a desperate urge for promiscuity, picks up handsome young men on the streets for sex; the maid goes back to her village and becomes a levitating saint; the son discovers his talent for painting (and probably realizes that he is gay); the father at first seems not to be affected, but then he also succumbs to the influence.

Ozon's film seems to take up this motif and transfer it to a very-very black farce and a parody of American sitcoms (I love the set design with all those bright colors!). People here (especially the mother) always try to "talk things out" like in the sitcoms, but it doesn't really work, because the environment is/has become so different.

At the very end, though, everyone seems to have found themselves at last: from a dysfunctional family, they have apparently become a happy family again - though not exactly in the traditional, conservative way. But the white rat is still lurking everywhere...
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Hänsel and Gretel meet the rabbits
4 September 2003
A wonderful modern Hänsel and Gretel version by Francois Ozon, one of today's most interesting French filmmakers. Natacha Regnier (La vie rêvée des anges) is most impressive as the scheming and unscrupulous, yet at the same time strangely innocent and childlike schoolgirl Alice who brings her impotent boyfriend Luc (not-so impressive, though ok Jérémie Renier) to killing their handsome Arab schoolmate Said she is lusting for. As for her motivations, the Rimbaud quote ("Un crime!...") in one of the flashback scenes seems to tell the most about it. Maybe she also hates Said because he is sexually aggressive and at the same time very desirable to her - so he doesn't give her that complete control she has with Luc who is none-menacing to her in any way whatsoever.

As for Luc, whose internal development we follow the closest in the story, I don't know exactly why he is able to perform sexually in the end (in a scene that seemed to me a kind of parody to 70s softcore porn movies) when first he couldn't. It is true, Alice was menacing and even false to him (in the beginning, she tells the blindfolded Luc that she has taken off her bra when in fact she hasn't, then she photographs him half naked and tells him playfully she would send the pictures to his parents) - but then, the Man of the Woods (Serbian actor Miki Manojlovic - it makes sense that this strange character is played by a foreigner) seems also to be dangerous, doesn't he? Or is it that the Man (contrary to Alice) doesn't expect anything of him, only to stay calm and let go - that's why this in neither way attractive person is the first Luc is able to enjoy sex with?

As for Luc and Said, someone here has mentioned that Luc may desire Said for himself. Though this never gets clear, but there is a tell-tale scene when Luc goes to Said's boxing class and watches him for an important period of time, while we hear strange, hymnical music on the background score. This may indicate that Luc is indeed attracted to his sexy schoolmate, though he also 'knows' that Said and his friends did terrible things to Alice (things the girl made up in order to convince Luc to take part in the killing).

I also found the motif of the rabbits very interesting: rabbits here are exchangeable for people, as the same things happen to human beings as to these animals. A rabbit gets killed and so does a human; a rabbit gets caught in a trap and so does a human; a rabbit is eaten...

All in all a very interesting Ozon movie. And as always in his films, there is more behind it than one may notice at first sight...
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Summer Things (2002)
Moving film about the complicated ways of love
22 June 2003
A moving, sometimes hilarious film about a group of characters who go on vacation together just to be confronted with each other and their own lies toward the others and themselves. A family that has lost both their baby daughter and all their money keep pretending towards their rich friends that they still live well; a middle-aged couple separate for the first time for vacation and both make new and surprising emotional experiences; a notoriously jealous husband turns his pretty wife's life into hell; a young mother searches desperately for a new man in her life and finds a dashingly handsome, but very suspicious guy; a young employee goes to America with his boss' daughter whom he loves, only to see himself ruthlessly let down by her.

The week on vacation changes the lives of the characters in one way or the other: friendships and love blossom; other relationships end; everyone makes important personal experiences.

No-one of the characters is entirely dislikeable (maybe the bitchy, sex-crazed daughter is the most), but they keep hurting each other in spite that many of the characters care a lot about the others, notably Charlotte Rampling's Elizabeth.

A film about the complicated and intriguing ways of love, friendship and caring that makes one think a lot. Wonderfully played by an excellent cast, sensitively written by also-director and star Michel Blanc (he plays the most grotesque character, the jealous husband).
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Hukkle (2002)
Eating and being eaten
15 June 2003
I am happy that so many people from different countries have liked this Hungarian film - which is quite rare. I loved it, it is very cool, innovative and fascinating. The photography and sound design are excellent. I think it is not by chance that the first member of the crew named in the opening credits is precisely the sound designer.

You have to have some patience to get really into the film, but afterward, it is really worth it. Lots of black humor about eating and being eaten. In fact, eating does not mean anything good in this film...

The morale of the story is well summarized in the closing folksong "Ki az urát nem szereti" (Who does not love her husband). The only time where words are used in this film to say something....

And yes: "Hukkle" does not mean anything on Hungarian, it is an onomatopoetic (sound-imitating) word that imitates the sound of a hickup. (The real Hungarian word for hickup is "csuklás".)
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Flawed, but with some great moments
10 June 2003
I agree with commenter mccracd (11 April 2003) on most points, except that I found that Brad Pitt was really good in his role. And - independently of this - am not a fan of his, but his extreme good looks were a real treat for the eye. Though the casting of such an extremely handsome man as Death who wants to take a 65-old straight man with him left me wondering: why did Death waste all these good looks on such a "victim" (he didn't plan to fall in love with Susan Parrish straight from the start, after all)? If the two men themselves had had a love story with each other, it would have been different of course, but in this case, I agree with commenter mccracd that another, older and less handsome-looking actor would have been more aptly cast. Also Death's lack of knowledge on human ways seemed misplaced in a story on such a serious topic and reminded me of cheap comedy fare that was completely unnecessary here.I also think the script on the whole was flawed (it did not really know where to go and wanted too much, I think) and much of the dialog lacked punch and intelligence. Some memorable dialog bits could have made a cult movie of this one.

The story was compelling though in a weird way and made me think a lot (about my own mortality, among other things). Formally, the movie was really beautifully made (great photography! - watch the scene where Hopkins and Pitt meet for the first time) and for me at least, it did not seem to drag.

What was a really supreme moment in the film was the lovemaking scene between Susan and Joe. You don't find very often a mainstream Hollywood film where lovemaking really MEANS something (in case they do include such a scene in the movie), but here, it was the peak of Death's experience as a living person. Look at Brad Pitt's face here: what mixture of astonishment, awe, love, lust, fear...! Just plain wonderful. Death engaging in the ultimate act of Life.

As for the tears in the last few scenes: Claire Forlani's weeping all the time didn't move me at all - but when Death sheds a tear, it did....

I'd give it 6/10.
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If you want to see a TYPICAL Bollywood movie - watch this!
2 June 2003
Warning: Spoilers
For me, K3G is THE quintessential Bollywood movie - even though it was made with much higher production standards and more money than most of the lot. In fact, it is a film that sweeps you off your feet, exactly because it is so perfect in the technical sense: stunning cinematography (kudos to Kiran Deohans), art direction, costumes, editing, coreography... The song-and-dance scenes are a real treat for everyone, both Indian and non-Indian.

*POSSIBLE SPOILERS*

I've seen the film two times and both times thoroughly enjoyed it, though I basically didn't like the message and though it was too hypocritical and sentimental. As for the hypocrisy, the storyline and directing swiftly obliterate for example the quite obvious fact that Yash Raichand wants Naina (played by beautiful and lovely Rani Mukherjee) to marry his son Rahul because he himself is attracted to her (as is hinted to in the "Shava Shava" song and dance scene). The nationalistic bits (British people standing up in amazement when hearing the Indian national anthem - I beg you!) were simply annoying, as was all that obscenely paraded consumerism (Dolce & Gabbana seems to have sponsored the movie - they had their logo onscreen almost every ten minutes or so).

I found the movie's central message also very annoying: love your parents, even if they behave to you as if you were a piece of crap - then one day they will forgive you that you left them because you were angry at them for treating you that badly (and you are also allowed to forgive them a little bit, if you please to do so). The father's authority is never really questioned throughout the story, not even in the final scene - the only time this happens is maybe in the scene where his wife Nandini tells him that he is "not God" - but then, who is?

The all-star cast was most impressive (who had this most over-the-top idea to get all these people together for one film?!), the acting was generally quite good, though Amitabh Bachchan had been better in other films (for example in a very similar role in 'Mohabbatein'), Shah Rukh Khan was good and believable. Hrithik Roshan looked gorgeous :), even though I still doubt if he can really act. But his screen presence and dancing were excellent. Kajol was very unnerving in the first part, but got better in the London scenes (though her naive and fervent Hinduism and longing for an idealized Bharat didn't make her character very sympathetic). Kareena Kapoor was great fun as the self-obsessed Poo who seemed to be straight out of the Hollywood flick 'Clueless' (though when I watched the film with a Hungarian friend he told me that he hated the superficial criticism of Western ways expressed through her character). Thus I didn't like at all when in the end she conformed to the Indian ways and became a good housewife - and all this for a man sporting Dolce & Gabbana clothing and driving a most expensive red sports car!

All in all I'd still recommend K3G to everyone who wants to see a top Bollywood production of today with excellent song and dance. But, honestly, if you want to see a really good and personally satisfying Bollywood flick - better go and watch 'Lagaan'.
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Sangam (I) (1964)
Unsettling story of male bonding and traffic in women
4 March 2003
Gopal (Rajendra Kumar), Sunder (Raj Kapoor) and Radha (Vyjayanthimala) have been friends since childhood. When they become adults, both men fall in love with Radha - she loves Gopal. But Gopal, out of a flawed understanding of friendship and commitment, doesn't dare to speak his mind as Sunder, his best and closest friend, is also in love with Radha and is courting her. Many misunderstandings follow (especially by Sunder who seems to be completely blind to everyone around him and their feelings) that has as consequence that Gopal sacrifices both his love for Radha and her love for him. But the problem of the threesome remains by the close relationship of the two men with each other. Thus the ensuing conflicts can only be solved by a final breakup of this threesome...

On the surface a rather exasperating melodrama, but in depth one of the most unsettling stories of traffic in women between males (though I am not sure that the movie was really meant to be that critical). In this story, two men rather sacrifice a woman's happiness (and at least one of them his own) than bringing their own relationship - the emotional depth of which seems to go well beyond "ordinary" friendship - into jeopardy. They indulge in their own martyrdom and commitment to each other, while they use the (ostensibly beloved) woman as a gift to each other and as a proof of their mutual friendship/love. Though she sometimes speaks out her mind in quite a bitter way, she can never get what she really wants, no-one is interested in her feelings and wishes.

Though not a perfect film and sometimes even a bit unnerving by the constant misunderstandings in the plot, still very interesting (and unsettling) psychologically. Great food for feminist/gender analysis... :)

One of the best parts of "Sangam" is the honeymoon sequence in Europe, that is - in contradiction to the melancholy and fatality of most of plot - very lighthearted, with some pricelessly lovely and funny moments (Vyjayanthimala dancing in sexy "Western" clothing in a Paris hotel room) - and even a kissing scene (though enacted by non-Indians). The playback singers (Mukesh for Raj, Lata Mangeshkar for Vyjayanthimala, Mohd. Rafi for Rajendra) are great as always, the songs are beautiful.
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Pyaasa (1957)
Bollywood film with an attitude
22 February 2003
Well made Bollywood film by one of its exceptional filmmakers. The story seems to be based on the novel "Devdas" by Saratchandra Chatterjee, though not credited so (poor poet is still in love with his former girlfriend who has married for money, despite that he is himself loved by a selfless prostitute). The ending is different of course, as it is not tragic here but rather educative. The quite open and bold social criticism - especially in the song on prostitution - is also well worth noticing.

The music by S. D. Burman is beautiful, the actors are convincing, especially Guru Dutt as the poor and misunderstood poet with an attitude and Waheeda Rehman as the prostitute with a heart of gold. It is interesting that the songs are often inserted in the story itself (many of them are REALLY songs sung in the story), and are not only musical picturizations of fantasies, dreams, etc., as it is often the case in (later?) Bollywood films. Though this also occurs of course, as in the Guru Dutt-Mala Sinha duet scene. Well worth seeing for lovers of heart-wrenching melodrama and vintage Bollywood music.
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