Archive for December 22nd, 2008


by Allan Fish

(UK/USA 2008 123m) DVD1/2

Keeping the tin box

p  Anthony Minghella, Sydney Pollack, Redmond Morris, Donna Gigliotti  d  Stephen Daldry  w  David Hare  novel  Bernhard Schlink  ph  Chris Menges, Roger Deakins  ed  Claire Simpson  m  Nico Muhly  art  Brigitte Broch

Ralph Fiennes (Michael Berg), Kate Winslet (Hanna Schmitz), David Kross (young Michael Berg), Susanne Lothar (Carla Berg), Bruno Ganz (Prof Rohl), Lena Olin (Rose Mather/Ilana Mather), Alexandra Maria Lara (young Ilana Mather), Linda Bassett (Ms Brenner),

I begin writing this in the early hours one cold winter’s night in New Jersey.  The previous night I had returned home from Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler feeling more at ease.  I knew what I thought of that film, and I enjoyed it very much.  Though one might not think it, the Aronofsky and the Daldry film have an important thing in common which lays at the heart of the respective strengths and flaws of the two films.  In The Wrestler, one plot strand sees the eponymous Randy the Ram go looking for his estranged teenage daughter to bring him closer to her.  The protagonist in The Reader sets out to do the same.  In the Aronofsky film, though well acted and shot, the subplot seems rather formulaic, superfluous, and consequently disposable.  In the Hare film it’s given even more short shrift and yet it works so much better because it goes hand in hand with not only the theme but the literal blood supply of Hare’s extraordinary screenplay. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(France 1946 94m) DVD1/2

Aka. Beauty and the Beast

Va, va, Magnifique!

p  André Paulvé  d/w  Jean Cocteau  story  Mme.le Prince de Beaumont  ph  Henri Alekan  ed  Claude Iberia  m  Georges Auric  art  Christian Bérard  cos  Marcel Escoffier, Castillo  creative consultant  René Clément

Jean Marais (Avenant/The Beast), Josette Day (Belle), Mila Parèly (Adelaide), Marcel André (Merchant), Nane Germon (Félice), Michel Auclair (Ludovic), Raoul Marco,

Children believe in the stories they are told; they have complete faith” the opening caption to Cocteau’s fantasy masterpiece states.  From there, we are in familiar territory, asked to call upon that lost sense of childhood to see through the eyes of innocent wonder.  But one might also repeat the call of Chorus in Henry V, “on your imaginary forces work“, for this truly is the cinema of imagination.  To quote once more that opening caption, “let me pronounce four magic words, that veritable Open Sesame, once upon a time…”

            The story of Mme.le Prince de Beaumont’s fairy tale is well enough known to gloss over here, and the opening sequences owe as much to Cinderella as Beaumont’s original.  Yet they owe much to the cinema of imagination, too.  Essences of classics as varied as Die Nibelungen, Frankenstein, King Kong, Les Misérables and Disney’s Snow White are there, not to mention the Orphic films of Cocteau’s own oeuvre.  Yet Belle is out on its own in Cocteau’s canon, a fantasy quite unlike any other.  Has there ever been an enchanted castle such as this?  As forbidding as it is intoxicating, with its disembodied arms holding candelabras that alight themselves, tears that turn to diamonds, busts whose heads come alive, magical gloves that smoke when used, an elaborate staircase overgrown with ivy, a misty forest worthy of the Brothers Grimm where thunder crashes down ad infinitum and a truly magnificent magical horse.  Not to mention drapes that willow in the breeze along ghostly corridors too gorgeous to describe. (more…)

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