Sorts of Truth
March 06, 2006
FATELESS (THINKfilm) CONVERSATIONS WITH THE GREAT MOVIEMAKERS OF HOLLYWOOD'S GOLDEN AGE AT THE AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE (Knopf) MANY OF US HAVE reservations about the Holocaust as a subject for enacted films. Claude Lanzmann, who made the monumental documentary Shoah, said, "Fiction [about the Holocaust] is a transgression. I deeply believe that there are some things that cannot and should not be represented." Still, even if we too think that we believe this, when a Holocaust film is manifestly serious--one can almost say consecrated--it is hard to resist.
Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Fancy Free
February 20, 2006
IF THERE IS A HEAVEN FOR COMIC iconoclasts, Laurence Sterne is leaning out of it, smiling. The film made of his novel Tristram Shandy—more properly, the film instigated by his novel—has caused a stir because it juggles cinematic conventions just as he gamboled with the conventions of the novel. However, as he views things from his present perch, Sterne can see that, unlike his own daring, this picture had predecessors in wry film-consciousness.
February 06, 2006
Cachè (Hidden) (Sony Pictures Classics THE NEW FILM YEAR BEGAN in at least one heartening way: Daniel Auteuil arrived in a new picture. This French actor is so incredibly credible, so unostentatiously fine, that he makes his way from film to film without attracting the hoopla that attends more consciously virtuosic actors. I mention here only two of his many roles. In The Widow of Saint-Pierre, set on that French island, Auteuil was a nineteenth-century army captain whose spiritual tenor changes while he waits for the arrival of a guillotine to execute a murderer in his charge. In Apres Vous,
Stanley Kauffmann on Films: Spielberg's List
January 23, 2006
By now the filmgoing world knows that Steven Spielberg has three selves. First is the self most frequently summoned, the maker of superlative entertainments (Jaws, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial). His second self applies his talent seriously to serious subjects (Schindler's List, Amistad). The third self produces hybrids, films that use both of the other two selves (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Saving Private Ryan). Spielberg's new film, Munich, was made by the third self.
January 16, 2006
Ang Lee continues to astonish. In 1995, when his best-known film was Eat Drink Man Woman, set in his native Taiwan, the producers of Sense and Sensibility tapped him to direct their picture: an act of perception, of courage, for which all of us owe them thanks. Lee proceeded—incredibly—to make the best of the Jane Austen films.
October 10, 2005
Proof (Miramax) Everything Is Illuminated (Warner Independent) John Madden, the English director of theater and film, is best known in this country for Shakespeare in Love, though Ethan Frome and Mrs. Brown were also exceptional. Gwyneth Paltrow is a gifted actress who needs a good director. Other directors have helped her, but her performance in the Shakespeare picture under Madden’s hand took her into new reaches.
July 25, 2005
Lila Says (Samuel Goldwyn) and My Summer of Love (Focus) Sex can be very helpful. For a screenwriter who wants to treat a subject that might seem insufficiently interesting to some viewers, a strong sexual element can serve as hook and medium. As multiple instances have shown, that sexual element can bring along the background material that may have been the first reason for making the picture. The latest example is Lila Says. The screenplay of this French film is by Ziad Doueiri, who is Lebanese-born and has done a lot of technical work in Hollywood, particularly for Quentin Tarantino.
May 23, 2005
ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM (Magnolia) THE INTERPRETER (Universal) A documentary called Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room is about more than its immediate subject. Alex Gibney, who directed, based his screenplay on a book by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, Fortune reporters. (It was McLean who first uncovered the Enron mess.) What Gibney has done, with sharp interviews, with some of Enron's own company footage, with television clips, and with insistent pace, is to fashion a film missile that pierces the facade of some American practices. Behind that front looms a large and ominous
Varieties of Love
May 02, 2005
EROS (Warner Independent) WINTER SOLSTICE (Paramount Classics) MICHELANGELO ANTONIONI, a master of masters, has contributed a short film to a trio of shorts called EROS. His film is “The Dangerous Thread of Things,” which is also the title of one of three brief prose pieces in a book of his. (The book itself is That Bowling Alley on the Tiber.) The pieces were adapted for the screen by Tonino Guerra, his collaborator since L’Avventura (1960). For any Antonioni enthusiast, and I insist on a place in the front rank, all this advance information was exciting.
April 11, 2005
The two leading actors in The Upside of Anger are so good that their performances, even more than the story they are in, keep us interested. Kevin Costner, who has played baseball stars, here is an ex-baseball star. His character, Denny Davies, has some resemblance to Jack Nicholson's ex-astronaut in Terms of Endearment: a man who peaked early in fame and income. Denny is now exploiting his past as a radio personality. Drinking fairly steadily with booze as both anesthetic and fuel, pleasant and tolerant, he is faced with the problem of living out the rest of his life.