Wednesday, February 5, 2014

For movies, January wasn't - all - that bad

It’s been a dry season for movie watching despite the Oscar nominations. But if you’ve read my Jan. 10 you know I’m not at the theatres lately, Oscar-Smoshcar. But alas there are such marvels as and Netflix. One need never be movie bereft again....So over the past couple of weeks my movie gazing has taken me from a couple of movies starring Nicole Kidman – Rabbit Hole (John Cameron Mitchell, 2010) and The Human Stain (Robert Benton, 2003) – to a very stilted yet oddly humorous 1971 classic A New Leaf starring Elaine May and Walter Matthau - what a combo - to the big French art house hit of last year Holy Motors (Leos Carax) to a 1994 French hit The Professional (Luc Besson, 1994) to the Danish Love is All You Need (Susanne Bier, 2012), to the really delightful 1939 classic Day-Time Wife (Gregory Ratoff). Let’s take them one by one – but short reviews. Really!
The Kidman movies. Both were ones I thought I had not seen before but in fact had. In Rabbit Hole Kidman is a bereft mother after the death of her young son. Aaron Eckhart plays the husband. It’s a good character piece with enough drama and authenticity to hold your attention. As for The Human Stain I recently read the book by Philip Roth which goes way off into tangents. The movie brings the important parts together. In this case the movie – starring Anthony Hopkins about political correctness and race – is better than the book.
A New Leaf is a movie about an unlikely couple where emotions are tightly controlled. Matthau’s Henry means bad. But the movie reminded me of a certain type of male, of an older horn-rimmed glasses generation, who is absolutely bereft of emotion and can’t express tenderness to his charming if nervous bride if it kills him, if not her. 
Holy Motors is about a day in the life of a peripatetic actor (Denis Lavant) as he’s “motored” around Paris going from one gig to the other. But it doesn’t seem that way. Each exhausting job seems to encapsulate some aspect of our crazy world. Little of this turned me on and I’m glad I waited a year rather than paying to see it at the DFT. And the final scene of “motors” seemed strangely ridiculous.
The Professional stars Jean Reno as a Mafia hit man, who befriends a girl played by as extraordinarily young Natalie Portman. But Portman is amazing in her fierceness. They’re an odd Bonnie and Clyde in a movie that doesn’t add up to much but the performances are kind of interesting.
Susanne Bier is an interesting Danish director and I’ve enjoyed every movie of her’s I’ve seen, such as After the Wedding (2006) and In a Better World (2010). Her films have an implicitly women’s perspective though meld with a general outlook on life in stories that span places and times. Love Is All You Need is about a distressed hairdresser in a bad marriage (Trine Dyrholm) who falls in love with a hard driving foreign executive (Pierce Brosnan) in another ensemble cast about family disintegration and recreation.
Finally there was the 1939 Day-Time Wife starring an astonishingly young Tyrone Power and an amazingly fresh and delightful Linda Darnell. Darnell plays the suspicious wife who thinks her husband is having an affair with his secretary. But appearances can be – somewhat – deceiving. A fine comedy from the golden age.

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