Volume 2, Number 19
This Week's Reviews: Mifune, Me Myself I, Return to Me.
This Week's Omissions: Battlefield Earth, Center Stage, Held Up, Judy Berlin, Screwed, The Virgin Suicides.
(Dir: Søren Kragh-Jacobsen, Starring Anders W. Berthelsen, Iben Hjejle, Jesper Asholt, Emil Tarding, Anders Hove, Sofie Gråbøl, Paprika Steen, Mette Bratlann, Susanne Storm, Ellen Hillingsø, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Søren Malling, Kjeld Nørgaard, Kirsten Vaupel, and Torben Jensen)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Mifune (Mifunes Sidste Sang) is the third film from the much noted Dogme 95 manifesto. This statement may be true, but viewing Mifune brings little to mind of the first Dogme film, The Celebration (the US release for the second Dogme film, The Idiot, is just now beginning). Sure, it does show that the film was made with handheld cameras, the sets do look real, and the lighting is easy to see as being real, but it lacks a certain quality that was in the Thomas Vinterberg downer from two years ago.
I'm not necessarily saying that Mifune is a lesser Dogme film, in fact it could be considered more of an achievement since it comes off better than the others, but it is not near as good as the others. The look and feel of the film does come across in that muddled Dogme way, but it is also more lateral than The Celebration ever was.
Like the other films in the cinematic following, Mifune is about both altered reality and lack of a familial structure. Harmony Korine's julien donkey-boy (which is not a certified Dogme film, despite the fact that it follows the rules of Dogme), Vinterberg's The Celebration, Lars von Trier's The Idiots, all are films in which people are both facing retarded characters and attempting to hold some form of family life. Mifune follows one such person, a Dane named Kresten (Berthelsen).
The film begins with Kresten's wedding, a joining of a man and his boss' daughter, a beautiful, upper class lady named Claire (Grabol). After they have a most impressive wedding night, Kresten learns that his father has died and must confess to his new wife his horrible past. The snooty in-laws were never told of his family since he is so ashamed of them. These are characters from a William Faulkner novel, where brothers fight over the latest pretty face, where mother hangs herself from a tree, where the brother is convinced that he sees both aliens and Seven Samurai star Toshiro Mifune.
Kresten makes way to his family home, a house falling apart, where he finds that one brother has left his dead father on the dinner table (take note, Peter Greenaway), the other is hiding other this table. After his hating brother leaves, Kresten finds that it is up to him that his father is buried, so he and Rud (Asholt) take care of his body.
Before he can ever allow his wife to visit, Kresten decided to get the place cleaned up, so he hires Liva (Hjejle), a young Copenhagen prostitute trying to get her little brother Bjarke (Tarding) through school. As one might expect, Claire happens upon Kresten and Liva together and blows it out of proportions, leaving the two to fall in love.
Though there are still many really absurd moments in the film, which normally marks Scandinavian films, this film is much more "normal" than the other Dogme films. The underlying story of unusual love has been done a million times, whether in When Harry Met Sally... or Leaving Las Vegas, this film breaks no new ground. Yet it is still respectable.
Søren Kragh-Jacobsen is a fine director, one of the most talented in the Dogme bunch. He further proves that directors working with financial poverty (a part of the Dogme manifesto) can bring out some of the best work. Sure, he is no Robert Weine, but he does do a pretty impressive job.
Every performer in this film gives award calibre performances. Hjejle, most recently seen in High Fidelity, is an incredible actress; I dearly hope to see her in more films in the future. Both Berthelsen and Asholt have fine fraternal chemistry. The understanding between Kresten and Rud was more than easy to see thanks to these two men.
Of course, the film will not ever get much acclaim in
America, it is not enough like Life is Beautiful or Like Water for Chocolate to
grab too many of America's normal film viewers. But, I can say that this is probably
going to be well remember in Denmark. Kragh-Jacobsen could become as acclaimed as
Lars von Trier in the country and perhaps, just maybe, "it is happy" will be the
foreign art version of "my mother is a fish."
|Me Myself I
(Dir: Pip Karmel, Starring Rachel Griffiths, David Roberts, Sandy Winton, Yael Stone, Shaun Loseby, Trent Sullivan, Rebecca Frith, Felix Williamson, Anne Burbrook, Maeliosa Stafford, Terence Crawford, Christine Stephen-Daly, Kirstie Hutton, and Mariel McClorey)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Sure we have seen it in Next Stop, Wonderland and Sliding Doors, yet the what if... premise still seems fresh. Perhaps the reason is that in each film, the lead character(s) is taken on by a fine actress. Next Stop, Wonderland's Hope Davis and Sliding Doors' Gwyneth Paltrow both show fine performances from the actresses. Here the lead is by a superior actress: the slowly getting known Rachel Griffiths. Though her last two films received critical support but no distribution (My Son the Fanatic and Among Giants), Griffiths is still hot off of her Oscar nominated turn as Hilary du Pré in Hilary and Jackie. And don't think that Me Myself I will be the film that will make her a star, she is too worthy to be given a large paycheck. What she posses as an actress is far more than those that receive $15 to $20 million a film.
The thought of Griffiths going mainstream is scary. Remember what a treat Sandra Bullock was before she became the new "it" girl? as long as she makes so many fine films, she should do well, but I dearly hope that she will not be signing on to act in Independence Day 2 (ahem, remember what happened to Bill Pullman's career). In Me Myself I, Griffiths plays such the defiant woman that comes off of the screen so often these days, but she makes the character much more layered than simply a liberated woman that Sally Field always seems to play. I'd dare say that this is the best performance of this type since Testament.
Griffiths has my eyes for years to come, I know that I'll follow her career much in the same way I have followed Kevin Spacey, Edward Norton, and Reese Witherspoon into household name status. But Griffiths will never be that household name. She takes on characters that would not automatically grab the attention of most American filmgoers. Her goofy friend in Muriel's Wedding, her lost innocent in Hilary and Jackie, her femme farm girl in Jude, these are characters that you'd never see performed by Sharon Stone, Michelle Pfeifer, or, even, Gwyneth Paltrow (the only actress that I know of that has become known despite taking unusual roles is Kate Winslet, who is only known due to that performance in Titanic -- and we saw how well Hideous Kinky and Holy Smoke! were received). Griffiths is a talent that is unparalleled, one that can carry a film that has little to speak about otherwise.
And such is the case with Me Myself I (wondered when I'd actually get to the film itself). While the film is nice and sweet, is also too hokey and kooky at times for its own good. The premise of living a different life based on one choice is still interesting, to say the least, but the follow-through couldn't have been more flabby. Many of the jokes, ranging from potty training a toddler to getting on a diaphragm, lead to a smile, if even that. What makes this film so engaging is the performance from Griffiths, she evokes every part of the film's lead Pamela.
The story covers a woman living the life of herself had she said yes to a marriage proposal from a beau that did not really suit her. There is a certain happy technique to the last reel, which surprised cynical me. I certainly expected the film to end much differently, though the actual ending was not that much of a disappointment.
None of the cast really cut it, with the grand exception of Griffiths. I can be horrible when writing about child actors, and this is no exception. I don't care what people say about downplaying child actors, when they are not very good at it, it should still be noted. The three children of this film (Stone, Loseby, Sullivan) made me cringe. I'm sure that I could have found three other children on the streets of Sydney that could have given better performances.
Anyway, the screenplay by director Karmel does have some
treats, especially in the film's early moments before Pamela makes the cross-over. I
can see that if it had been co-written with a superior screenwriter, this might have been
a fine feature, but too often it leads towards neo-feminist propaganda (sorry, I still
like going back to my Holy Smoke! review).
|Return to Me
(Dir: Bonnie Hunt, Starring David Duchovny, Minnie Driver, Carroll O'Connor, Robert Loggia, Bonnie Hunt, David Alan Grier, James Belushi, Joely Richardson, Eddie Jones, William Bronder, Marianne Muellerleile, Brian Howe, Chris Barnes, Adam Tanguay, Karson Pound, Tyler Spitzer, Laura Larsen, Austin Samuel Hibbs, and Holly Wortell)
BY: DAVID PERRY
Return to Me begins with such a dramatic charge that it is hard to hate it. Once the film comes into place as a romantic comedy, the audience has been through enough tone changes to really appreciate a light period. And perhaps that is the secret to the success of Return to Me. This not necessarily While You Were Sleeping, nor Random Hearts, but in fact an amalgamation of the two.
I cannot really say that it is a perfect film for this, nor a truly noteworthy film, but it is a nice little film for the time being. Let's face it, this film is going to be forgotten in five years, it has done mediocre business in theatres and does not have any stand-out part. This is literally the Nine Months of this year.
Return to Me has an interesting premise, to say the least, following the unbreakable love of a man and his wife's heart. Ok, maybe that is not exactly what the film means, but that is the gist of it. Bob Rueland (Duchovny) has recently lost his wife Elizabeth (Richardson) in a car crash and is still not finished mourning a year later. In her honor, he spends all his time building a habitat for an ape that she raised for the local zoo. While he is in the despair, his friend (Grier) attempts to set him up with women that make him cringe, only causing him to find another woman to love. Grace Briggs (Driver) is also a little unhappy, having gone through a recent heart transplant and an inability to find the right man. As one might guess, that heart she received happens to be the one of Elizabeth Rueland, only bringing Bob and Grace further together no knowing this connection.
One part of the film that is a true treat is in the roles of Grace's best friends Megan and Joe Dayton. The two of them serve as one of those caustic couples that seem to be foils but in fact are perfect for each other. The scenes between the two are hilarious, easily the high points of the film.
Those two performers are fine in the film in their supporting roles, though they are not near as good as the leads. Duchovny and Driver have been in many films, most of which have been relatively good, but they have rarely been this good. The pain that comes from Duchovny in the films first act is that of a great actor and the comedic resilience that he emotes in the rest of the film is noteworthy.
This film serves as the directorial debut for Bonnie Hunt, an actress that I have never really cared for. Sure, she has been in some good films, but she has never been a good thing about a film. Her direction here is nothing to complain about, though it is really nothing to note either. She has a visual sense during scenes where people are simply conversing, but some of the more technical oriented shots fall flat.
The screenplay by Hunt and Don Lake is often times hilarious, especially the dialogue that falls between Loggia, O'Connor, Bronder, and Jones. These four make some interesting conversations about the comparison of Italian singers to Irish singers, and the best dead baseball players. Given time, this is exactly where John Cusack's High Fidelity character will be.
I think that there are some films that should go onto
notability, but unfortunately, this one will only go on to obscurity.
Upcoming Outlooks: This looks to be one the more lackluster summers ever. It is not necessarily due to a lack of interesting films, but that all the interesting films are not big summer movies. This season may surprise me, but I seriously doubt that there will be another Gladiator this summer. I'll take a look at each of the four months that make up the Summer movie season and what films I can't wait for (keep in mind that the month is based on NY & LA release and may not even come near me).
Gladiator: This list was supposed to be out before I saw Gladiator, but I can say that prior to seeing this, Gladiator was on top of my Summer listing.
Mission: Impossible 2: I think that the two theatrical trailers are horrible, and the action setting beside the old Brian De Palma style pales in comparison, but I'll still grin and bear it.
Hamlet: My favorite Shakespeare play comes to the screen a la Great Expectations, I'm happy.
Small Time Crooks: It does not look to be the best of Woody Allen, but it's still sure to be fun all the same.
Up at the Villa: Though it looks too much like The End of the Affair, I'm still ready to catch it.
8½ Women: A film from Peter Greenaway (The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover) about people obsessed with Fellini's 8½, I'm in.
Passion of Mind: It may be Demi Moore's return, but all I really need is the return of Alain Beliner (Ma Vie en Rose).
Kikujiro: After Fireworks, I'm ready to see anything from Takeshi Kitano.
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie: I'd love to see this Luis Buñuel film the theatre, if it was to ever come anywhere near me.
The Perfect Storm: I was not too enthralled by its CGI heavy trailer, but the fact that it is directed by Wolfgang Petersen does get me in the theatre.
The Patriot: It may be from Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, the men behind Godzilla and Independence Day, but word around the campfire has been mostly good.
Shaft: Singleton and Jackson doing Shaft...I'm there.
Me, Myself & Irene: I was not taken aback by the trailer, but I still have faith in the Farrelly Brothers.
Love's Labour's Lost: I think that there is little in this world better than Kenneth Branagh Shakespeare films, even when it is light comedies.
American Pimp: Even though it's been on the shelf for a year and a half, this documentary from Allen and Albert Hughes still sounds worthwhile.
Sunshine: Also a long shelf-sitter, this Ralph Fiennes starrer is still in my mind after a long wait.
Butterfly: Some buzz from Spain has left me ready to catch this one.
Jesus' Son: I saw the trailer for this about a year ago, yet the images still remain in my mind.
Trixie: As the only person that liked Breakfast of Champions, I can safely say that Alan Rudolph can still get me in the theatre.
Humanité: Ever since it won some at Cannes last year I have been ready to see this depressing crime drama.
Orfeu: This mythological story from Rio sounds like a worthy sit, if it ever comes near me.
On the Run: The fact that it features two actors from The Sopranos is well enough to get me hyped.
X-Men: I was never a fan of the comic book, but the fact that Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects) is directing is well enough to reel me in.
What Lies Beneath: The trailer tells too much, but I'm still interested in this Robert Zemeckis thriller.
Numbers: Normally I'd be rather indifferent towards Nora Ephron films, but the fact that Tim Roth and John Travolta act in it is enough to get me.
Girl on the Bridge: A big hit in France, this film looks to be interesting to say the least.
Wonderland: Though Michael Winterbottem been in a bit of a creative hole, this faux documentary does look to be promising.
The Wisdom of Crocodiles: Fresh off of The Talented Mr. Ripley, Jude Law is hot property, and what better than a murder mystery to grab my attention.
Blood Simple: One of my favorite films, and now it's back in theatres...I must be in heaven.
The Cell: Some will be seeing this because of Vincent D'Onofrio and Jennifer Lopez, but I'm simply interested in Dylan Baker (Happiness) and Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Secrets & Lies).
Space Cowboys: It looks to be a long-shot from most of his directorial attempts, but this Clint Eastwood comedy still makes me water at the mouth.
The Legend of Bagger Vance: Like Eastwood, Robert Redford has knack for grabbing my attention when directing, and this is yet another example.
Bedazzled: Even though he has been rather mediocre as of late, Harold Ramis still interests me with this one.
Girlfight: It was a big hit at Sundance, which usually enough to make me interested.
Solomon & Gaenor: I doubt that it will come to my neck of the woods, but I would like to see this Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film.
The Way of the Gun: I'm willing to see this simply because it was written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, the screenwriter of The Usual Suspects.
Daddy and Them: After schedule changes nearly every month, this Billy Bob Thornton film may finally come out in August.
Aimée & Jaguar: A major contender for an Oscar nomination last year, I'm willing to give it a chance.
Dark Days: A friend of mine has been hyped about this Sundance prize winner and that hype has begun to rub off on me.
The Big Blue: There has always been a soft
spot in my heart for Luc Besson films (I liked The Professional, for heaven's
sake), so finally seeing this 1988 Besson film could be like seeing La Femme Nikita again,
or perhaps The Messenger.