Friday, April 02, 2010


La reine Margot (Queen Margot) 1994 directed by Patrice Chéreau is the complex and sometimes confusing story of the court of King Charles IX in 16th century France and the murderous conflict between Catholics and Protestants which lead up to the horrible slaughter of 6,000 Protestants in what becomes known as the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre which is depicted in the film in explicit gut-wrenching scenes. The film is ravishing with a great cast of actors led by the beautiful Isabelle Adjani who plays Margot the somewhat sluttish daughter of the scheming Catherine de Medici played with cold blooded relish by Virna Lisi who gives a superb perfomance. There is enough betrayal and intrigue in this film for 5 movies and the screen literally sweats blood (as does one of the characters). Visually stunning with lots of color and a marvelous cast of young French actors including Vincent Perez, Daniel Auteuil and above all Jean-Hugues Anglade who is brilliant as the weak willed and easily manipulated King Charles. The superb costumes received an Oscar nomination and be warned that the version now out on dvd is not the original 161 minute version but the 145 minute American cut still this is a compelling historical drama. Look for a very young Asia Argento as Charlotte de Sauve, and for all the bookdealers out there, a rare book on hunting plays an important part in the scheme of things. Highly recommended.

Saw "Sweet Bird Of Youth" for the first time in many years, and although stagy and somewhat static it's still enjoyable and easy to embrace, although at an arm's length. The Story by now is familiar to most, aging movie star (Geraldine Page) hooks up with a young handsome hustler (Paul Newman) and wind up in his home town which is literally owned by the corrupt politician Boss Finley played with over the top flair by Ed Begley who won an Oscar for chewing up the scenery. Begley does not like Newman who in the play gave his lovely daughter Heavenly (Tennessee was great with names) VD but in the movie it's only an unwanted pregnancy which leads to an abortion. Heavenly is played by the lovely Shirley Knight (Oscar nominated )who of course is still in love with Newman, and who can blame her. Everyone is on the make or on the made, including Page who is a druggie and drunk and is running away from what she thinks is her failed movie comeback and Newman who wants her to take him to Hollywood so he can become a movie star. There are some laughable moments with hashish, and Page with her potato face is somewhat unbelievable as a glamorous movie star, (even a fading one at that). I would have preferred seeing Ava Gardner in this role, even though Page was the Superior actress and was nominated for an Oscar. My favorite scene is when the great Madeleine Sherwood who plays Begley's floozy girlfriend gets her finger crushed in a jewelry box by the irate Begley because of what she wrote on a public bathroom mirror about him. The play ends with a Castration but in 1962 the movie had to have a somewhat happy ending with Newman only getting his pretty face smashed and riding off into the sunset with Heavenly. How great was Tennessee Williams.

Another strong complex film seen last night by the late master Japanese director Shohei Imamura. "Vengeance Is Mine" which is based on a real serial killer case in Japan. Made in 1979, Imamura begins his film with the capture of the killer, and then goes back and forth in time to cover the killers 78 days on the run and his troubled life. This is not an easy film to watch, it has an over 2 hour running time, and a few of the murders are graphic and disturbing, not only for the violence but because it is never clear as to why this man is doing what he's doing and Imamura does not point any fingers. The lead performance by Ken Ogata is brilliant, subtle and not an Anthony Hopkins in sight. This is a man filled with anger and emptiness. I have no doubt that David Fincher viewed this film many times before he made Zodiac. Filmed in wide screen and color and rich in detail the restored print is now on dvd from Criterion.

So Marianne Faithfull (yes that Marianne Faithfull who by the way is 64) plays a sad grandmother in London whose grandson, (the love of her life) is dying, and in order to save him he has to be flown to Australia for an experimental treatment. The family has no money so Maggie gets a job one two three in a very sleezy Soho sex club helping patrons with a helping hand. Get the picture. She is given the name Irina Palm and is the hit of the place. There are complications, but everything works out ok at the end. A bit cheeky and sentimental but if you want to see a very lovely performance from Ms. Faithfull and a few chuckles along the way check it out. P.S. she does not sing.

A few weeks back I saw a rare screening of Joseph Losey’s The Prowler at the Film Forum and wish I could say that I liked it more than I did. This is an early work by Losey from 1951 made right before he was blacklisted and left the country. My main problem is with the casting of Van Heflin who is unattractive and unconvincing as a cop gone bad. I did like Evelyn Keyes who gives a weary and worn out performance, (she was married but getting divorced from John Huston at the time which might explain her worn out look) but I just couldn't buy Keyes falling for Heflin. The film is nicely made up with lots of 1950's L.A. style and location shots and the cars are amazing. The screenplay was by Dalton Trumbo of course written under an alias and cinematography by the great Arthur Miller. And look out for an uncredited bit by hunk George Nader as a newspaper photographer. What begins as good and promising eventually falls apart in the last half when the plot finally becomes too ridiculous.


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