1900 (Novecento)

This review was originally written for Blueprint: Review.

Two boys, Alfredo and Olmo, are born within minutes of each other in January 1901. Alfredo is the grandson of landowner and family head Alfredo Berlinghieri (Burt Lancaster) whilst Olmo’s grandfather, Leo (Sterling Hayden), is a peasant and Alfredo Sr.’s foreman. The two boys grow up together, never forgetting their respective places within society and, once grown (into Robert DeNiro and Gérard Depardieu) they find themselves on opposite sides of a class struggle, exacerbated by the presence of fascist guards led by the new foreman, Attila (Donald Sutherland).
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The Last Metro

In Nazi-occupied France, Jewish theatre director Lucas Steiner (Heinz Bennent) has apparently fled the country to South America, but is in fact living in the cellar of his theatre, with only his wife Marion (Catherine Deneuve) knowing of the situation. The theatre keeps running, with Marion as the lead actress in the last play Lucas wrote before exile. Lucas listens to the play rehearsals during the day and gives Marion notes in the evening, which she passes on to the new director Jean-Loup Cottins (Jean Poiret) the next day. They have a rising star lead actor in Bernard Granger (Gerard Depardieu), who in turn has a roving eye on all the women in the company, including the costume designer (Andréa Ferréol) and a younger actress (Sabine Haudepin). The film follows the play’s production from casting through rehearsals into opening night and beyond, tracking the lives of the players and the impact of the Second World War.
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Hamlet

There are some films on the List that I’ve no idea when I’ll get to them. These films fall into three categories – the ones I absolutely adore but have no clue how I’ll even start writing about them, the ones I desperately do not want to watch (but am too much of an anal completist to ignore) and the really long ones. This four-hour-plus cut of Hamlet obviously falls into the latter, but fortunately for me, my girlfriend opted for Kate Winslet as her Film-Maker of choice, and seeing as I’ve reached that point in Winslet’s career in which she appeared in Hamlet as Ophelia, I can cross off Kenneth Branagh’s opus from the Empire 5-Star 500. As for the unspeakable films I don’t want to see, whenever LoveFilm drop Salo through my letterbox it shall not be a good day, though I could pull an In The Realm Of The Senses and bottle it when I’ve taken as much as I can stand.
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La Vie en Rose

Marion Cotillard gives the role of her life in this biopic of French singer Edith Piaf, depicting her tragic existence from growing up in a brothel with her grandmother after her parents abandon her, through being discovered by Gerard Depardieu’s club owner singing on the streets, up until her death of liver cancer aged 47. Her meteoric rise to fame – she is widely regarded as France’s most popular singer – was filled with tragedy and setbacks, from going blind for several months at a young age to her partner dying in a plane crash when she demands him to fly out and see her. The plot is largely confusing, flitting backwards and forwards in time and with many people entering, exiting and re-entering her life, yet throughout the set design, costumes, make-up and performances are excellent, as of course is the music. Cotillard was rightly thrown onto the Hollywood A-list after this role, being snapped up by the likes of Chris Nolan, Michael Mann and Woody Allen, and the cinematography – particularly one extended shot around a multi-room set in her villa – is also spectacular. Some elements – Piaf’s child, for instance – seem hastily tacked on, but for the most part this is a riveting story about a first-rate musician.
Choose film 7/10