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Archive for the ‘Richard Schiff’ Category

Rough Magic

07 May

Rough Magic – written and directed by Clare Peploe. Screwball Comedy. 104 minutes. 1997.

★★★★★

The Story: A magician’s assistant flees the claws of a billionaire who wants to marry her.

~

Have you missed this marvel?

Don’t continue in that error one day more.

Not being a fan of Russell Crowe, I approach the endeavor warily. But this is made at the moment of L.A. Confidential and he is 30 and has ripened up just fine. It’s interesting to observe his acting instrument, the spread of energy natural to him that enables him to consume the screen – indeed to the exclusion of any other star equal to him. Two suns side by side often don’t work. Here he must play the suing lover, which means he is a bottom; he must play in subordination to the woman. It works for him. And it brings up a side of him that I prefer. Gladiator go home.

But let us set that aside for even better things.

First of all this is a movie made by a woman about a woman. Clare Peploe is the writer-director, and the film reflects her values which I like, and which take us into the land of magic both fundamental and false. Screwball comedy is the genre, if you like. And the rendering of it is blunt, various, saucy, always fun.

Playing the leading role is Briget Fonda, and is she good! She fits right into the bold outlines of the character, and you believe right off in her daring, aplomb, wit, and suffering. She is a lovely actor and I wish she were before us more.

The great Jim Broadbent makes up the trio, and he is at his simply-marvelous best. It’s a great big dolloping part – just what we want him to have. He plays an inept sidewalk pharmacist, con man, and raider of ancient civilizations. He is accompanied by a dog.

I love comedy, and this one has the bright notion to shift its locale to Mexico in pursuit of a rare potion which makes those who imbibe into true magicians. Or perhaps it is better to say, it makes them truly what they are.

So we have Cliff Wyatt as the insufferable billionaire of D.W. Moffett. It’s lovely to see in him what good actors we have in ourAmerican pantry. We have our favorite Richard Schiff as his flunky waiting in the wings all this time. We have Kenneth Mars launching his big style into the role of the stage magician and master hand. We have lovely Mexican actors carrying through their parts like champions.

I love this film. I love its color. I love the way it was done, and how. How it was done was what it said. And for me that makes for the most intimate of entertainments. How about you?

 

 

 
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Posted in Briget Fonda, Jim Broadbent, Richard Schiff, Russell Crowe, SCREWBALL COMEDY

 

The Lost World: Jurassic Park

21 May

The Lost World: Jurassic Park – Directed by Steven Spielberg. Sci-Fi Action. Dinosaurs, still hanging around on a tropical island, draw competing scientists and developers. 2 hours 7 minutes Color 1997.

* * * * *

Pete Postlethwaite devours the screen like a brontosaurus rex whenever he is on it. This is wonderful to behold, because his ruthlessness outstrips the passion of any other character in the movie, and so one loves him for it. The others fare not so well. For the “action sequences” devour character as well as characters. This is true of all such films. David Koepp has written a brilliant script, which means that its wit compliments the wit of the director, and he has made for us characters who have a living eccentricity, in scenes that are beguiling and actable. But all of that is in the beginning of the film. As soon as the dinosaurs start competing with the humans all character is lost as the film bogs down in spectacle, escape, acts of derring-do, mayhem, terror, clumping and munching – in fact, in story- behavior in which, because it is minimally verbal, character, charm, eccentricity, and even motive are devoured. It’s no one’s fault. It’s simply a characteristic of the genre. They all end up this way. The chief consequence of this is that one ceases to love the characters – because they are characters no longer. And too bad too. Because we have the glorious Jeff Goldblum as one of a group of four heros (really five until our beloved Richard Schiff becomes an ors d’oeuvre for a rex). With his bright and wonderful face, and endearing tallness, and supple intelligence, he plays a character who disapproves of everything, in a role which almost becomes thankless because of that. Julianna Moore is delightful in a love scene walking away from him in the middle of a river; she plays a character who approves of everything. And the dewy Vince Vaughan plays a kind of side-car part which is actually underwritten and functions really only to make a certain defunct radio work to save the day (it’s actually night). Never mind. It’s a director’s film, and Spielberg has a witty mind. Never is he unprepared to entertain us. The action sequences unravel with imagination and care and stunning execution. And in this is he ably abetted by the camera of Janusz Kaminsky and the surprising editing of Michael Kahn, who will supply us with a sterling close-up of Moore’s face, for instance, just when you would never expect you would need the relief of it from the action in play. Spielberg always gets his endings wrong, and he does not fail us in this one. It’s a failure of value in him, as, for the wrong reason, he brings the tale around to a city he has not previously established, and so the big bus-wrecking sequences, and so forth, have no connection to us. The ending comes out of nowhere into nowhere. His wit does not fail him, as the rex clomps by an Animal Control vehicle, but his thinking does. This means that the value of actions floats free of the value of settings, streets, a harbor, a ship, and, most important, human inhabitants. However, the film has delivered so much “entertainment” one has to forgive him once again, simply on the grounds that our exhaustion forbids us from sustaining anything more than a sigh of relief that the entertainment is finally over.

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