Archive for the ‘Geraldine Chaplin’ Category

The Bridge Of San Luis Rey

07 Feb

The Bridge Of San Luis Rey – directed by Mary McGuckian. Drama. 120 minutes Color 2004.


The Story: In a trial for his life, a 17th Century friar presents his findings on the coincidence of seven people plunging to their deaths when a suspension bridge collapses.


The presence of Robert De Niro as the archbishop of Peru disqualifies the story. He does not have the acting instrument to perform the role, which requires Shavian mentation of inquiry and debate. Nowhere in this piece does he seem feasible.

The others do just fine, and their good work validates our presence before them. Geraldine Chaplin is excellent as the kind Mother Superior who connects all of them. Gabriel Byrne touches one as the soft-spoken friar on trial for possible heresy.

Kathy Bates, an actress difficult to cast correctly, finds herself well placed as the richest widow in Peru, but clearly a parvenu from the shopkeeping class. She moves through the vast structures of cathedral and palace like an elephant in full regalia. Dressed like a pavilion, she performs one rich scene of unexpected eccentricity after another, and the script gives her the only fully realized character in the piece.

As her relative, uncle Pio, our beloved Harvey Keitel is perfectly cast as a theatrical entrepreneur, a man who owns nothing, and loves fixedly.

F. Murray Abraham has, as the vice-ridden Viceroy Of Peru, a part he can finally sink his sharp teeth into. This is the sort of play that actors like better than audiences. There is grand argumentation. Elocution is required. Wit is a priority. Intelligence of style is appreciated. Abraham is an actor of classical gifts, and what a treat it is to see him perform with them.

Dominique Pinon is excruciatingly exact as the Viceroy’s fop. He brings a surge of comic vitality to the film whenever he appears, shrewd, quick, and big hearted.

Pilar López de Ayalaila speaks perfect English, and is a very good actress, but lacks the high temperament, unique sexual personality, and special feminine voice of the actress La Perichola. It is the key role. She unites them all, drives them all, kills them all. But she is not able to convince us of what others see in her. The not-to-be-topped Anna Magnani played a version of her in The Golden Coach of Jean Renoir in 1952. Nazimova, Joan Loring, Blanch Yurka, Akim Tamiroff, and Louis Calhern played it in the 1944 film. There is a 1929 version, part-talking, with Lily Damita.

The original is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Thornton Wilder, which may be still readable today, who knows? I have read it and liked it, but it wasn’t yesterday that I did so.


The Impossible

01 Feb

The Impossible – directed by Juan Antonio Bayona. Manhunt Survival Drama. A family vacationing in Thailand is washed away by the 2004 tidal wave that devastates the country and separates them cruelly. 117 minutes Color 2012.
Melodrama means a form of drama with a strong musical accompaniment. We think of the form nowadays as a parody of drama, old fashioned, and ridiculous. We also think of it as a form of drama designed so that music could be written to it. The closest link in literary forms to melodrama is the form called satire. This linkage is what makes Dickens so rich a concoction.

Here, however, the music supplants the drama. We are awash in the drama. But then the drama is washed away by the music. The musical score demolishes all dramatic involvement in the proceedings whenever it is heard.

And it is not necessary.

The story before us here is simple in its construction and execution and strong. The largest water tank in the world was build in India to film the scenes of flood. And we certainly believe the catastrophic situation that befalls Naomi Watts and her eldest son young Tom Holland as they are carried miles into the hinterland, helplessly tossed against the debris which surrounds and endangers them. Watts is badly damaged, her son less so, but he is only a boy.

Her other two sons are rescued by their father, played by Ewan McGregor. He then combs the chaos of the country for his wife and son, after the flood recedes.

This is the story. It is the story of a manhunt. We know they will be reunited, because publicity for the film and its coming attractions have spoiled that part of the story for us, or, lured us to the promise of sentimental reunities.

But the directorial execution of the details of their finding one another is so exquisite, so correct, so thorough, so illuminating, so real, so encompassing, and so interesting that the entire story could be told without a single violin.

I can only recommend the film if you wear earplugs. The score is asking you to empathize with the music rather than the situation. This is why melodrama is ridiculous and outmoded. Its tendency is to turn catastrophe into corn.

Aside from that, the film is honorable on all counts and worth your attendance, indeed.



15 Feb

Crimetime – directed by George Sluizer – Thriller. An Actor playing a serial killer is stalked by the serial killer wanting to be the actor. 118 minutes Color  1996.

* * *

Hitchcock often made thrillers about men wrongly accused, but occasionally he made a picture about a homicidal maniac: Strangers On A Train is one, Psycho another. This picture would be perfectly suited to Hitchcock’s second category, but it lacks Hitchcock’s prime ingredient, the ability to create and sustain an ominous mood. Here, what you see is what you get; in Hitchcock what you see is what you don’t get. The result is a B picture, but one with A level performances — on the one side, Geraldine Chaplin as the blind mad wife, and on the other our own wonderful Karen Black as the dread head of production. Between them are the two major talents of Pete Postlethwaite and Stephen Baldwin. Baldwin, whom I have never seen before, possesses the fantastic Baldwin rump which on occasion we are allowed to dwell upon stark naked, and the film plays off on the obvious general sexual energy of a sexy actor never trying to be sexy. He plays an actor, Bobby– an actor of the sort one occasionally meets in the profession, devoted to his craft so radically that he becomes cruel and obnoxious — as humorless, inconsiderate,  and spiritually intrusive as the dark fundamentalist he truly is. Baldwin is perfectly cast for  these qualities. And he is a bold actor. The story is about a TV show which takes the crime of the hour and reenacts it. Today’s crime is that of a serial killer, and so devoted to playing the part does the actor, Bobby, become that he becomes hypnotized by the killer, who talks to him over the phone. The killer, watching Bobby be him on the TV, recognizes that they have become one another. It is the story of a beautiful and famous actor’s desire for excellence acheiving its desire and the desire of an ugly nonentity to achieve beauty and fame, meeting. Pete Postlethwaite as the killer is remarkable. Every actor in England went to see him perform. (He once toured in King Lear playing every part.) And in this leading role, he has a full canvas to paint upon. His face is a treat to behold, with its big eyes and spike of jaw. His death scene is astonishing. Baldwin in recognition of his own lost life has a crying scene that is beautiful, and other fine scenes as well. The two of them are worth the time it takes to watch this really first class story — true, a story made banal by its director’s treatment of it — but still somehow a vehicle for great acting.


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