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Welcome to my website!
Have you ever wondered why some critics review films? They don't even seem to like movies that much from what they write. I LOVE movies, and think about them long after the last credits roll across the screen. My reviews are meant to inform, entertain and never have a spoiler.
Enjoy my reviews and please comment and come back frequently! Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Cafe Society

Café Society is a classic Woody Allen offering. Taking place in the 1930’s in Hollywood and in New York City, he used the old jazz tunes he loves so much as background to this story of love, betrayal, and hope. Woody himself narrates the film.

Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) travels to Hollywood, leaving his somewhat enmeshed family behind in New York, and visits his uncle Phil Stern (Steve Carell) in hopes of obtaining a job. He eventually becomes a sort of errand boy for his wealthy relative, and meets Vonnie (Kristin Stewart) who shows him around Hollywood. Bobby soon falls in love with her, but she is seeing a married man, and is not interested in him. Jesse Eisenberg plays a typical Woody male lead, talking and moving about rapidly, and the rest of the cast talks over each other in typical Allen film format. 

The intrigue of romance and unrequited love commences, and the twists and turns we see happening are not yet evident to the players. My husband and I both noticed that the cinematography is sometimes tinted a yellowish hue, and I am suspecting that it has something to do with the relationship between Bobby and Vonnie. The cinematographer was Vittorio Storaro, who has won three Academy Awards for his craft, for Apocalypse Now, Reds and The Last Emperor. He did beautiful work in this film as well.

How many people fall in love and never get together for various reasons, and yet hold some tenderness in their hearts for one another? There is some philosophical discourse in this film, so typical for Woody, who constantly questions the meaning of life and death in his art.

I think that must have been where Woody was coming from in writing this screenplay. It also helps to illuminate people’s similar behavior currently, as a film in the 1930’s has enough distance from today to seem quaint and glamorous, and yet the emotions depicted between the family and lovers is just the same as any love triangle might experience today.

It also seems to be both a fond reminiscence of these two great cities in that era, when film was new and exciting, and stars held the commoners in awe of them, as well as a scathing look at the mob in New York and the vapid social climbing of those with wealth and notoriety.

Woody’s films always begin the same way with simple credits, actors listed alphabetically by main roles, and secondary roles. It is kind of comforting to see that each time, like he’s letting us into his innermost thoughts that get put down first as the screenplay and then becomes a fully developed movie, when something of Woody’s vision appears on the screen.

The film is rated PG-13 for some violence, a drug reference, suggestive material and smoking. Café Society was released in 2016. And there is a great deal of smoking. People just don’t smoke as much anymore, but it is culturally accurate for the times.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Cezanne et Moi

The French film Cezanne et Moi recalls the friendship of artist Paul Cezanne, and writer Emile Zola. The film is rated R for language, sexual references and nudity. I saw it at my local art cinema this last month. It should still be playing in that type of theater. The film has English subtitles.

The frenetic pace of the film in the beginning showcases the two friends meeting as boys at school, and then continues back and forth over the years of their volatile relationship in the late 1800’s. The frenetic pace settles down after a bit into the story, but I still did not appreciate so much back and forth through time, although labeled quite clearly on screen. Less bouncing around would have helped the story feel less disjointed.

Cezanne (Guillaume Gallienne) is every bit the tortured artist, throwing temper tantrums when his painting doesn’t live up to his high standards, often kicking a foot through the canvas. Zola (Guillaume Canet), once he attains success and fame as a writer, is a bit more stable. If you go to see this film expecting to see much of Cezanne’s finished works, or learn more about what Zola wrote and published, you will not.

It is very much a character driven film about two brilliant men, and their deep devotion to each other that at times brings a distance between them. Their relations with women are troubled to say the least, and Cezanne resents the easy life he perceives Zola to have achieved in his palatial home on the outskirts of Paris.

Cezanne is one of the first plein air artists (to paint outdoors). This is a thriving pastime in the US and elsewhere that I know about since my husband, a studio oil painter of landscapes, also paints plein air. It is not an easy vocation, or avocation for that matter. The elements and changing light make it difficult to finish a work in one sitting; at most only a couple of hours at a time can be used effectively.

Emile Zola is well regarded by the French, and some of his works were about the trials of the working class. He was the subject of an early Academy Award winning black and white film, The Life of Emile Zola, starring Paul Muni, a film I regret I have not seen as yet.

Watching Cezanne et Moi may inspire you to learn more about the men who influenced art and literature so completely that their names are recognized a full century plus after their deaths. I appreciated the way the scenery was filmed in the beautiful countryside of Provence, and the costuming of the actors.

At the end, we see a photo of a mountain frequently painted, with different artists' takes on the subject. What makes art so interesting is that even when artists are trained similarly, when they paint the same subject, it is always unique. Just as there will never be another Cezanne, no two artists' works are alike.