The English Patient

What’s the big deal? I haven’t read Michael Ondaatje’s novel, but I suspect it’s better than this streamlined (if still long-winded) 1996 adaptation by writer-director Anthony Minghella (Truly Madly Deeply). A good old-fashioned love story and tearjerker with more than a touch of David O. Selznick, it’s reasonably well told and well mounted but little more. The intricate flashback structure at times recalls Marguerite Duras (though this is slicker); it moves between the Italian front near the end of World War IIwhere a French-Canadian nurse (Juliette Binoche) cares for a seriously burned patient (Ralph Fiennes) who claims he doesn’t know who he isand North Africa during the late 30s, when the patient, revealed as a Hungarian count and mapmaker, fell in love with a married woman (Kristin Scott Thomas). Memories of better movies ranging from Casablanca to Bitter Victory aren’t inappropriate here, but for all the film’s effectiveness as a love story, I often felt I was being hurried through a busy itinerary; some of the secondary characters (notably the nurse, a former thief played by Willem Dafoe, and a Sikh bomb detector played by Naveen Andrews) never get enough of the movie’s attention. With Colin Firth and Jurgen Prochnow. (JR)

Published on 25 Nov 1996 in Featured Texts, by admin

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International Harvest [Films about Films]

Please go to

http://www.jonathanrosenbaum.net/1996/11/international-harvest/

Published on 22 Nov 1996 in Featured Texts, Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Shine

Directed by Scott Hicks from a script by Jan Sardi, this hyperbolic but undeniably effective 1996 Australian feature recounts the unorthodox career of classical pianist David Helfgotta gifted musician driven so fanatically to succeed by his ambitious Polish-Jewish emigre father (Armin Mueller-Stahl) that he wound up insane. (It’s a story that sometimes recalls Fear Strikes Out, the 1956 biopic about baseball star Jim Piersall.) Even if the film’s closing act seems too hasty to be fully believable (a common failing in biopics about living people), the high-powered drive of both the storytelling and the music is riveting. Helfgott is played at separate ages by Geoffrey Rush, Noah Taylor, and Alex Rafalowicz; others in the cast include Lynn Redgrave, John Gielgud, and Googie Withers. Among the highlighted composers are Chopin, Liszt, and Rachmaninoff, whose works are performed offscreen by Helfgott himself. (JR)

Published on 19 Nov 1996 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Ridicule

A dry, jaundiced, and quirky 1996 look at the court of Louis XVI, seen from the vantage point of an engineer (Charles Berling) hoping to persuade the king to allow him to dam a river and thereby control a malaria epidemic in his home province. Directed by Patrice Leconte (Monsieur Hire), from a thoughtful if less than profound script by Remi Waterhouse, Michel Fessler, and Eric Vicaut, this holds one’s interest, at least as an alternative to the greeting-card idealism of most period art movies. (Judith Godreche is a particular standout as the daughter of a physician, played by Jean Rochefort, who takes the engineer under his wing.) With Bernard Giraudeau and Fanny Ardant. 102 min. (JR)

Published on 19 Nov 1996 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Jingle All The Way

I expected to hate it, but by the end I was provisionally won over to this frenetic Arnold Schwarzenegger sitcom holiday special (1996)soggy caricatures, tatty special effects, and all. As the title suggests, this has something to do with the greed, hypocrisy, and overall hysteria accompanying Christmas; it concentrates on the comic efforts of a businessman (Schwarzenegger) and a postman (Sinbad) to land a popular but scarce media tie-in toy for their respective sons at the last moment. For all the strident obviousness of Brian Levant’s directorial style, Randy Kornfield’s script manages to ring almost as many satirical changes on the theme as Stan Freberg’s indignant 50s record Green Christmas, though with the emphasis this time on customers rather than merchants. The suggestive climax involves a battle between a middle-class white man and a working-class black man. All things considered, a pretty good run for one’s money, and only 88 minutes long. With Phil Hartman, Rita Wilson, Robert Conrad, and James Belushi (as the most disreputable Santa I’ve seen). PG. (JR)

Published on 19 Nov 1996 in Featured Texts, by admin

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