Malena

Somewhere in writer-director Giuseppe Tornatore’s bombastic movie, about a 12-year-old boy (Giuseppe Sulfaro) during the Italian fascist period who has the hots for a mistreated war widow (Monica Bellucci), is a pretty good short story about the fickleness of community and the cruelty of gossip. Part of what prevents it from emerging more clearly is the movie’s compulsion to be Fellini-like at all costs: Ennio Morricone’s score periodically apes Nino Rota, and the scenes of family farce play more like Radio Days than anything elsein effect they’re an imitation of imitation Fellini. But I prefer this to Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso, if only for its more nuanced views. Tornatore’s script was inspired by Luciano Vincenzoni’s story Ma l’amore no . . . In Italian with subtitles. 90 min. (JR)

Published on 19 Dec 2000 in Featured Texts, by admin

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All The Pretty Horses

I haven’t read Cormac McCarthy’s acclaimed novel, nor do I know what kind of material got deleted from this adaptation, which was reduced by about one of its original three hours (the apparently preferred length of director and coproducer Billy Bob Thornton), but despite some choppiness here and there the movie holds together pretty well. This is a melancholy, lyrical, and elegiac western, set around 1949, in which a young and dispossessed rancher in west Texas (Matt Damon) rides off with his best friend (Henry Thomas) to the Rio Grande, picking up a teenage renegade (Lucas Black) en route, and eventually falls in love with the daughter (Penelope Cruz) of a Mexican rancher he works for. The landscapeswhich come close to outshining the worthy actors in the opening and closing stretchesare beautiful, and the plot, which is basically a grim coming-of-age story, holds one’s interest throughout. Scripted by Ted Tally; with Ruben Blades, Robert Patrick, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Miriam Colon, Bruce Dern, and Sam Shepard. 112 min. (JR)

Published on 18 Dec 2000 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Traffic

I don’t get it. Maybe my bias against drug dealers, drug barons, and drug addicts as interesting characters is responsible, but I don’t see this slightly better-than-average drug thriller, with slightly better-than-average direction by Steven Soderbergh, as anything more than a routine rubber-stamping of genre reflexes. (Even the film’s racismthe implication that drug taking by teenage white girls logically leads to their having sex with black malesseems depressingly typical.) Nothing especially new or fresh has been added to the formula by Stephen Gaghan’s screenplay, which shuttles between southern California, Mexico, Ohio, and Washington, D.C., but if you’re happy just to see Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Douglas, Luis Guzman, Dennis Quaid, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Albert Finney, among others, move across the screen and deliver lines, here’s your chance to indulge. 147 min. (JR)

Published on 18 Dec 2000 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Quills

Personally, I find the notion of a politically correct Marquis de Sade ridiculous enough to be hilarious, but this didn’t prevent me from thoroughly enjoying Philip Kaufman’s silly romp, adapted by Doug Wright from his own play. This version of French history has it that the real sadist wasn’t Sade (Geoffrey Rush) but the hypocritical doctor (Michael Caine) who kept him locked up in a lunatic asylum, and that the real issues posed by Sade’s work basically boil down to freedom of expression. Check your brain at the concessions counter and you’re likely to have as much fun as I did, not only because the good guys and the villains are easy to spot but because Kaufman is an adroit, sexy storyteller and his cast is delightful. With Kate Winslet, Joaquin Phoenix, and Billie Whitelaw. 123 min. (JR)

Published on 11 Dec 2000 in Featured Texts, by admin

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