Under The Sun

An unintentional parody of a particular kind of European art moviethe kind that often garners Oscar nominations, as this 1998 film did. An illiterate, overweight, virginal Swedish farmer in his early 40s (Rolf Lassgard) advertises for a young housekeeper who might also keep him company. Lo and behold, a beautiful, mysterious, compliant woman from the city (Helena Bergstrom) turns up. Her presence threatens the farmer’s much younger friend (Johan Widerberg), an insensitive lout who’s been swindling him blind. To be fair, all three lead actors are adroit; but the story, adapted from a short story by H.E. Bates, is both contrived and not very well told. Director-producer-cowriter Colin Nutleywho, incidentally, is married to Bergstromseems to cut away to extraneous details whenever he doesn’t know what to do next, which is often. There’s also a very hard-sell Irish music score by Paddy Maloney of the Chieftains, sex in the rain, and loads of decorative nature photography. 118 min. (JR)

Published on 21 Aug 2001 in Featured Texts, by admin

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An American Rhapsody

Writer-director Eva Gardos, best known as a film editor, takes on a fascinating autobiographical subjectthe Americanization of a little girl (Kelly Endresz Baniaki) who arrives in the U.S. in the 50s from communist Hungary and grows up during the 60sand treats it competently, though without much freshness or imagination. The movie becomes more interesting when the heroine insists on visiting Budapest as a teenager, and Ghost World’s Scarlett Johansson manages to make her character something more than the usual rebellious movie adolescent. With Nastassja Kinski and Tony Goldwyn. 106 min. (JR)

Published on 20 Aug 2001 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Brief Encounters

Made in 1967 but released only in 1986, Kira Muratova’s acclaimed Soviet feature is about two womena party official (Muratova herself) and the maid she hires (Nina Ruslanova)who have both loved the same man, a geologist (popular Russian folksinger Vladimir Visotsky). As a huge fan of Muratova’s postglasnost The Asthenic Syndrome (1989) and Three Stories (1997), each an angry, despairing, and extremely stylized work in color, I wasn’t quite prepared for this quiet, touching, and basically realistic black-and-white drama, interesting at least in part for what it conveys about everyday Russian life in the 60s. I haven’t yet determined whether that’s what led to the film’s being banned for almost 20 years. In Russian with subtitles. 96 min. (JR)

Published on 20 Aug 2001 in Featured Texts, by admin

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