zhenca

IMDb member since March 2005
    Lifetime Total
    10+
    IMDb Member
    14 years

Reviews

Ladies in Lavender
(2004)

Charming little story
Delicate and unpretentious, this story of an old lady's infatuation with a young violinist is like a refreshing whiff of air amidst the sultry stench of brouhaha "fat-cash" movies that contaminate the silver screen this summer. Its overall impressionistic and bland atmosphere of old rural England with seemingly plain, but emotionally tense story has a mollifying effect on our senses, long warped by clink-clank of special effects and overblown plots.

If one has to compare this film with other forms of art, "Ladies in Lavender" feels like a fine piece of vintage literature, transfered on screen and complemented with exquisite acting and gorgeous music. At the same time, it is so much "slice-of-life" story thanks to meticulous nuances in depicting the characters' lifestyle and subtle performances of the film's main stars.

Contrary to some reviews, I don't have an impression that the story is deficient or lacks in details. I find it rather complete and coherent. Moreover, I think that giving any additional background information on the characters would have only diluted the story. The director's objective is clearly to focus on the internal feelings of the two old sisters and for that enough information is provided in their own comments. After all, it's not the story of the stranger that is so important; but the story of their loneliness and attachment to this young man that is the cornerstone of the plot.

Not as shattering as some more action-driven movies, this film is a good treat for those who want to get away from the din of our modern life and enjoy some excellent music for precious one and a half hours.

Breakfast at Tiffany's
(1961)

A decent movie but falls short of the original book
I remember being so much fascinated by Holly Golightly when I first read Capote's novel years ago and was really looking forward to Audrey Hepburn bringing this character to life. I have always been enthralled by this charming slender beauty on screen and, I can say, she loses none of her magic in this film either.

However, something is desperately missing in this emasculated interpretation of its witty and insightful literary source. Trapped in the "convenances" of that time, the film-makers deprive Holly of almost all her original subtlety and complexity, rendering the story flat and mushy. The introduction of a love sublot between the author and Holly adds nothing but a sloppy "happy end", which is the worst part of the movie, and ruins the whole intention of the book, its unique flair and muddles Holly's character into a personality, very much different from the one in the book. "Holly from the film" is perfected to be acceptable enough for all goody girls and their parents, she is cute, lovable and superficial, with not much to reveal behind her dishy face, immaculate figure and charming manner, which is still irresistible. "Holly from the book" is more controversial, unscrupulous, smart and poignant. Audrey herself is too nice for this original character but she does make the film quite "watchable" and her partner, George Peppard, his character turned upside down, is also pretty likable ilk of a ladies'man.

The film does offer a number of funny scenes too, especially, the party and shoplifting scenes. On the whole, the screen version is pretty smooth and entertaining but if you've read the novel before you can't get rid of the feeling that Capote's masterpiece was ruthlessly stripped of its most precious assest - the true Holly Golightly, whom the author so lovingly created. For this you should look in the original book.

The Assassination of Richard Nixon
(2004)

Replaying an old theme with new intensity
I can't say this film strikes an absolutely new note. The theme of a lame duck, unable to adjust to an unjust world order, disappointed in its social values and, therefore, turning against the hateful system, has been repeatedly played over in a number of other films, including the already mentioned Taxi Driver, Falling Down, Fight Club, etc. However, the film does manage to tell an original story in its own way. That's why I find any attempts at comparison with other films to be improper and unrewarding.

The more so, the theme is worth being told over and over again to remind us of how imperfect and fragile the established order is and how our ruthless and uncompromising society works against itself and breeds its own destroyers. The film, by no means, strives to justify violent actions of Sam Bicke as a way to fight against social vices (one of the rebukes I've spotted here). On the contrary, we are given a multidimensional perspective on Sean Penn's character. We understand very well his weakness, lack of balance, and self-deprecation. We also see the reasons that have spawned his violent outbreak. We feel sorry for his plight but that does not mean we are going to follow his example. Instead, we are given to understand that by ignoring, humiliating and excluding such Bickes from normal life we are shooting ourselves in the leg. Our own heartlessness and lack of empathy give rise to dissatisfaction and senseless violence of extreme and distorted proportions. Just as we cannot justify the hijackers of 9/11 we cannot excuse Sam Bicke. However, if we really pay attention to the message of hijacked planes and destroyed towers we can understand the roots of uncontrollable violence and terrorism and have a chance to start fighting with its causes and not its consequences.

Apart from the film's strong and far-reaching message, I also have to pinpoint what profound and fine cinematic work the film is on the whole. Directing and cinematography are up to the mark, not to mention a slew of very strong and expressive performances. If you want to spend your time on a serious and memorable movie I recommend you to watch this one instead of forgettable "Star Wars" and "Monsters-in Law".

Angel Eyes
(2001)

Surprisingly good for J.Lo's film
I urge everyone to distrust the low rating this film got on IMDb and try and see it somewhere. Perhaps, you will be surprised to find what a solid and impressive drama "Angel Eyes" is.

Jennifer Lopes is notorious for a bad choice of films she plays in with her rather limited acting ability. But this movie is a nice exception. Here, she is very comfortable in the role of a slightly boorish and internally disturbed policewoman and, with this performance, she really hits the mark. Her co-star James Caviezel also gives an excellent portrayal of a man who is recovering from the loss of his family.

The storyline itself is well-rounded, consistent and believable, leaving no blurred moments or gaps. Although the assumptions of the film may seem too melodramatic, in fact the film is not in the least cheesy or mushy. On the contrary, what we see is a very realistic and uneven development of a relationship between two complex characters with an open (not sleazy happy) ending. The message of the film is also very sound and clear - life is not a smooth simple line and you never know what will take you to your destination.

The film delivers this message softly and is, definitely, worthy of your attention.

Cruel Intentions
(1999)

The best example of poor film-making
I was so much taken aback and nearly outraged to see such a high rating for such a low-quality film that I couldn't help but give vent to my bewilderment at such a vast number of people who can praise such a lousy piece of poor story-telling, unconvincing, nearly bad acting, awkward film-making and enormous amount of pretentiousness and snobbery.

The film was, I think, one of the worst efforts to adapt a solid classic novel to modern times with one of the most deplorable results, that is a "Beverly-Hills enters aristocratic world of spoiled French nobility". Very unbelievable and strained! With a bunch of extremely unsympathetic characters! None of the brilliance of the classic "Dangerous Liaisons"!

I think that too many unsophisticated teenagers are allowed to watch too many stupid movies. A provocative thought has just crossed my mind: at certain moments some kind of censorship needs to be introduced to limit the amount of crap the youngsters imbibe at an early age. Otherwise they would grow up into adulthood with a distorted notion of what good film really is. A dangerous trend for the whole film industry! So let those teenagers stick to "Beverly Hills", where at least a healthier kind of relationship is displayed.

Depuis qu'Otar est parti...
(2003)

Accurate depiction of Post-Soviet decline and emotional regeneration
"Depuis qu'Otar est parti" is a very personal, I would even say, miniature story about very ordinary people, living in far less than glamorous conditions in faraway Georgia. If you are after that small-scale retrospective type of cinema art, you will enjoy the film because it portrays character development and relationship between three female protagonist very well - with deep insight and savvy.

But apart from being a solid and interesting drama that leads its characters through emotional debris to internal grit and, finally, to some glimpse of hope (for how, read other comments or better watch it), this film signifies for me, a native of the former USSR, a far broader and more intimate picture of the material and emotional decline in post-Soviet countries after the communist collapse.

Deteriorated poor Georgia and emotional confusion of the people was so authentic that I thought the film was shot by a native Georgian (Otar Iosselianni even crossed my mind) and was surprised to learn in the captions that a French director had actually made it. So real and natural was the depiction not only of the Georgian family's life with all those outdated interiors and city landscapes but also of the characters' psychological state, their behavior, their little skirmishes and caring relationship with each other. The film felt like being shot by a true Georgian, who loves and appreciates those quirky ways and habits of her fellow countrymen. The desolate state of mind, entanglement in those little ordinary lies looked also so familiar, reminding of the life in mid-90s Russia and today's reality in many backward provinces and republics of the former USSR.

I guess I should re-think my notion that only native artists can impart authenticity to the portrayal of national character and spirit on screen.

Kudos to Ms Bertucelli for capturing this murky but also hopeful Zeitgeist of the lost epoch!!!

La leggenda del pianista sull'oceano
(1998)

Tornatore's finest film to date!
This is one of those rare films, which mesmirize you so much that you actually feel sorry to leave the theater and wish the story would not end so soon. I watched it breathless and when the credits started rolling I still longed for more magic and were ready to start watching it all over again right away. Like a true film gourmet I wanted to indulge in the exquisite treat for as long as possible, enjoying its every small tidbit.

Needless to say, that art direction and cinematography are perfect as they always are in Tornatore's films. They duly impress you with beauty and grandeur.

Oh, the music score! I can't find proper words to describe it: fantastic, awesome, gripping or even better than those three together, written by Ennio Morricone, the guru of film music! Pay attention to how aptly it matches the scenes in the film. In fact, the music is one of the main characters in the story too.

As for the story itself: well, it can call forth different feelings and interpretations. The story of a man of genius who prefers to confine himself to the small world of a cruise ship and the ocean can induce many a Freudian-like rationales from psychoanalysis aficionados. But it won't leave you feeling indifferent for Tim Roth's fascinating character who combines talent and unpretentiousness, passion and insight into people's souls - the qualities that are the marks of true brilliance.

The directing holds you captivated for more than two hours, letting you savour quite a number of memorable finely orchestrated scenes. My favourite is the piano duel between 1900 and Jelly Roll Morton. In this episode small nuances help masterfully create the growing suspense, which is one of the best I've ever seen in the movies.

The acting is superb! You can't help but appreciate perfect casting and a slew of outstanding performances. The actors don't act, they live on screen. Now Tim Roth completes the trio of my favourite actors along with Sean Penn and Al Pacino.

This film and Tornatore's second best "Cinema Paradiso" are my personal favourites and I highly recommend them to you:

Don't miss the feast of emotions! You won't regret it!

Nuovo Cinema Paradiso
(1988)

A cinematic wonder that will put you under the spell!
If you are not yet infatuated with movies, this dazzling masterpiece will definitely sweep you off your feet, and who knows, perhaps, imbue you with love for the art of film for the rest of your life. Yes, yes, yes! The cinema paradise will play the same trick on you as it did on Salvatore, the main character, grabbing you and never letting you go.

My own crush on movies grew into a strong and staunch feeling, the one that a seasoned admirer might have for an object of his long-time affection despite some random disappointments (e.g., Star Wars series). Nuovo Cinema Paradiso proved to me anew that your "watching" efforts of a loyal and a patient film viewer will always be rewarded with such cinematic gems, coming out now and then not from the cinematographer's vanity or greed, but from his heart.

Incidentally, this cinematic paradise reminded me of another heavenly creative piece by Giuseppe Tornatore, - his newer film "La Legenda del pianista sull'oceano". Whatever imperfections some nit pickers might find in them, those two films share the same quality of being strikingly beautiful and extremely melodious, giving pleasure both to your eye and your ear. The harmony, which the director creates between the different film elements, disarms you completely, leaves you dazed some time after the last shots are over. Both films also have similar story structure: the events are unraveled as a string of reminiscences, prompted by some critical point, which usually forms the climax (usually, smth' or smb's demise) and brings about the end of a certain important period in the character's life (the one that most influenced the kind of personality the character has become when we first meet him in the film). This structure is by no means boring and, mastered skilfully by Tornatore, serves its purpose of showing the character's development very well.

The paradisaical subterfuge of Tornatore's art is also such that the film manages to move you to the very deep of your heart without resorting to artificial sentimentalism or cheap pathetic. It just garners the quintessence of those little darling moments in real life and on screen that most of us cherish.

Much to his credit, Tornatore has proved to us with this and his other films that he is a worthy heir to the Great Masters of the Golden Age in the Italian cinema: Fellini, Visconti, Rosselini. One man is not enough to start the Silver Age but can definitely be a national treasure.

Les invasions barbares
(2003)

Immensely impressed with the handling of prickly issues in the film
Terminal illness and death, unfulfilled life and frustrated ambitions, ruthless scrutiny of one's own living and pain of losing the loved ones, - all these issues are treated in "Les Invasions Barbares" with an amazing realism, ease, shrewdness and a touch of well-dosed humour.

Contrary to what such a blend of sad topics might produce, the director gives us an astute and sober account of a man's dying amid his family and closest friends that leaves us in a life-affirming and sanguine rather than depressing mood at the end of the film. The common sense and self-irony, with which the main characters recall their past and reflect on their present make the film more realistic and enjoyable, giving us to understand that no life is lived in vain as long as you have someone to cheer you up and share your memories with, while even painful experience can be healing and enriching in some way.

Sense and Sensibility
(1995)

The enchanting simplicity of the 19th century gentry life
This is a classical depiction of the porcelain England from the 19th-century novel at its best, seasoned with fine acting work, an intriguing plot and beautiful sceneries. Moreover, no other adaptation of a classic English novel has given me such an enormous pleasure and a nostalgic sense of the romanticized centuries gone.

The greatest merit of the film is the engaging and masterful performances of the main cast (Emma Tompson, Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman) as well as those of the supporting actors (Harriet Walter, Imelda Staunton, Hugh Laurie, etc.). The development of protagonists' personalities and relations between them is so well unraveled in the film, although some characters such as Eleonor or Brandon may seem to be too idealistic. But so are they in the romantic novels with happy endings.

The flawless cinematography and excellent settings fuse together to produce a delightful view. And all of this is hold together in sweet unison by skillful directing of Ang Lee. The harmonious intertwining of all film elements is striking, leaving you enchanted with the bucolic life and ways of the English gentry in the 19th century.

A delicious treat for the lovers of the classic English novel!

The Interpreter
(2005)

What a disappointment!
With all my respect and admiration for the creators of the movie as well as my concern for the topics of political corruption and ethnic conflicts it raises, I must admit ruefully that even the brilliance of Sean Penn's acting (perfect as he always is) couldn't save "The Interpreter" from going flop in every respect.

First comes the poorly written script with artificially forced scenes that totally undermine the credibility of whatever's happening on screen. How on earth could you imagine an opposition leader of an African country, no matter how small, taking a ride on a street-bus and, what is even more bewildering, discussing political dealings and murders in a pure English with his accuser Nicole Kidman, all this with plenty of, one can assume, English-speaking people around them. Another gem of incongruity in the film is leaving the president of a country all by himself right after an assassination attempt and despite all the efforts to protect him from being killed. These are just a few among the abundance of inconsistencies and strained situations in the script.

The directing adds neither credibility nor suspense at all. It is pretty easy to guess the intentions and further actions of the characters because you have seen all these hackneyed plot twists so many times before. No originality, ingenuity, or finesse one would expect from the creator of "Three days of the Condor" comes out in a below the average handling of the plot development.

This all leaves Kidman's attempts at being believable all but successful and, especially so, in the culminating scene. Where it is supposed to be great emotional acme nothing is felt but an insipid taste of "you've guessed it all" disillusion.

What could have become a clever, topical political thriller turned out to be an average Hollywood flick with no power to awake people's hearts and minds or change attitudes to ethnic cleansing and wars in the real world.

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