An Eye for Beauty: Denys Arcand’s film tells a story that, in broad strokes, is far from new; the particulars are generally not all that interesting either. The only exception in the writing that brings a breath of fresh air are the sprinkles of rich dialogue (almost too erudite). Acting is hit-and-miss at best; Éric Bruneau is adequate as the main character, but Mélanie Thierry and Melanie Merkosky are stiff, unconvincing. The camerawork of Nathalie Moliavko-Visotzky is unadorned, but it makes good use of the great looking locations, both interiors and exteriors.
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The Judge: David Dobkin’s film is a pleasurable watch, mostly due to the presence of an attractive cast in very good shape. Both Robert Duvall and Robert Downey Jr. are playing to their respective strengths, so it’s no surprise how solid they are; Vera Farmiga and Vincent D’Onofrio are also interesting to see. However, the story that unfurls is unremarkable and exceedingly recognizable; also, the plot is too busy, worried about making too many different threads neatly fall in place to do most of them much justice. Janusz Kaminski’s camera and lighting are overly dramatic.
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Foxcatcher: Bennett Miller’s film is a ponderous (brimming with silence and emptiness), rigorous, almost cold look at a very complex triangle of relationships. Beautifully shot by Greig Fraser, it gives the trio of actors the chance to disappear in their characters; beyond the simple physical transformation (which all of them go through), they are able to shed their usual screen personas. Steve Carell is the standout (and goes through the most radical make-up changes, almost to the point of distraction), but Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo are equally great. Vanessa Redgrave, no matter how small her screen presence, is always a nice bonus.
El Color Que Cayó del Cielo: in spite of its unique, almost dry subject matter and very simple style, Sergio Wolf’s documentary is nevertheless able to resonate. As the film slowly tells its story, it reveals itself as an investigation of obsession (albeit a very particular one) with many of its facets being shown through its choice of character. The use of music (composed by the director) is particularly important and effective; it’s simple, at times eerie, but they match the visuals very well.
Trash: Stephen Daldry tells with great energy this fantasy in a hiper-realistic setting. The smart editing by Elliot Graham, camerawork by Adriano Goldman, as well as the sound design, are all important factors to move the plot (which is intriguing) and portray the film’s world. The characters are not as important as the plot, so it’s not a surprise that the cast, despite attractive, is not given all that much to do; the exception are the kids (Rickson Tevez, Eduardo Luís and Gabriel Weinstein), who display great chemistry and make this a joyful experience.
A Most Wanted Man: Anton Corbijn weaves this tale, even if there is a certain emotional distance in the final result. The film has not so much a plot as a sequence of events that serve as basis for a character study. The gallery of characters leans towards shades-of-grey, therefore more interesting to watch. Philip Seymour Hoffman has a great, nuanced performance; the whole cast is, indeed, solid. Beautifully crafted: well edited by Claire Simpson and shot by Benoît Delhomme (the handheld style is thematically justified and very well-done, but a bit unappealing aesthetically.)
Double Indemnity: Billy Wilder’s great movie starts from the basics: a seedy, engaging plot from James M. Cain’s head, enriched by the snappy dialogue of Raymond Chandler. Such dialogue calls for precise line reading, and the cast obliges. Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray and Edward G. Robinson are all great; Stanwyck gets the edge by playing such a great femme fatale; in fact, there’s just one character that is “virtuous”, but they are all well-written and great to watch. Elegantly done through and through. A masterpiece.
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Tagged noir, top
Gone Girl: David Fincher’s methodical, detail-oriented filmmaking is probably the best way to tell this story that, more than most, depends not only on what is told, but also on the way it’s told. The plot doesn’t hide its pulpy origin (nothing wrong with that) and is fun to follow; furthermore, it touches many different issues that make it richer than a first look would suggest. Technically, the film is a beauty: Jeff Cronenweth’s camerawork is simple but precise, but always spot on and the Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross’ score is eerie and unique. The acting is uniformly great, with naught a wrong note; Rosamund Pike is outstanding, asked to play a whole multitude of notes and hitting every one of them. Yet, somehow, the whole adds up to somewhat less than the sum of its parts; the clinical detachment makes this easy to appreciate but not to connect fully.
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For: Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s work is more of a charicature than a film; it’s a very profane and violent experience, but far from an interesting one. While its stylized visuals adhere to the original source, they are interesting for only a while. Which is more than can be said about the characters (with one notable exception) and storylines, truth be told. The cast, for the most part, is not given much to do; Joseph Gordon-Levitt is good, but it’s Eva Green this film belongs to. Her character, the only one that has any semblance of richness, deserves the honor of the subtitle and is played beautifully.
Beauty and the Beast: Christophe Gans’ film tells an old, well-known story, making liberal use of visuals: the art direction, costume design, makeup and visual effects are all very rich and innovative. (It does, however, get excessively dark and desaturated at times.) The film portrays well the traditional fairy-tale sense of wonder and terror; however, there is certain coldness when dealing with the love story, the most important of the three aspects. Vincent Cassel is not given much to do, but Léa Seydoux is a charming and strong presence, playing well the richest character.