Tuesday, May 22, 2007

May 22nd Log

2006, Roger Michell, United Kingdom
1st Viewing, DVD

Venus is a film driven by it’s performances. While the entire cast is strong including newcomer Jodie Whittaker, and Vanessa Redgrave in her brief appearances, Venus is a film centered around Peter O'Toole. Here O’Toole is given a performance that seems to be like a swan song of sorts in that not only is it an Oscar-friendly performance, but also one that could very well be self reflected. Venus opens with a transcendent shot of waves on the beach before quickly returning into the reality of the world, which is of an old man who is nearing death. The acting is all top notch and O'Toole and Whittaker have the strong chemistry that is required to make the film enjoyable. It an enjoyable one, and sometimes touching, notably in the way O'Toole and his friends (played by Leslie Phillips and Richard Griffiths) attempt to face death with a sense of acceptance and elegance.

1956, Jean Renoir, France / Italy
Repeat Viewing, DVD

The final part of what critics (and later Renoir agreed) consider a loose trilogy from Jean Renoir, Elena and Her Men is one of his most under-appreciated works. Though clearly different in settings, each of the three films (The Golden Coach; French Cancan; and Elena and Her Men share distinct characteristics, style, and an exploration on themes of class, politics, and love. They are colorful, fast-paced, and light-hearted in tone yet deeply rich and revealing underneath the surface. Renoir simply creates films unlike anyone else of his time and his influence today remains undeniable (certainly a filmmaker like Robert Altman among others owe a debt to Renoir). With Elena and Her Men Renoir’s politics appear well under the surface of what is a romantic farce. Ingrid Bergman proves more then capable of performing in French, and she is a joy here. Bergman starred in the film at a time when she still faced backlash from those who criticized her for leaving Hollywood for an affair with Italian filmmaker Roberto Rossellini. However after completing Elena and Her Men, Bergman returned to Hollywood and ultimately won her second Academy Award (for 1956’s Anastasia). Elena and Her Men is a delightful film that focuses less on the plot details then it does on the characters, colors, and compositions, highlighted by wonderful performances and some terrific moments.


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