Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Duchess

(USA/Great Britain/France/Italy, 2008, 109 minutes)

In late 18th century England, Lady Georgiana Spencer is married to the duke of Devonshire but chafes at being merely a trophy wife. Handsomely done, old-fashioned bodice-ripper with some added, welcome feminist overtones.

Paramount Vantage, Pathé and BBC Films present, in association with Pathé Renn Production and BIM Distribuzione, a Qwerty Films/Magnolia Mae Films production; a Duchess Movie/Pathé Renn Production/BIM Distribuzione co-production for Pathé. Starring Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes, Charlotte Rampling, Dominic Cooper, Hayley Atwell, Simon McBurney. Directed by Saul Dibb; produced by Gabrielle Tana, Michael Kuhn; screenplay by Jeffrey Hatcher, Anders Thomas Jensen, Saul Dibb, based on the book by Amanda Foreman, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire; music by Rachel Portman; director of photography (DeLuxe, widescreen), Gyula Pados; production designer, Michael Carlin; costume designer, Michael O'Connor; film editor, Masahiro Hirakubo.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Second Life

(Portugal/Italy, 2009, 83 minutes)

A film producer is found dead on his swimming pool after a heady birthday party with his closest friends; or is he just dreaming of another life? A bewildering vanity project for a producer that seems unaware he does not really have a story to tell, substituting glamorous visuals and soft-porn titillation for a sense of plot, storyline or even characters. A waste of time.

Alexandre Cebrian Valente presents a Utopia Filmes/Utopia Major Spot production; with the support of FICA; in co-production with Aperto Films; in collaboration with Fundação Luís Figo, Herdade da Malhadinha, SIC; associate producers, Câmara Municipal de Faro, Teatro Municipal de Faro. Starring Piotr Adamczyk, Lúcia Moniz, Paulo Pires, Fátima Lopes, Pedro Lima, Sandra Cóias, Liliana Santos, Tiago Rodrigues, Sofia Grillo, José Wallenstein, Ana Padrão, Cláudia Vieira, Nicolau Breyner; special participation by Ruy de Carvalho, Luís Figo. Directed by Miguel Gaudêncio, Alexandre Cebrian Valente; producer, writer and production designer, Alexandre Cebrian Valente; music by Bernardo Sassetti; director of photography (Tobis), Acácio de Almeida; costume supervisor, Sílvia Siopa; film editor, Edgar Alberto. 

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Milk

(USA, 2008, 128 minutes)

The true story of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the USA, from his move from New York to San Francisco in the mid-seventies to his death at the hands of a disturbed fellow official in 1978. Sweeping, moving biopic whose conventional appearance belies its elaborate, flowing visuals and message of hope and change; Sean Penn gives the performance of a lifetime.

Focus Features presents, in association with Axon Film Finance, a Groundswell Productions/Jinks-Cohen Company production; in association with Twins Financing. Starring Sean Penn; Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, Diego Luna, Alison Pill, Victor Garber, Denis O'Hare, Joseph Cross; and James Franco. Directed by Gus van Sant; produced by Dan Jinks, Bruce Cohen; written by Dustin Lance Black; music by Danny Elfman; director of photography (DeLuxe), Harris Savides; production designer, Bill Groom; costume designer, Danny Glicker; film editor, Elliot Graham.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

(Spain/USA, 2008, 95 minutes)

Two American friends holidaying in Barcelona, a stuffy student engaged to be married and a free-spirited would-be artist, are seduced by a charming, bohemian artist. Uninspired comedy of Americans in Europe whose lazy script and indifferent direction seem unworthy of its writer-director's curriculum and only really shines when the Spanish cast comes up.

Mediapro and Gravier Productions present, in association with Antena 3 Films and Antena 3 TV, a Dumaine production. Starring Javier Bardem, Patricia Clarkson, Penélope Cruz, Kevin Dunn, Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Messina. Directed and written by Woody Allen; produced by Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, Gareth Wiley; director of photography (Image Film/Deluxe), Javier Aguirresarobe; production designer, Alain Bainée; costume designer, Sonia Grande; film editor, Alisa Lepselter.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Frost/Nixon

(USA/Great Britain/France, 2008, 122 minutes)

In 1976, the British talk show host David Frost gambles his reputation on securing a high-profile interview with the disgraced ex-president of the USA, Richard Nixon. Dull opening out of an award-winning stage play that has a lot of things on its mind but finds itself reduced to a triumph-of-the-press story by the uninspired handling; not even the performances from the original leads survive.

Universal Pictures, Working Title Films and Imagine Entertainment present, in association with Studiocanal, a Working Title/Brian Grazer production. Starring Michael Sheen, Frank Langella; Kevin Bacon, Rebecca Hall, Toby Jones, Matthew MacFadyen, Oliver Platt, Sam Rockwell. Directed by Ron Howard; produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard; screenplay by Peter Morgan, based on his play Frost/Nixon; music by Hans Zimmer; director of photography (DeLuxe, widescreen), Salvatore Totino; production designer, Michael Corenblith; costume designer, Daniel Orlandi; film editors, Mike Hill, Dan Hanley.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Contrato

(Portugal, 2008, 99 minutes)

A contract killer returns to his home country for a hit that turns out to be loaded with traps. Failed attempt at hardboiled thriller, courtesy of seriously amateurish scripting and inappropriate casting.

Hora Mágica presents a Hora Mágica/TVI co-production, with the financial support of ICA. Starring Pedro Lima, Cláudia Vieira, Vítor Norte, Sofia Aparício, José Wallenstein, José Raposo, Joaquim Nicolau, George Felner, José Boavida, Adelaide João; guest starring Pedro Granger; with the special participation of Nicolau Breyner. Directed by Nicolau Breyner; produced by Isabel Chaves; screenplay by Pedro Bandeira Freire, adapted by Álvaro Romão and Nicolau Breyner, based on the novel by Dinis Machado, Requiem para D. Quixote; music by Elvis Veiguinha, José Manuel Afonso; director of photography (Tobis), José António Loureiro; art director, Pedro Sá; costume designer, Isabel Quadros; film editor, João Braz.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

(USA, 2008, 166 minutes)

In 1918 New Orleans, as WWI ends, a child is born with the appearance of an 80-year old man, and over the century he ages in reverse, becoming younger with every year that goes by. Epic melodrama that suffers from serious miscasting and uninspired plotting (bowdlerizing the original source story) but somehow transcends its flaws to become a thorougly involving, impeccably presented old-fashioned romantic tearjerker.

Warner Bros. Pictures and Paramount Pictures present a Kennedy/Marshall Company production. Starring Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett; Taraji P. Henson, Julia Ormond, Jason Flemyng, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, Jared Harris, Elias Koteas, Phyllis Somerville; and Tilda Swinton. Directed by David Fincher; produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Ceán Chaffin; screenplay by Eric Roth, based on a story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord, and on the short story «The Curious Case of Benjamin Button» by F. Scott Fitzgerald; music by Alexandre Desplat; director of photography (DeLuxe/Technicolor prints, widescreen), Claudio Miranda; production designer, Donald Graham Burt; costume designer, Jacqueline West; film editors, Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall; special make-up effects by Greg Cannom.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Veneno Cura

(Portugal/Spain, 2008, 84 minutes)

A former prostitute, a strip dancer, a lawyer and a photographer connected through a fetish and strip club engage in intense romantic and sexual relationships. Opaque arthouse drama that doesn't seem very sure of what it means to say but says it in an openly transgressive, baroque fashion.

Paulo Branco presents a Clap Filmes/Tornasol Films production, with financial support from ICA-MC, RTP and ICAA. Starring Sofia Marques, Margarida Carvalho, Sandra Rosado, Miguel Moreira, Gustavo Vicente, Gonçalo Amorim. Directed and written by Raquel Freire; produced by Paulo Branco; music by Rui Lima, Sérgio Martins; director of photography (Light Film/Schwarz Film), Mário Castanheira; art director, Maria José Branco; wardrobe, Margarida Marins, Patrícia Oliveira; film editors, Jackie Bastide, Rodolfo Wedeles. 

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Faubourg 36

Paris 36

(France/Germany/Czech Republic, 2008, 118 minutes)

In 1936 Paris, as the left-wing Front Populaire comes to power, the unemployed crew of a shutdown theatre decides to take charge of the building and get it going once again. Engaging period ensemble comedy-drama with music, a lively throwback to the putting-on-a-show musicals of the thirties coloured by the poetic realism of the French films of the same period; performances are uniformly excellent and production values of a very high standard.

A Pathé release. Galatée Films presents a Galatée Films/Pathé Production/Constantin Film/France 2 Cinéma/France 3 Cinéma/Logline Studios/Novo Arturo Films/Blue Screen Production co-production, with the support of Canal Plus and TPS Star, with the participation of Banque Populaire Images 6, Centre National de la Cinématographie and Procirep. Starring Gérard Jugnot, Clovis Cornillac, Kad Merad, Pierre Richard, Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Maxence Perrin; and Nora Arnezeder. Directed by Christophe Barratier; produced by Jacques Perrin, Nicolas Mauvernay; written by Christophe Barratier, Julien Rappeneau, with the collaboration of Pierre Philippe, based on a story by Frank Thomas, Reinhardt Wagner and Jean-Pierre Derenne; music by Reinhardt Wagner; lyrics by Frank Thomas; director of photography (Arane, widescreen), Tom Stern; production designer, Jean Rabasse; costume designer, Carine Sarfati; film editor, Yves Deschamps; choreographer, Corinne Devaux. 

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Changeling

(USA, 2008, 140 minutes)

In 1928 Los Angeles, a single mom's young son disappears; months later, when the police finds him, she realises it's a different boy and starts fighting for the truth when the police refuses to investigate further and tries to discredit her. A forgotten true story is made into a handsomely old-fashioned and impeccably presented but rather sprawling and quite overlong prestige drama that keeps flitting between problem picture, star vehicle, police procedural and courtroom drama without ever choosing which one it prefers to be.

Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment present, in association with Relativity Media, a Malpaso production. Starring Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Jeffrey Donovan, Michael Kelly, Colm Feore, Jason Butler Harner, Amy Ryan, Geoff Pierson, Denis O'Hare, Frank Wood. Directed by Clint Eastwood; produced by Clint Eastwood, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Robert Lorenz; written by J. Michael Straczynski; music by Clint Eastwood; director of photography (Technicolor, Panavision), Tom Stern; production designer, James J. Murakami; costume designer, Deborah Hopper; film editors, Joel Cox, Gary D. Roach. 

Friday, January 09, 2009

Die Welle

The Wave

(Germany, 2008, 107 minutes)

A high-school teacher is assigned a weekly student project on autocracy, and, stunned at his students' assertion that a dictatorship is impossible in our day and age, leads them into an experiment that goes horribly wrong. Powerful drama that updates the infamous “third wave” experiment that took place in the US in 1967 by transplanting it to modern-day Germany within the structure of a high-school movie; no points for subtlety, but that was hardly the point in the first place.

Constantin Film presents, with the financial support of Medienboard Berlin Brandenburg, Filmförderungsanstalt and Deutsches Filmfernsehfonds, a Christian Becker production for Rat-Pack Filmproduktion, in co-production with Constantin Filmproduktion, Medienfonds German Film Productions and B. A. Produktion. Starring Jürgen Vogel, Frederick Lau, Jennifer Ulrich, Max Riemelt, Christiane Paul. Directed by Dennis Gansel; produced by Christian Becker; screenplay by Dennis Gansel, Peter Thorwarth, based on the original experiment by William Ron Jones and the 1981 teleplay The Wave by Johnny Dawkins and Ron Birnbach; music by Heiko Maile; director of photography (colour, widescreen), Torsten Breuer; production designer, Knut Loewe; costume designer, Ivana Milos; film editor, Ueli Christen.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Seven Pounds

(USA, 2008, 119 minutes)

A tax inspector carrying a dark secret becomes a guardian angel to a group of Los Angelenos down in their luck and falls in love with one of them, a young woman suffering from a congenital heart condition. Three-handkerchief star weepie with a rather convoluted plot, reuniting the star and director of The Pursuit of Happyness; it works thanks to the smart, exquisite handling.

Columbia Pictures presents, in association with Relativity Media, an Overbrook Entertainment/Escape Artists production. Starring Will Smith; Rosario Dawson, Michael Ealy; with Barry Pepper; and Woody Harrelson. Directed by Gabriele Muccino; produced by Todd Black, James Lassiter, Jason Blumenthal, Steve Tisch, Will Smith; written by Grant Nieporte; music by Angelo Milli; director of photography (DeLuxe, Panavision), Philippe le Sourd; production designer, J. Michael Riva; costume designer, Sharen Davis; film editor, Hughes Winborne.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Milou en mai

(UK title: Milou in May; US title: May Fools)

(France/Italy, 1989, 106 minutes)

After the mother's unexpected death, an extended family comes together in their country estate during May 1968 for the funeral and begin bickering almost at once over who gets to keep what. Zany comedy that veers occasionally to over-the-top farce and scathing political satire but remains at its best in the melancholy, bitter-sweet tone of the family scenes.

A NEF/TF1 Films Production/Ellepi Film co-production with the support of Cofimage 2, Sofica Créations, Images Investissements, Sofica Investimage. Starring Miou-Miou, Michel Piccoli; Michel Duchaussoy; Bruno Carette, Paulette Dubost, Harriet Walter, Martine Gautier, Rozenn le Tallec, Jeanne Herry-Leclerc, Renaud Danner, François Berléand; and Dominique Blanc. Directed and produced by Louis Malle; written by Louis Malle and Jean-Claude Carrière; music by Stéphane Grappelli; director of photography (Éclair), Renato Berta; production designers, Willy Holt and Philippe Turlure; costume designer, Catherine Leterrier; film editor, Emmanuelle Castro. 

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Au revoir les enfants

(France/Germany, 1987, 104 minutes)

At a French boarding school during WWII, a Parisian boy becomes intrigued by and finally befriends a latecomer who turns out to be a Jew in hiding. Stark, emotionally charged memoir that refuses easy sentimentality and whose strong autobiographical resonance touched a chord with critics and audiences.

A MK2 release. A Nouvelles Éditions de Films/MK2 Productions/Stella Film/NEF co-production, with the support of Centre National du Cinéma, Sofica Investimage, Images Investissements, Sofica Créations; and the participation of RAI Uno. Starring Gaspard Manesse, Raphaël Fejtö; Francine Racette, Stanislas Carré de Malberg, Philippe Morier-Genoud, François Berléand, François Négret, Peter Fitz, Pascal Rivet, Benoît Henriet, Richard Leboeuf, Xavier Legrand, Arnaud Henriet, Jean-Sébastien Chauvin, Luc Étienne, Daniel Edinger, Marcel Bellot, Ami Flammer, Irène Jacob, Jean-Paul Dubarry, Jacqueline Staup, Jacqueline Paris. Directed and written by Louis Malle; director of photography (Éclair), Renato Berta; production designer, Willy Holt; costume designer, Corinne Jorry; film editor, Emmanuelle Castro. 

Monday, January 05, 2009

Black Moon

(France/Germany, 1974, 100 minutes)

In an apocalyptic future where the sexes are at actual war with each other, a young runaway finds her way to a stately manor inhabited by an old woman and a brother and sister pair where the normal logic of reality doesn't seem to apply. Strikingly shot, leadenly performed reverie with minimal dialogue; there's precious little narrative sense, but it remains strangely affecting in its deliberate impenetrableness.

A Louis Malle production; a NEF/Bioskop Film co-production. Starring Thérèse Giehse, Cathryn Harrison, Joe Dallesandro, Alexandra Stewart. Directed and written by Louis Malle; additional dialogue, Joyce Bunuel; director of photography (Eastmancolor), Sven Nykvist; art director, Ghislain Uhry; film editor, Suzanne Baron. 

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Calcutta

(France, 1969, 99 minutes)

A documentary on the daily life in the Indian city of Calcutta in early 1968. Leisurely, somewhat dated travelogue whose episodic structure defeats the desired impressionistic look at the city but still provides a number of well-observed pleasures, shot during a five-month trip to India that also yielded the much more successful seven-hour TV documentary Phantom India.

A Nouvelles Éditions de Films production with the support of Air France. Directed by Louis Malle; camera (LTC/Tirage 16), Étienne Becker; sound, Jean-Claude Laureux; film editor, Suzanne Baron. 

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Lacombe Lucien

(France/Italy/Germany, 1974, 136 minutes)

In occupied France in 1944, a teenage bully becomes a collaborator with the German police but falls in love with the daughter of a Jewish tailor in hiding. Powerful, groundbreaking wartime drama on a subject usually ignored until then by mainstream French cinema, shot almost entirely on location and with a superb performance by an untrained lead. 

A NEF/UPF/Vides-Film/Hallelujah-Film production. Starring Pierre Blaise, Aurore Clément, Holger Lowenadler, Thérèse Giehse, Stéphane Bouy, Loumi Iacobesco, René Bouloc, Pierre Decazes, Jean Rougerie, Cécile Ricard, Jacqueline Staup, Ave Ninchi, Pierre Saintons, Gilberte Rivet, Jacques Rispal, Jean Bousquet. Directed by Louis Malle; written by Louis Malle, Patrick Modiano; music, Django Reinhardt, André Claveau, Irène de Trébert; director of photography (Eastmancolor), Tonino delli Colli; costume designer, Corinne Jorry; film editor, Suzanne Baron. 

Friday, January 02, 2009

Rocknrolla

(USA/Great Britain/France, 2008, 111 minutes)

Three smalltime London crooks find themselves smack dab in the middle of a complicated real estate deal between a mob boss and a Russian entrepreneur, courtesy of the entrepreneur's glamorous accountant. Boisterous but overlong caper comedy-thriller that marks a return to form for its writer/director but is essentially more of the same, only better presented.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a Dark Castle Entertainment production in association with Toff Guy Films; financed in association with Studiocanal. Starring Gerard Butler, Tom Wilkinson, Thandie Newton, Mark Strong, Idris Elba, Tom Hardy, Karel Roden, Toby Kebbell, Jimi Mistry; featuring Jeremy Piven, Chris Bridges. Directed and written by Guy Ritchie; produced by Joel Silver, Susan Downey, Steve Clark-Hall, Guy Ritchie; music by Steve Isles; director of photography (Soho Images/Technicolor prints, Arri widescreen), David Higgs; production designer, Richard Bridgland; costume designer, Suzie Harman; film editor, James Herbert.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Waltz with Bashir

(Israel/France/Germany/USA, 2008, 90 minutes)

An Israeli filmmaker who was a soldier in Lebanon at the time of the Sabra and Shatila massacres but has no recollection of them tries to understand why he blocked it out by piecing his past together with the help of his army buddies. Absorbing, serious “animated documentary” that uses a roundabout way to get at its twin subjects of memory and war, with its documentary structure and technique enhanced by the filmmaker's decision to do it in unsophisticated, rotoscoped animation.

A The Match Factory release. A Bridgit Folman Film Gang/Les Films d'Ici/Razor Filmproduktion presentation/production, in co-production with ARTE France and ITVS International, in collaboration with Noga Communications/Channel 8, New Israeli Foundation for Cinema and TV, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Israeli Film Fund and Hot Telecommunications Services. Directed and written by Ari Folman; animation director, Yoni Goodman; produced by Serge Lalou, Yael Nahlieli, Gerhard Metxner, Roman Paul, Ari Folman; music by Max Richter; art director and illustrator, David Polonsky; director of visual effects, Roiy Nitzan; film editor, Nili Feller.