Last week I promised reviews of the movies A Very Long Engagement and Everything Is Illuminated. I watched them both in a hurry, which is the wrong way to watch these films, so my reviews may be a little skewed by that fact.
A Very Long Engagement - 3 stars
If you had asked me to rate this movie immediately after watching it, I would have given it a three star rating at best. But I have a feeling that if I watched it a couple more times, I would find it to be a masterpiece of cinema on par with The Green Mile or A River Runs Through It. So I have inflated my original opinion of this French film. The Movie is set in France in the aftermath of World War One, although most of the movie is flashbacks to during and before the War.
Audrey Tatou, of Amelie and DaVinci Code fame, stars as Mathilde, a Polio-afflicted but well-to-do orphan who stubbornly refuses to believe that her presumed-dead Fiancé has perished in the war. There is a standard amount of sitting around weeping and pining (Boy is there ever pining! This woman can pine with the best of 'em!), but she also gets up off of her butt (no easy feat; polio, remember?) and goes in search of leads like a French version of Erin Brockovitch. She doggedly pursues the trail that will lead her to her man, Dead or Alive, and uncovers a lot of disturbing and personal information about a lot of other people on the way.
The fast pace, complicated plot, and large cast of characters made the movie (completely in French, with English subtitles) maddeningly hard to understand. I pride myself on not being afraid of subtitled foreign films, like so many other people I have met, but this one kept me struggling to keep up. I think though, that the more you know about this movie going in, the more you will get out of it. There is no doubt in my mind that if I spoke fluent French, I would have thought this movie one of the greatest movies ever. But on the first viewing, for an English speaker, it is too much.
A Filmerick™, by Frank Gibson
They made love once before the War,
She thought that he'd be back for more;
Now she's trying to cope,
While still holding out hope,
That he'll somehow come knock on her door.
RIYL: Amelie, French Movies in General.
Everything is Illuminated - 3 stars
The first half of this movie was very funny. Very Funny. But then they had to go and bring up the Holocaust.
What a Buzzkill!
Actually, the first fifteen minutes of the movie are confusing as all get-out, as we see Frodo... Sorry, as we see Elijah Wood (who is Not really a hobbit, Frank!) receive a photograph from his dying Grandmother, of his dead Grandfather, for whom he is named. We then see some random wierdness that made me very unsure of whether I was supposed to like this character. The only other non-hobbit role I have seen Mr. Wood play recently was the thoroughly disgusting little animal-thing in Sin City. So, to my mind, going into this movie, Frodo without eyeglasses = good guy; Frodo with Eyeglasses = Creepy Bad Guy. Frodo had his glasses on in this movie.
Anyway, we are supposed to like Frod...Johnathon in this movie, and we quickly grow to, as he sets off to the far off nation of Ukraine to track down the woman in the photograph. We also like his Ukranian Translator, Alex, who dresses like Ali G, but talks like Borat. His quirky use of English adjectives is pretty much worth renting the movie for alone. As a comic character, you don't get much better than Alexander Perchov.
Anyway, after the initial fifteen minutes or so, the movie is a hilarious road trip almost as good as Little Miss Sunshine. But alas, they are not headed to a children's Beauty Pageant, but to the site of a Nazi Desecration and Massacre. Like I said, Real Buzzkill. after that the movie gets real slow and thoughtful, and basically heads downhill as far as I'm concerned. Anyway, if you are Jewish, this movie probably means a lot more, but I am no more Jewish than I am French, so I wasn't of the optimum ethnicity for either film on this week's slate. Both movies in this week's pile were "films" to be studied and analyzed as works of literature, rather than "flicks" to be viewed for two hours of entertainment. I wasn't able (or particularly willing) to give them that treatment, so 3 stars is all I can muster for Everything is Illuminated.
Rather than take the time to compose a poetic take on this movie (see the comment about fudging at the top of this post), I will leave you with these lines from the film. Keep in mind that this movie came right on the heels of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
HeHeHe!She wants to know why Augustine buried her wedding ring...
...when she thought she would be killed.
So there'd be proof that she existed?
To remember her.
No. I don't think so.
In case someone should come searching one day.
So they would have something to find.
No, it does not exist for you.
You exist for it.
You have come because it exists.
She says the ring is not here because of us.
We are here because of the ring.
That silly Frodo, Always chasing his Precious Rings!
RIYL: Little Miss Sunshine, With Honors
Til Next time, Folks, Adieu and Shalom. And for the intensely geeky, Gára Mesta