05 June 2010


Thought I'd try to get these done before Provincetown, the next film festival I will attend. Here's the first three, with three more to (hopefully) follow.


From its opulent and deliberately anachronistic opening credits, this is an unapologetically old-fashioned melodrama, albeit one on crack cocaine with every feeling and stylistic choice ramped up to the nth degree. Centered on a wealthy Milan family, it’s initially difficult to get a handle on who’s who as we’re immediately thrust, with little exposition like an Altman film, into its milieu. The narrative comes into focus as the family’s dying patriarch gives the keys of his textile empire to son Tancredi and eldest grandson Edo, who would rather open a restaurant with his friend Antonio. In time, Emma, Tancredi’s Russian-born wife emerges as the key figure, and not just because she is played by Tilda Swinton (speaking fluent Italian, no less). Even as her character gradually succumbs to the film’s hyperactive emotional state, her magnetic (but not overpowering) presence and steady performance gives viewers something to hold on to. Director/Screenwriter Luca Guadagnino eventually throws in a shocking turn of events that some may have trouble taking seriously (although Guadagnino is deadly serious about it), but it sets the course for an operatic, furiously-edited finale where the thrilling, maddening score keeps building and building until the whole film reaches a heart-pounding orgasm of liberation and resolve. Ridiculously massive and moving, I AM LOVE will not appease those seeking subtlety (or even logic), but for me, its skill and sheer chutzpah ultimately transcended those concerns; I could not stop thinking about it for days.


With AMERICAN SPLENDOR, Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman displayed a talent for successfully adapting literary material one wouldn’t expect to easily translate into film. Their attempt to do so with Jonathan Ames’ quirky novel doesn’t fare as well, although they get a sublime, career-capping comedic turn from Kevin Kline as an eccentric, preposterous escort of wealthy old ladies who is somewhat aware of those qualities within himself but doesn’t give a damn about what anyone thinks. In his harder-to-define role as the F. Scott Fitzgerald-loving young protégé, Paul Dano is adorably odd, making good use of his tentative vocal inflections. However, as voices go, a full-bearded John C. Reilly does a lot with very little in a riotous extended cameo. Although the film as a whole doesn’t amount to very much, the actors leave you rolling on the floor at the way they deliver their often bizarre and occasionally witty dialogue.


A year in the life of everyone’s favorite bawdy female Jewish comedienne and plastic surgery punchline, it sets out to prove she’s more than that. Blessed with a desirable arc that follows Rivers from a low point in her career to renewed fame and visibility following her winning “The Celebrity Apprentice”, the film mixes in clips from throughout her career (stretching back to early, electric appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show”) and threads in pieces of a recent stand-up performance at a small club. At 75, she’s as bitingly hilarious and risqué as ever, but we catch fleeting, telling glimpses of another persona—an insecure workaholic deathly afraid of becoming irrelevant, sensitive about subjecting herself to a Comedy Central roast and expressing frustration at her reputation as a brilliant comedienne but not a great actress. One may find it hard to muster up sympathy for such plaints given her continued success, but the film gains momentum and purpose by exploring how much her ability to work and keep pushing herself is a life force: you feel it’s as essential to her as breathing.

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