35 Shots of Rum
Another quiet gem from Claire Denis: it’s been drawing raves from critics, and with reason. Most of what happens is in the silences between the father (Alex Descas), and his daughter (Mati Dop), as they come to realize that their tranquil self-sufficient life has reached a point of departure and change. It’s minimalist dialogue, but the emotional power really surges between the lines, especially with this always pitch-perfect cast. Denis has always been interested in the issues of race in France. In 35 Shots of Rum, she extends that interest (although, like the emotional charge of the story, it’s between the lines), begun so memorably with her first film, Chocolat, in 1988.
Definitely not just another biopic. A compelling account of the star-crossed couple, poet John Keats and his forever love, Fanny Brawne, playing out their tragedy in early 19th-century England. Where, if, you weren’t the eldest son (who would inherit the farm), or the daughter with a dowry, you were consigned forever to the single life, stifled marital love, or irreparable scandal. Not many choices! In Jane Campion’s hands, Bright Star gets everything right, and with ravishing cinematography, a spectacular cast, and the flame of once-in-a-lifetime passion, keeps you nailed to your seat.
The silences are golden because the images consume. Bonus: Keat’s poetry, embedded in the script (as read by Abbie Cornish and James Whishsaw, as Brawne and Keats), sounds as if it had been written just before you entered the theatre. You can bring Kleenex if you like, but it’s all about the art of film, and the art of real love, more than the tears.
It’s been out for a while but, if you need another breather from hardcore violence and fiscal woe, catch this before it heads out of town. Adam is a modest film, with a standout performance by Hugh Dancy as a brilliant man-child coping with Asperger’s Syndrome. He and Rose Byrne meet cute when she moves into his building. Against unusual odds, they build a credible and touching romance and, despite the gravity of their situation, find real humor in it—making some very original lemonade out of their lemons. The movie’s tone is reminiscent of Juno; like it, it gets your attention through its characters, and holds it with surprises that keep predictability at bay. Look for: a particularly deft and original character-driven sight-gag! It’s, well, out of this world…
Pedro Almodóvar—the original Bad Boy of Barcelona—is back. No one zeros in on the human condition with such accuracy, such compassion, or such wit! And yes, he’s done it again with Broken Embraces, the closing-night selection for the New York Film Festival, and furious romp for a cast of some of his favorites (starring Penelope Cruz), conspiring with a production crew who work hand-in-glove with the director to achieve maximum impact. The plot is, like all of Almodóvar’s, always full of complications. And the road it travels in Broken Embraces is full of potholes. But, unlike so many films steeped in anomie and solitude, they are navigated by characters always tightly connected to one another. Everyone seethes! But no one is lonely! And it’s the furious full-time energy generated by these characters that keeps Almodovar’s fans coming back for more. I am certainly one of them. If the film is darker than some, it is also—as are all of his—filled with slapstick and light exactly when needed.