Friday, February 9, 2018

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True Stories and Other Stories: 1982, Part Six

It is said that truth is stranger than fiction, which is probably why so much fiction is founded in fact: biopics, roman à clefs, historical epics, etc. With that in mind, this batch of films, with one or two exceptions, is dedicated to cinema that finds fantasy in reality.

dir: James Ivory (A Room with a ViewHowards EndThe Remains of the Day)
scr: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, based on the (semi-autobiographical) novel by Jean Rhys

Young woman falls in with dysfunctional married couple. Fine performances mostly, though motivations remain murky and at least one curious casting decision undermines the whole film. It certainly looks nice, and Maggie Smith is, as always, superb.

Gandhi, Fitzcarraldo, and more after the jump...

Edo Porn
dir/scr: Kaneto Shindô, based on a play by Seiichi Yashiro

Bio of erotic artist Hokusai. An unflinching examination of the artist, his inspiration, and the people around him. Sweaty eroticism, realistic relationships, funny! The secret weapon - and unexpected protagonist - is Yûko Tanaka as Hokusai's daughter, Oei.

dir/scr: Blake Edwards, based on the 1933 film Viktor und Viktoria written and directed by Reinhold Schünzel
Oscar Winner: Best Adapted/Song Score
Oscar Nominee: Best Actress (Julie Andrews), Best Supporting Actor (Robert Preston), Best Supporting Actress (Lesley Ann Warren), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design

A woman pretends to be a female impersonator for a hit nightclub act. Effective satire of gender performance, whether it's a drag act or hyper-masculinity among the hets. Lively musical numbers, divine costumes, superlative performances. Gay, gay, gay!

dir: Terence Young
scr: Robin Moore and Laird Koenig, story by Robin Moore and Paul Savage

Epic about the Battle of Inchon during the Korean War. Greatly overestimates my investment in the war's impact on Ben Gazzara and Jacqueline Bisset's marriage. Koreans weirdly absent except when saved or sacrificed. I've never seen so many explosions, yet it's a surprisingly dull film.

My Favorite Year
dir: Richard Benjamin
scr: Norman Steinberg and Dennis Palumbo, story by Dennis Palumbo
Oscar Nominee: Best Actor (Peter O'Toole)

Writer for a live variety show babysits a faded matinee idol. Solid movie, where the wit comes organically and the pathos sneaks up on you. Surprised to find this to be my favorite O'Toole performance since Lord Jim. Suggested by Mel Brooks' experience as a writer on Your Show of Shows.

dir/scr: Werner Herzog

Opera enthusiast launches complicated plan to bring Caruso to the jungle. Audacious, inspiring in scope and execution. Surprisingly sweet Klaus Kinski performance: starts crazy, gradually gets more low-key. Suggested by a real-life Peruvian-Irish rubber baron who moved a steamship over land.

Quest for Fire
dir: Jean-Jacques Annaud
scr: Gerard Brach, based on the novel by J.H. Rosny
Oscar Winner: Best Makeup

Early Man faces tough times. A prehistoric ballet, no real dialogue needed to convey story, relationships, conflict, anything: you feel it, you see it, you know it. Annaud gets such interesting faces for his casts, and even under all the makeup, this one is no exception.

Making Love
dir: Arthur Hiller
scr: Barry Sandler, story by A. Scott Berg

Married man comes to terms with his homosexuality. Poignant, complex look at coming out, not condemning anyone but not shying away from unpleasantness. Harry Hamlin's guarded Don Juan a standout in a movie full of great performances.

dir: Frank Perry
scr: Abraham Polonsky and Wendell Mayes

A priest climbs the ranks of the Vatican through shady dealings. A lot of stuff happens, but God knows why or how.Christopher Reeve seems lost; I know I am, trying to follow the economics necessitating backroom deals between the mob-run black market and the Vatican. Romantic subplot goes nowhere, distracts from film's main agenda. A disappointment.

dir: Richard Attenborough
scr: John Briley
Oscar Winner: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Ben Kingsley), Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design
Oscar Nominee: Best Score, Best Makeup, Best Sound

Biopic of the political activist and philosopher who preached non-violence. Beautifully mounted production earnestly attempts to understand the man's heart and mind, tends to get caught up in breathless awe, concerned all the same with ensuring a full portrait of the man and the myth. Kingsley disappears into the role, thanks both to his performance and the skills of the makeup team.

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