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Found 5 results

  1. "Review: 'La Traviata,' Washington National Opera's Season Opener" by Susan Galbraith on dctheatrescene.com
  2. With Hollywood westerns, a little bit of research goes a long way - in my lifetime, I've had more success with this genre of movie than perhaps any other, all because I do a little research before choosing what to watch. "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" (1962) is the twelfth of fourteen collaborative westerns with John Ford and John Wayne (the first and ninth, respectively, being "Stagecoach" (1939) and "The Searchers" (1956)). It is perhaps the most beautiful western I've ever seen. Loaded with famous actors, every single major and minor star outperforms in this deceptively sad meditation upon grief, love, and any of a half-dozen other basic human traits, all attending a costume party in what is most likely mid-19th-century Colorado, and cloaked as a moral dilemma involving the death of another human being. Never have I seen John Wayne play a more important part with less screen time than in this film. Jimmy Stewart is clearly the star - he has to be - but it's Wayne who completes this movie, and who transcends himself in a role so touching that you may feel your eyes moisten in what is one of the most poignant endings of any film I've ever seen. A death itself cannot be considered tragic (everyone who has ever lived, has died), but certain deaths are inherently more tragic than others, and when a piece of history is buried alongside an anonymous hero, lost forever to the earth, and made known only to an audience who desperately wants to jump inside the screen and construct a proper memorial - that cannot be considered a romance, or an action film, or even a western; it can only be classified as a full-blown tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. The next time you and your date are hunting around, looking for a movie to watch, remember this thread: "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" is required viewing for everyone who cares about great film.
  3. I'm not sure how much Glenn Close is getting paid to star in this revival of Sunset Boulevard 26 years after the original, but she is worth every cent - even considering an imperfect vocal performance. This production was called 'partially staged' in London - when it moved to New York they must have fleshed out the staging a bit, but it is still much lighter than the original. After all, you need the space to hold the 40-piece orchestra on the stage which provides rich sound without being distracting behind the actors. The actor playing Joe Gillis (male lead) was fine, but gave a very by-the-book performance with very by-the-book vocals. The night we saw the performance, the woman playing his young love interest (Betty) was an understudy - she was also fine but gave a very by-the-book performance with somewhat thin vocals. This all leads to the production being a bit of a bore until Close takes the stage - it is hard to imagine anyone else in this role (though I'm sure the other actresses involved in the 1991 casting drama feel differently). Even with her breaking BOTH of the two most dramatic notes of the production (With One Look in the 1st act, and the final note of the show in the second), her overall performance carries the show. At the curtain call, Close's behavior was somewhat... eccentric - her small dog coming on stage for a back-and-forth dialogue to raise money for the theatre fund left several patrons wondering how far off Close really was from her character, Norma Desmond. This production is on stage through early June - if you're in the city before then, it is worth the ticket to see this performance.
  4. The only thing I know about <<La Règle du Jeu>> ("The Rules of the Game," a French film from 1939), is that it has a reputation of being one of the finest movies ever made. That's it - I know nothing else, so here I begin, in complete ignorance: To be honest, I didn't even know it was a French film until five minutes ago. I will, obviously, be giving my thoughts as I go ... The film takes place on the Eve of WWII, when (fictional) famed aviator André Jurieu (played by Roland Toutain) makes a trans-Atlantic crossing in 23 hours - 12 years after Charles Lindbergh's real-life 1927 flight which took 33 1/2 hours in the Spirit of St. Louis (which is housed in the National Air and Space Museum on The National Mall in DC). Call me a dweeb, but I love fictional films that interweave non-fiction - I love to learn, and any real-life info-nuggets I can pick up are always remembered. Note that "La Règle du Jeu" takes place in contemporary time - the events took place in 1939, and the movie was released in 1939. After Jurieu is swarmed by the media, he is greeted by his friend, Octave (Jean Renoir, the son of famed painted Pierre-Auguste Renoir (really!)) - Jurieux is clearly crestfallen that the girl of his affections - the very inspiration he made the flight - Christine de la Chesnaye (Nora Gregor) wasn't at the airport to greet him, and he doesn't take it well in front of the media - clearly, "love," or possibly "unrequited love" could play a central role in this plot. Christine was listening on the radio along with her (seemingly) faithful maid, Lisette (Paulette Dubost), with whom she seems to have a friendly, respectful, relationship. To create a liaison, Christine jokingly asks Lisette if she's having some sort of relationship with Octave - both Christine and Lisette are married to other men: Christine to Robert, Marquis de la Chesnaye (Marcel Dalio) for three years, and Lisette to Schumacher (Gaston Lodot), the gamekeeper at Robert's country estate, for two years - the French do enjoy their extramarital dalliances. Robert, meanwhile, is having an affair with Geneviève (Mila Parély), whom he sees the next morning (can you tell this is confusing yet? My *goodness* the relationships, and ex-relationships; the crushes, and non-crushes; in this film are mind-bending, and very difficult to keep up with, so *pay attention to the characters and their relationships with one another* - at least for the first twenty minutes of the movie.) I have a feeling it's going to be imperative, and will pay off in spades, to have these character relationships down pat inside your head before the movie progresses too far. I can see this film going in any of several directions - a mistaken-identity comedy a la "Marx Brothers," or a drama about lost or unfulfilled love, or something else entirely, but it's clear that human interaction is playing a crucial role thus far, and I'm only about 20% of the way through (overall, it seems more comedic than dramatic so far). Make the investment, and pay close attention to avoid needing to watch the opening more than once - at least up until the point where the film fades, and the automobiles are heading to La Colinière in Sologne. At La Colinière, Schumacher catches a poacher, Marceau (Julien Carette), and turns him over to Robert - who's impressed with his trapping skills, and hires him on the spot (much to Schmacher's dismay). The next thirty minutes are merely a "slice of life" about the upper crust in France, and their vacation lives of leisure at the country home, replete with interpersonal relationships, jealousy, shocking candor, and it leaves me wondering where this is all going. I'm almost halfway through this film, and for it to be considered "greatest-ever" material, it had better start improving, pronto - I just don't see it yet: I'm starting to fear this is one of "those" movies that all the critics like because they're supposed to like it. There are elements of well-played character development, but this all needs to have an end game, because it's not standing on its own - at least, not yet. Yes, it's a satire of the leisure class, perhaps to the point of being farce, but it needs to be more than this - I'm still hopeful, because there's been nothing "bad" about it whatsoever; it's just not compelling, or even all that witty. A discussion, at a gala, between two men having affairs: "You haven't seen me." "Why?" "Schumacher's after me." "What for?" "On account of his wife. We were playing around. He saw us and he's not happy. Oh, your lordship ... women are charming. I like them a lot. Too much, in fact. But they spell trouble." "You're telling me." "You've got it bad, too?" "Somewhat ... Ever wish you were an Arab?" "No, what for?" "For the harem ... Only Muslims show a little logic in matters of male-female relations. They're made like us." "If you say so." "They always have a favorite ... But they don't kick the others out and hurt their feelings." "If you say so." Meh, this is just not that good - I understand it's 77 years old, but it's still just not that good. I'm thinking maybe in context of France, 1939, this is considered pretty "bold" satire, making fun of the upper class like this, but if that's what makes this movie great - it's just plain dated. Still, I'm only halfway through ... onward. Okay, with about twenty-five minutes remaining, I've peaked at a few reviews, all of which say this is "one of the greatest films ever made." I'm afraid I'm going to need to be told *why* it's one of the greatest films ever made - I guess that's the difference between my knowledge of restaurants and films: with restaurants, I'm the one who can do the telling; with films, I guess that sometimes, I need to be told. Damn this is frustrating. I mean, I can see it's a scathing social commentary, I can see it's a farce, I can see it pits upper class vs. lower class, man against woman, and makes all sorts of fun against high society, but *one of the greatest films ever made*? Are there any film scholars here? If so, I ask for your help - this is like "Middlemarch" meets "Reefer Madness." Great works of art often go over my head the first time I experience them, and I'm willing to accept that such is the case here, but I'm going to need some assistance with this one. As great as "Citizen Kane" is, that film has plenty of detractors who wonder why it's so great - I don't think those people are Luddites; I think they honestly just don't get it. To me, "Citizen Kane" is *terribly* boring in parts - it really drags - but I can see greatness in it; I'm just not seeing that greatness in "La Règle du Jeu," unfortunately. I think its okay, but I'm not getting the multi-layered nuances it supposedly has. There's one line I just saw that sums it up for me to this point: "Corneille! Put an end to this farce!" "Which one, your lordship?" At the end of the movie, loose ends are tying themselves up, and it's clear to me that the upper crust values their lot in life more than they value humanity - *their* humanity. It's a savage beatdown, and a funny one, but not in a "ha-ha funny" way. The film is filled with stereotypes, and man it's hard to absorb on the first viewing - this is not a movie to watch alone; it's one to watch among other film lovers, and discuss as it's happening. Well, it was pretty powerful, all right - I watched it over two nights, and was very tired both evenings. I need to study it some more - much of it went over my head for sure, but I can sense how ruthless it is. "La Règle du Jeu" is free on Hulu - would a few of you all please watch it and tell me all the wonderful things I'm missing?
  5. A friend recently brought this beautiful film to my attention, and boy, am I glad he did. It is the story of 76-year-old Margaret Ross, a poor, frail, lonely old woman who struggles to survive and wrestles with delusions. British actress Edith Evans plays Ross, and was a Best Actress Academy Award nominee for the role (she lost to Katharine Hepburn in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner). I think the Academy got it wrong that year. Evans' portrayal of Ross is understatedly poignant and heartbreaking. I was captivated by her performance. She made me feel Ross' pangs of loneliness. I could see the character's strength despite her fragility. I understood that a proud, intelligent woman still existed behind her sometimes confused and clouded eyes. Her no-good criminal son and leach of a husband reappear in her life, and briefly affect the course of events, but in the end, Mrs. Ross is simply a forgotten elderly woman, struggling to survive. Evans' Oscar-worthy performance makes Margaret Ross an admirable person. Despite her pitiable circumstances, she lives her life with dignity and grace. She is a beautiful, old soul, and I am glad to have spent a couple of hours in her company.
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