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Movie review

  • 2005-12-14
Gabrielle
Oliwer Twist
Manderlay

Gabrielle
This French film bears the mark of a director who desires to impress by showing the audience a true portrayal of love and life. However, "Gabrielle" is a slow and boring film. It doesn't succeed cinematically and would fit the stage much better than the screen. In fact, none of "Gabrielle" is movie material 's not the theatrical acting, the lengthy monologues nor the visual style, which is uninventive, bordering on amateur, and consists of exhaustingly long close-ups. The director tries to win over his audience by switching between black/white and color shots. But by the end of the film, I still had no idea what the motivation for this was 's that it looks good? This is one highbrow, pretentious and uninspired film.
( Julie Vinten )

Based on a short story by Joseph Conrad, Gabrielle (Isabelle Huppert) is married to Jean (Pascal Greggory), a wealthy socialite with a fondness for throwing lavish parties and decorating their opulent home with works of art. Gabrielle leaves him for another man but then inexplicably returns, throwing their loveless marriage into chaos and bitterness. "Gabrielle" is beautifully shot and very well-acted by the leads. Chereau uses a range of stylistic devices, such as black-and-white scenes and title cards, to explore the relationship between the drama and its early 20th century historical context. But ultimately, it is hard to give a damn about either of the repugnant main characters. This is certainly an intelligent and enjoyable film, but it is as an emotionally stifling affair that makes you feel glad those days are done with. 
( Tim Ochser )

Oliwer Twist
Though I'm not sure we were in dire need of another adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic tale, Roman Polanski does a fine job - as usual. All the characters are well depicted, but especially the character of Oliver, who is treated with extraordinary affection and warmth by the director. The feature is characterized by polished visuals and attention to detail. Without hesitation, we believe in the world that develops before our eyes. "Oliver Twist" is faithful to the novel and an entertaining and well-crafted piece of cinema. However, it's somewhat surprising that "Oliver Twist" 's being a Polanski film 's wasn't more emotionally engaging. There isn't anything spectacular or daring about the feature and though we may be satisfied, we are never quite blown away. 
( Julie Vinten )

Dickens' classic story of an orphan run-away on the sordid streets of London has undergone countless film adaptations. The latest version, directed by Roman Polanski ("The Piano") is probably the most lavish yet. But despite its superb cinematography and solid acting, Polanski's feature still doesn't compete with David Lean's 1948 "Oliver Twist." That was 1948, however, when computer generated special effects hadn't yet dulled our appreciation of pure film. Most kids will probably become bored of little Olli's escapades through South London after an hour into the film, although Ben Kingsley's wonderfully theatrical portrayal of Fagin, the wicked old man who raises a hoodlum of young thieves, is enough to keep anyone watching. As despicable a character as he is, Kingsley's quivering eyes and miserly smile inspire genuine sympathy for Fagin. 
1/2 ( Tim Ochser )

Manderlay
Every time somebody is provoked, Lars von Trier gets his wings. And his fierce, political statements in "Manderlay" may well be provoking to some. The filmmaker's feelings of omnipotence shine through again in "Manderlay," as always, although his views on the subjects of race, justice and repression are quite astute. He challenges the question of forcing freedom and democracy upon others. Even the obligatory "woman must suffer to redeem us all" theme, which he's become known for, is given a breath of fresh air 's by Trier-standards, anyway. The minimalist sets and overall aesthetics work well, but don't have the same freshness as they did in "Dogville." The feature has fine narrative flow and acting, though it might have benefited from being shorter. One thing is sure: "Manderlay" gives food for thought and discussion.
( Julie Vinten )

The second part of Lars von Trier's trilogy of films about America is somewhat disappointing compared with the brilliance of "Dogville." "Manderlay" again focuses on the central characters of Grace (played this time by Bryce Dallas Howard) and her gangster father, now played by Willem Dafoe. When Grace stumbles across a cotton plantation run by black slaves she decides to conduct an experiment into human nature by emancipating them from their colonial masters and letting them govern themselves while her father's hoods stand around with their Tommy guns, just in case. The film uses the same narrative device as "Dogville," but to much weaker effect. With the element of surprise gone, "Manderlay" slowly unfolds toward an inevitable, and therefore anticlimactic, conclusion. While the first film spoke volumes about America, the second merely covers well-worn territory. 
1/2 ( Tim Ochser )
 

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