Movie review

  • 2004-02-26
Callas Forever
Director: Franco Zeffirelli
"Callas Forever" fictionally accounts for the last years of opera singer Maria Callas' life, giving her the grand finale that perhaps the star should have had, but never got before her death in 1977. Considering Callas' legendary talents as an opera singer, this film makes you wonder if she didn't deserve a better tribute than this. If you are already a Callas fan, it will most likely be interesting to see a film dedicated to her, but it simply wasn't intriguing enough to captivate this reviewer. Zeffirelli worked with the diva herself, and though she is depicted as an unbalanced has-been with the manners of a prima donna, the film also shows great admiration and respect for her talent as well as her person. **1/2
Julie Vinten

Bravo! At 81 years of age, maestro Italian film director Franco Zeffirelli delivers one hell of a masterpiece. The great Maria Callas will always be remembered as the 20th century's ultimate definition of an opera diva. Fanny Ardant, an extraordinary French actress, plays Callas with fire, compassion and insight. Ardant uses every pore of her body to create a sympathetic portrait of the volatile soprano with the heavenly voice. In a surprisingly upbeat role, Jeremy Irons proves he can still be the consummate actor. You don't have to be an opera buff to enjoy this hauntingly beautiful film. The soundtrack is unforgettable. Encore! *****
Laimons Juris G

Big Fish
Director: Tim Burton
What a joy to once again be whirled into Tim Burton's fantastic universe, and how great to see that his disastrous "Planet of the Apes" was just a minor off moment. Burton is back on extraordinary track with "Big Fish," a sentimental, yet heart-warming tale about a complicated father and son relationship, due to the son's disapproval of his father's overly imaginative life stories. Perhaps the film doesn't show any sides to Burton we haven't seen before, but who cares when it bears his distinctive mark of eccentric humor, vivid colors and ingenious art direction. And Danny Elfman's playful fairytale music, yet again, beautifully supports Burton's visuals. I, for one, could easily let myself be drawn into this fantastical universe where make-believe is real. ****
Julie Vinten

Is it possible not to love Tim Burton and his strange collection of whimsical films? Perish the thought. His latest opus, however, is just not one of his better efforts. It belongs somewhere in between the embarrassing "Mars Attacks!" and the fabulous "Edward Scissorhands." In "Big Fish" Albert Finney's performance is immaculate. The brilliant actor's scrupulous grasp of the character's soul saves this flick from being simply average. At the same time, Jessica Lange and Helena Bonham Carter add a professional touch to keep things afloat, while Billy Crudup revs up during the terrific ending. The real flaw is the lead actor. Once again, Ewan McGregor stupidly grimaces his way through a part. Talent-wise, Colin Farrell would have been a more perfect match to play Finney as a young man, rather than McGregor. ***
Laimons Juris G

Imagining Argentina
Director: Christopher Hampton

This is a tremendously flawed film, and with its unimaginative look, unsubtle symbolism and terribly rigid acting it would be altogether forgettable, were it not for its dreadful subject. During the horrors of the 1976-1983 Argentine dictatorship, Carlos' (Antonio Banderas) wife (played by Emma Thompson) gets "disappeared" by the authorities, and he discovers a psychic ability to see what happens to her. The film insists on beating its audience senseless with brutality. By combining the raw reality of Thompson's character being tortured and raped along with images from the magical and poetic world of Banderas' psyche, the story comes out (unintentionally I'm sure) in a tremendously sickening way. You don't know whether to laugh at its ridiculousness or walk out of the cinema in contempt. *
Julie Vinten

From the very start you want to like this movie, but that's a very big order indeed. The story delves into some very serious and disturbing subject matter with a rather silly and nonchalant attitude. It's as if the disappearance, torture and murder of innocent men, women and children were no big deal. After all, it's only a movie, right? But these horrific crimes against humanity actually happened in Argentina from 1976 until 1983. In this regard, Emma Thompson has some impressive moments, though her fake Spanish accent hampers her credibility. Often her scenes appear as if filmed for another, completely different movie. On the other hand, Antonio Banderas has never been worse. ** 1/2
Laimons Juris G


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