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You Can Count on Me (2000)
Good acting and some real feelings
I liked Mark Ruffalo a lot and both siblings' roles were well done. I just don't understand people who make choices like that and why they make them. "The unexamined life is not worth living." But Terry's predicament seemed more credible to me. Sammy is hardly the model of verisimilitude. And I agree with the reviewer who said Bryan the bank manager was over the top! Still, i've seen people like both of them in many parts of the world. Not just floating but not yet drowning either. What will happen to that poor boy? That's the real cliff-hanger. I don't know if he'll grow up to be a great pool-player. What a goal!
Deeper than Black vs. White
Unfortunately, because of US viewers' tendency to shun subtitles, this movie has not received the distribution nor attention it merits. Its subtle themes of belonging, identity, racial relations and especially how colonialism harms all parties, transcend the obvious dramatic tensions, the nostalgic memories of the protaganiste's childhood, and the exoticism of her relationship with her parents' "houseboy," perhaps the only "real" human she knows. We won't even look at her mother's relationship with this elegant man. There! i hope i've given you enough of a hook to take it in, whether you speak French or like subtitles or not. I challenge you to be as brave, strong and aware as La P'tite.
El amor brujo (1986)
Form, function and flamenco
Formalismo is an integral part of both Hispanic culture and gypsy/flamenco culture. It is inherent in this dance-drama within a movie. You must willingly suspend disbelief in the realistic sets set on an obvious dance stage with scrimmed and lighted backdrops. Likewise to accept the plot, you must suspend disbelief in phantom lovers, duels for honor, and happy-ever-after endings -- although be forwarned that the ending of this Bewitched Love (a better translation than the usual "Love, the Magician", altho' there are at least three other ways to interpret the ambiguous Spanish title words) can be understood only as a comedy, or comedie noire. The action, singing and dancing are compressed into the lines of flamenco dances as tightly as pure emotion can be condensed into a sonnet, or any other strict form, and yet they transcend with the freedom of the gypsy spirit, if you but open yourself to the experience. The first of Saura's great dance movies.
Bodas de sangre (1981)
The play on which this film is based is Federico García - Lorca's classic, poetic drama. The playwright/poet/actor/artist, who was probably Salvador Dalí's lover, was a brilliant sensualist who understood the power of myth and rural life. In this movie the story that is being performed on stage, the story that is taking place off stage, the whole weight of Spanish history and culture, the weight of flamenco as ballet and as folk art, and modern myths of romantic love are layered over and over each other. The movie is inexorable -- even when you realize the outcome, you are drawn hypnotized into it. Perhaps the greatest dance film ever made! You MUST see it.
La última cena (1976)
More about religion than a nun can teach, from a communist
When this film was first released in the USA, it got wow reviews and drew critical audiences. It left an indelible mark in my memory -- still vivid almost 25 years later. I found its reality (despite a period set-piece atmosphere and an alien mindset) drew me in. Ask yourself at the end: who is Judas? Who is the Savior? What is the myth? This is one movie you must see, no matter how high or low you might rate it.
Cría cuervos (1976)
The title is from a Spanish proverb: "If you raise (cria) crows, they will peck your eyes out." Cría is a pun also: it means offspring, young, especially of wild animals. The query behind this whole movie is just who does young Ana resemble? Whose cría is she? Carlos Saura's entire oeuvre deserves more attention; this and his dance movies will convince you of why.