AMERICA AGAIN AND FRANCE ENCORE, PLUS SWEDEN

RECENTLY VIEWED

ALEXANDER
Oliver Stone
2004

 

Alexander marks my first disappointment in Colin Farrell.  I never believe he is the world’s greatest warrior.  He creates a consistent and very human character.  But he lacks charisma.  He lacks that heroic madness, if you will, that must have been Alexander’s.

He is also handicapped by his voice.  As a field commander ordering his troops he must do much shouting, even yelling.  He is always hoarse for those moments.  This is a natural phenomenon; but life is not art, and the actor is hard to listen to.  (He is always understandable, however.)

The storyline, though distractingly cluttered by flashbacks, follows familiar legends and available history.  Philip, Alexander’s father and Philip’s death; Aristotle, his teacher;  his breaking of the horse Bucephalus; his friend and possibly-more-than-friend Hephaistios (the film is delightfully ambiguous here); the long march to India.  Jonathan Rhys-Davies is threateningly impressive as Cassander.  Jared Leto conveys Hephaistios well with almost no dialog.  Christopher Plummer is a believable, enjoyable Aristotle.  As our narrator Ptolemy, Anthony Hopkins continues to follow in the footsteps of, say, Lee J. Cobb, Anthony Quinn  —  you name others:  playing not the role but a great actor playing the role.  This thespian failing came late for the heretofore marvelous Quinn but unusually early to John Malkovich who seems to have had the balance to step back from this particular professional pit.

Angelina Jolie  —   as Colin Farrell’s mother, God save the mark  —  is surprisingly effective at every over-the-top moment.  An alive and colorful performance.

I find myself wondering what kind of search was made before casting Connor Paolo as young Alexander.  The resemblance to Farrell is remarkable, or rather, the certainty that this is just how Farrell/Alexander would have looked at that age.

The film I recently viewed was described on its sleeve as a director’s cut.  There is apparently an even longer director’s cut, much longer.  At this time I cannot know how the performances I have described would play out in a longer version.

*     *     *     *     *

Les Cousins(The Cousins)
Claude Chabrol
1959

I recently viewed this early New Wave-er for the first time in many years.  If it occasionally appears somewhat obvious now, this tale of the country cousin come to town and the city cousin and  his student cohorts who seek to corrupt him, is still gripping  —  nay, harrowing.  I had not grasped before how deliberate is their destruction of Charles.  They want him to fail because his very goodness makes them feel judged.  Both cousins are appealing.  They are, after all, Gérard Blain and Jean-Claude Brialy (hélas, both gone now).  Their role reversals (from the previous year’s Le Beau Serge) is an interesting counterpoint.

*     *     *     *     *

Force Majeure
Ruben Östlund
2014

This is a powerful domestic drama which looks at tensions within a Swedish family during a brief vacation at a Swiss ski resort.  An avalanche, which can be as symbolic as you wish, triggers long-submerged resentment and emotional outbreak.  Some of the year’s best ensemble playing, rivaling Land Ho!, is delivered by Johannes Bah Kuhnke and Lisa Loven Kongsli as the husband and wife and Kristofer Hirju and Fanni Metelius as their visiting friends.  The children are good too (Vincent Wettergren and Clara Wettergren) and are never trivialized by sentimentality.

Don’t miss this.

* * * * *

And if you are in northeast Ohio don’t miss Kurtiss Hare’s presentation of National Gallery at 7:00 P.M. tonight at the Lincoln Theatre in Massillon, Ohio, part of his ReelMassillon series.

NEXT Friday POST December 19.

Until then,
See you at the movies,
Rick

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