Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 08, 2023 9:19 am 
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REVIEWS FROM VENICE 2023

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THE KILLER

Everybody here has watched or is watching OPPENHEIMER (and I'm even plodding through the 700-page biography) and BARBIE (men rewatching it to figure out the feminism stuff). But from Venice are coming reviews of some expected big releases. Here are some highlights.

For some high-profile reviews from Venice see The Film Verdict.

MAESTRO (Bradley Cooper) Directed by him and starring him as Leonard Bernstein, the famous married but not-so-closeted gay conductor. Will it figure at awards time? I don't know, except surely for makeup and prosthetics, which he wears to look like Lennie throughout. The Film Verdict's review says the film "soars and sweeps in some passages while falling flat in others." The focus is on the man's marriage, and his violations of it. What matters is that he was a great ambassador of classical music to the American public, with things like his TV Young People's Concerts, which were wonderful; and he was a titanic interpreter of Beethoven. So, the marriage? Nobody played Lennie like Lennie. But the Verdict review points to an historical focus: "The screenplay by Cooper and Josh Singer (Spotlight) acknowledges the broader complications of the closet in 20th century America, and how it often forced gay and bisexual men into conventional marriages with women if only for the sake of appearances." Coming on the Netflix streaming site. This is looking better than expected, according to the YouTube "Oscar Expert". It's flying pretty high, with a Metacritic rating of 81%.OFFICIAL TEASER

FERRARI (Michael Mann), starring Adam Driver as the Italian auto magnate. Driver "established" himself as "Italian" playing in HOUSE OF GUCCI. But I didin't find HOUSE OF GUCCI worth reviewing - and is there anything Italian about him, really? The YouTube "Oscar Expert" and his twin have said this is just Adam Driver walking around in sunglasses and it does look a bit that way. If you've watched a lot of Italian movies as I have you may find it hard to grasp the need, at this stage, of watching Americans on screen walking around playing Italians with or without sunglasses. The durable Peter Bradshaw in his GUARDIAN review (he's also been at Venice) calls it "watchable" and gives it 3/5 stars. It costars Shailene Woodley as Enzo Ferrari's mistress and Penelope Cruz as his wife. Isn't a multinational English language bippic like this sort of old hat? Well, in fact Michael Mann hasn't made a movie in eight years. Sounds like a juicy role for Penelope though, as Laura, the wife, who handles the books and carries a pistol in her purse while transporting the payroll, and at the same time grieving her son who died the year before of kidney failure (all this is in 1957). You'll find this and more in The Film Verdict review. As SCREEN DAILY explains, FERRARI is one of a few films granted a waiver by SAG-AFTRA. It was made with low pay by a small studio, and due to this Driver was one of the few big American stars allowed to go to Venice this year. Metacritic rating: 74%. OFFICIAL TRAILER

THE KILLER (David Fincher) may be a more hopeful prospect, but not a home run. The Film Verdict review says: "David Fincher brings his considerable style and craft to this procedural about a professional assassin, but not even Michael Fassbender can make the character distinguishable from a thousand other cinematic hired guns." Still for genre fans this surely is a potentially exciting prospect. Oddly, Vernice this year has three films about hired killers, by Harmony Korine, Richard Linklater, and Fincher. I wouldn't expect there to be much competition here and sure enough, Bradshaw calls Fassbinder "terrific" as a "philosophizing hitman," and in his GUARDIAN review gives the movie 5 out of 5 stars. Bradshaw took pleasure in this film and takes great pleasure in writing about it and if you like reading reviews you'll enjoy his review of KILLER. Here's how it begins:
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David Fincher’s horribly addictive samurai procedural, adapted by Andrew Kevin Walker from the graphic novel by Alexis Nolent, stars Michael Fassbender as the un-named titular hitman: an ascetic who in the movie’s sensationally low-key opening sequence tells us about dealing with the job’s biggest challenge: boredom. He internally monologues on this subject, and many others, including his views on the amorality of the universe and the music of the Smiths, while sitting high up in a rented WeWork office space with his long-range rifle, next to a five-star Paris hotel, waiting, waiting, waiting, for the VIP guest to show up in the suite opposite and get a bullet in the head. - Peter Bradshaw, GUARDIAN
This will be another Netflix offering. Metacritic rating: 72%. THE KILLER TEASER.

Other Venice feature premieres: POOR THINGS (Yorgos Lanthimos), COMANDANTE (Edoardo De Angelis), DOGMAN (Luc Besson).

Wes Anderson was at Venice for his 39-minute Roald Dahl adaptation about a rich man who sets out to cheat the gambling casinos, THE WONDERFUL STORYOF HENRY SUGAR, but due to the actors' strike, he came and stood on the red carpet alone, without cast or crew members. The film has a limited theatrical release Sept. 20, and goes to Netflix Sept. 27. It stars Benedict Cumbrerbatch, Richard Ayodade, Dev Patel, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes, and Rupert Friend. TRAILER.

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ADAM DRIVER IN FERRARI

FERRARI is "stuck in the slow lane," says the BBC reviewer Nicholas Barbour, and an "international cast delivering English dialogue in a variety of Italian accents" "probably should have been confined to a Super Mario Bros movie"; but others find FARRARI to be a sleek and polished work worthy of a craftsman like Mann, who hasn't made a film since his 2015 cyber drama BLACK HAT. The Metascore[ is 74%.

VENICE continued: Some weird ones: COMANDANTE (Edoardo De Angelis), DOGMAN (Luc Besson

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EMMA STONE AND MARK RUFFALO IN POOR THINGS

POOR THINGS (Yourgos Lanthimos). Emma Stone teams up with Lanthimos again as "an unusual heroine on a grotesque picaresque journey who defies the gender roles of the Victorian era and instead discovers her own agency," says the reviewer for The Film Verdict. But [Bradshaw statesit more simply: "Stone gives a hilarious, beyond-next-level performance as Bella Baxter, the experimental subject of a troubled Victorian anatomist, in Lanthimos’s toweringly bizarre comedy [epic]." Mark Ruffalo plays her lover, and Willem Dafoe plays her caretaker, professor, and master. This film already has some highly favorable reviews - the YouTube Oscar Expert twins attribute "unanimous buzz" to it, with a 94% rating on Metacritic and a rave from Justin Chang of the LA Times, etc. etc. This is an extremely grotesque and surreal story, and clearly a go-for-broke, risk-taking performance for Emma Stone that will be much talked about. People are saying this is Lanthimnos' best movie. Look at clips - the TRAILER - and you'll see how eye-popping and richly varied it is. The lead, Emma Stone's "Bella," is a young woman's dead body revived with the brain of a fetus, so she is learning basics of life - fast. Strange though this is, it's an Oscar contender. "The Oscar Expert" twins are predicting this will win the Best Actress Oscar for Emma. POOR THINGS' Meticritic rating: 94a% (THE FAVOURITE was 90%).

COMANDANTE (Edoardo De Angelis) is an Italian film, and with Italian cinema's current primary film actor Pierfrancesco Favino again carrying the leqd - and the film - as Salvatore Todaro and putting a positive spin on Italy's role on the fascist side in WWII. The commander (Pierfrancesco Favino) is very much the friendly face of the Italian war effort. Set for the most part aboard the submarine Comandante Cappellini in the early 1940s, it is a dramatization of the sinking of the Kabalo, a Belgian ship carrying British war supplies, and the subsequent rescue of 26 shipwrecked Belgian mariners from a watery grave by Todaro and his crew - out of the goodness of their hearts, after they've sunk their boat. Bradshaw says "you'll enjoy it if you don't think how wrong it is," but what he gives it is 2/5 stars. The Film Verdict[ says COMANDANTE is "told with old-fashioned gusto and retro sentimentality. . . with star Pierfrancesco Favino injecting life into the film." A positive spin on Italy's part in WWII? It's an outlier. It was opening night film at Venice, the filmmaker's first time in the festival. As has been said before of Favino in a role, they're saying only he could have carried this off successfully, but he does. A promotion of the nobility and superiority of Italians above everyone else that non-Italians are unlikely to buy but Italians will love. Venice has given it an international profile. But in case you're wondering about international critical response the Metascore is 43%.

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CALEB LANDRY JONES IN DOGMAN

DOGMAN (Luc Besson). The summary on IMDb is "A boy, bruised by life, finds his salvation through the love of his dogs." But the review by Catherine Bray for GUARDIAN ("the most ludicrous film you’ll see all year, maybe ever") explains that it gets more implausible than that because he trains the dogs to get revenge for him and steal diamonds for him (to "do his criminal bidding"). Damon Wise on Deadline says "It skews a little close to Todd Phillips' Golden Lion winner Joker in terms of weirdness and (especially) wardrobe, but it also offers the perfect showcase for star Caleb Landry Jones, who imbues a boisterously insane action thriller with heart and soul in what must surely be a career-high performance." Living apart from humans and training his dogs to commune perfectly with him, Doug (Jones) is also a wheelchair-bound drag performer of Édith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich songs who was much abused as a child and could get no other job than as drag performer. But it's more complicated than that... and is all being recounted to a woman psychologist. In her Variety[/i> review Jessica Kiang calls this a "ludicrous howler" and "irredeemably boneheaded." Besson did the writing as well as directing. (NB: The title may be distinguished from Matteo Garrone's 2018 [i]Dogman by its internal capitalization as DogMan but reviewers are not following this.)

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©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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