Movie Diary 6/1/2010

Senso (Luchino Visconti, 1954). One of the Film Foundation’s restored prints; it showed at SIFF last Saturday. That the movie will be operatic is indicated by the opening sequence, where a performance of Il Trovatore is interrupted in colorful fashion by a political demonstration. After that, countess Alida Valli becomes obsessed with occupying-army officer Farley Granger, a folie a deux staged in a series of scenes shot at middle or long range – maybe to maintain the operatic ambience, but also seemingly because Visconti can’t bear to crop any of the lush decor out of any given shot.

A Canterbury Tale (Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 1944). First viewing in years of one of the oddest and loveliest of English films, in which a group of disparate people ultimately make their way on the pilgrims’ path. A movie prone to discursive passages and civilized meetings and lying in the grass looking at the clouds.

Nowhere Boy (Sam Taylor-Wood, 2009). I don’t know how this study of John Lennon as a teen plays to someone who isn’t a Beatles fanatic; yiz all can sort that out yourselves.  But I liked it – it doesn’t whitewash Lennon’s youthful belligerance, and it has the restraint to avoid using the word “Beatle” in a climactic scene.

Cairo Time (Ruba Nadda, 2009). Somewhat better than the soap opera suggested by the SIFF program blurb. Patricia Clarkson stranded in Cairo, facing temptation and Otherness.

First of All, Felicia (Razvan Radalescu, Melissa de Raaf, 2009). Quite a funny application of long, slow Romanian film technique to a comedy about missing a flight and figuring out a solution. The family observations are very droll and on-target, and leading lady Ozana Oancea is a Vera Farmiga type. (screens at SIFF 6/6)

Blessed (Ana Kokkinos, 2009). Stories of rootless youths and irresponsible parents, drenched in Melbourne drear. At its best with strong performances by Frances O’Connor, Deborra-Lee Furness, and Miranda Otto. (screens at SIFF 6/4, 6/5)

Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel (Brigitte Berman, 2009). Full-frontal attempt to re-set the image of Hef as a First Amendment and Civil Rights front-liner – and indeed, the evidence supports the case, although it also inadvertently supports the image of the Playboy magnate as a peculiar dude puttering around in pajamas. For the opposing view, the movie drags in naysayers such as Pat Boone and Susan Brownmiller to repeat their demurrals. There are also pictures of barenaked ladies. (screens at SIFF 6/5, 6/6, 6/9)

The Living Wake (Sol Tryon, 2007). Weird one, for sure, not without fascination (and some gorgeous photography in the state of Maine). But very weird. (full review 6/4)