Thursday, February 21, 2008

Adios Nonino

We'll miss you! (fans of high-altitude cinema, page down...)

The 35,000 Foot Critic: Intense Lives Captured

Heavy snow caused a 5 hour delay of my return trip from Santo Domingo; thank heavens I had a pair of long, memorable movies on DVD. These were "The Apostle" and "The People vs Larry Flynt." Both films are driven by intense acting and unusual but uniquely American subjects. Here are my mini-reviews.

"The Apostle (1997)"

Four Words That Encapsule: "Rooftop Raiser Seeks Redemption"

Haiku (5/7/5):

"Holy roller lost
burns to help folks, heal himself,
'til the net descends"

Again, a truly great film transcends its subject, and gets you over your gut feeling of 'I don't want to see a film about (boxing, nazis, the mafia, country singers, fill in the blank). I've always found evangelism strange and somewhat scary - the world view being reduced to seeing Jesus as one's own personal savior.

'The Apostle' is about such people, but it's thankfully not a biopic or anything predictable - it's about a man on the run, racing against time, trying to find his bearings again in the only universe that's ever made him feel alive.

The faces and voices of these people burn their reality into your consciousness.

And yet it's in some ways a very subtle, small film.

Robert Duvall is a wonder, doing some of the finest work of his career. And yes, that's Farrah Fawcett in a small role as his ex-wife....

And here's a clip from "The Apostle:

"The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)"

Four Words That Encapsule: "Pornographer's Challenging Free Expressions"

Haikus (5/7/5):

1. "Hustler's low down sex
spread us wide like a sewer,
that dreaded mirror"

2. "Envelope pusher,
patron animal, vile saint,
stands for our fredom"

3. "Althea, smut muse;
Larry, shot, his lover drowned
dead legs, fierce spirit"

'Larry Flynt' sticks closely to biopic conventions, even if its porn king subject is anything but conventional. The film has its flaws, but Woody Harrelson as actor bats this one out of the park. The story is fascinating, the courtroom scenes, compelling, often hilarious, and probably verbatim.

The film may well present Flynt as far too attractive and appealing and idealize his relationship with his wife Althea as soulmate and muse. It shows Flynt and Althea as difficult, troubled, somewhat twisted, but surprisingly sweet. Flynt's relationship with his civil-liberties lawyer, deftly played by Edward Norton, is also somewhat larger than life.

Courtney Love makes an indelible impression as Althea, and can certainly act, but she's a 90s or 00s woman in vocabulary and body language, a post-feminist who seems too effortlessly comfortable in her relationship and in her own skin given her background and the era. Her descent into drug use through tragedy and loss is realistic, and may well echo her own real-life survival as the wife and widow of Kurt Cobain.

This post is awfully long for a pair of 'mini-reviews.' : - ) Guess there was a lot to say...

And here's a clip from "Larry Flynt:"

Cartoons du Jour:

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