It’s been forever since I posted any movie reviews. Here’s a quick recap of the pathetically small number of films (and TV series) I’ve watched throughout the past few months.
Yes, it’s true, I finally got around to seeing The Lives of Others (2008). I refused to roll into the new year with that disc still in my “at home” Netflix queue, so one day shy of 2010, I watched it and returned it with just four days to spare before the one year anniversary of Netflix originally shipping it to me.
Set in 1980s East Berlin, this is the story of a surveillance officer, Gerd Wiesler, who gets caught up in the lives of his most recent target, a successful playwright and his actress girlfriend. When it becomes apparent that his superior officer is hoping to take down the author as a way to get the girl, Wiesler becomes sympathetic to his subjects just as the author begins to really give the government something to worry about. As Wiesler tries to subvert the surveillance from within, he puts in motion a tragic game. The acting is great and the atmosphere strikes just the right note of oppression and coercion with a faint glimmer of hope that propels you through this bleak drama.
The Fall (2006) is drop-dead gorgeous, filled with so many stunning visuals I gave up on the story and just enjoyed the view. I read afterward, that this is a vanity project for the director, who goes by the single name Tarsem, and do I ever believe it. Supposedly, he used no computer generated special effects. That just adds to the wonder.
Lee Pace (of Pushing Daisies) plays a suicidal stuntman recovering in a 19-teens L.A. hospital who entertains a little girl with a fantastic story about five heroes on a quest. Fantasy and reality meld as he tells the story and she interjects and the stuntman’s darker side begins to reveal. The story eventually became tedious but the film’s visuals never allowed me to get completely bored. Vivid color, amazing locations around the globe, and fantastic costumes worthy of any grand opera. And The Fall has one of the most gorgeously photographed and compelling opening credit sequences (set to a segment of Beethoven’s Symphony #7) I can ever recall seeing. Unfortunately, as a whole, the rest of the movie fails to live up to the first three minutes.
Even in the silliest of stories, silent screen icon Mary Pickford is a compelling force. In this 1922 version of Tess of the Storm Country, she remakes one of her earlier films (a testament to her Hollywood star power) resuming one of her favorite characters, Tess Skinner, an urchin who lives in a fishing tenement village at the base of a wealthy man’s property. When the rich man tries to evict the squatters, he sets in motion a complicated tale that intertwines his own family members’ fates with those of the fisher folk. Though 30-playing-17, Pickford is terrific, the sets and cinematography are gorgeous in sepia (especially the exteriors) and elements of the story are surprisingly shocking for the day. The Christian overtones get a bit heavy-handed.