Saturday, July 18, 2009

Week of July 17 to July 23 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
By Phil Mann

CHÉRI in French is of course just a term of endearment -- “darling” or “sweetie.” But what a difference context makes. One of our local French artists has a younger wife who always calls him “chéri” and her meaning is clear. But when a woman uses the term for a much younger man, the implications become more complicated. In the new film from the prolific director Stephen Frears (The Queen, High Fidelity, The Grifters, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid), it’s the sobriquet used by the aging courtesan Léa de Lonval (Michelle Pfieffer) to refer to the son of her good friend and fellow courtesan Charlotte Peloux (Kathy Bates).

When he’s just a boy, and the lovely Léa is in her twenties, it means one thing. But the movie takes place a couple of decades later, when she’s 49 and he’s 24, and chéri is another matter entirely. (Since the given name of the young man is Fred, it’s a good thing that he picked up the nickname. Neither the movie, nor the Colette novels on which it is based would have worked very well with the title “FRED.”)

Charlotte asks Léa to look after Fred…. er, Chéri… and teach him the ways of the world. Since he’s grown up to be quite the sultry hunk (Rupert Friend, who’s destined to break a lot of hearts), it doesn’t seem a very onerous task for a woman of Léa’s accomplishments. But this is a Colette novel meant to explore the implications of true love, which transcends mere mortal elements, like age difference. So one thing leads to another.

It may be difficult for us today to be shocked by the idea of a 49-year-old woman falling for a 24-year-old man, especially when Ms. Pfieffer and Mr. Friend are up there on the screen. But this is Belle Époque France, when conventions were different. And that is the charm of the movie. It’s beautiful; the sets are beautiful; the actors are beautiful. The reflected glow from the screen will make you beautiful, too. “Like the exquisite costumes, the scenery is as gorgeous as most of the cast, providing the perfect backdrop for some unabashed escapism.” (New York Daily News)

Much less pretty are revelations in the documentary OUTRAGE. From documentarian Kirby Dick (This Film Is Not Yet Rated), this new movie is a political shout out against polititicans who spout conservative, anti-gay, “family values,” while living closeted gay lives. You might say they’re chewing what they should be eschewing. There has been much controversy over the appropriateness of exposing personal lives. The moviemakers assert that they are going after no one except politicians who are misleading voters with hypocrisy. You can decide for yourself. But be warned: our very own Governor Crist has a part in the film.

Parents among you will be happy to know that the Saturday Kids Matinee series has been revived after a brief interlude. Two movies every Saturday, with one for younger kids and one for older. This week the little ones get a STUART LITTLE animation, while those 8 to 12 are in store for GOOSEBUMPS: RETURN OF THE MUMMY. Ummm.

The Monday night classic is the 1966 Oscar Winner for Best Foreign Film: THE SHOP ON MAIN STREET. This Czechoslovak film “knocked us out of our seats” said the New York Times reviewer, “a human drama that is a moving manifesto of the dark dilemma that confronted all people who were caught as witnesses to Hitler's terrible crime.”

The films are always hot at the cool Tropic. More info and details at
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[from Key West, the newspaper]

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