Friday, January 22, 2010

Week of January 22 to January 28 (Mann)

What's on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

The Tropic's going to keep you busy this week, with four new films.

Topping the schedule is Tom Ford's A SINGLE MAN, based on Christopher Isherwood's story of a gay man coping with the death of his partner. There are two marvels in this movie. One is Colin Firth in the title role, who is raking in awards for his remarkably restrained, nuanced performance, a very likely Oscar nominee.

The other is the phenomenal Midas-talent of Tom Ford. This now 48-year-old man from New Mexico first conquered the world of fashion at Gucci and YSL, then the world of retailing with his own lines and shops, and now the world of film. In its first festival appearance, at Venice, A Single Man was nominated for the Golden Lion top prize and ran away with the Queer Lion for, guess what? Like Brokeback Mountain, it is a gay-themed movie that transcends the category. Ford not only directed the movie; he also co-wrote it. Might I add also that he financed it himself? And that, according to people who have known him for years, he's modest and approachable?

What's next? Can you imagine what a sytlish political campaign he might run?

YOUNG VICTORIA celebrates another iconic figure, the Queen who would define an era. Her reign was in the same century as Jane Austen and the Brontes, whose lovingly portrayed novels have become almost of genre of their own in recent years. But why trifle with the lives of mere commoners when there's an even greater story at the top of the heap. Anglophiles rejoice. This is Britain at its finest, ruling a broader swath of the world than any nation before (or, probably, ever after), portrayed with sumptous sets and scenery. The story of the child-queen, and how she managed to find both love and the spine to rule this empire, is one for the ages.

Pity poor Elizabeth II, with her humbled kingdom and fusty Philip. She had her movie (The Queen), an excellent film, but a paltry affair compared to this. Emily Blunt in the title role is short-listed for Best Actress.

STILL WALKING does what foreign filmmakers seem to do much better than we can: take a family story and turn around and around, examining it like a cut diamond so we can appreciate its varied facets. No movie stars, no montages, no cinematic tricks, just life.... revealed. The focus here is on the family tensions that persist years after the favored son has died drowning while rescuing an errant swimmer. The family gathers annually to honor their fallen hero, but it's more a repeated wake than a joy, no less so when the saved man appears. He's not worth the trade, they (and we) feel, and he knows it himself. Roger Ebert calls it "a magnificent new film from Japan." I agree.

KILLING KAZTNER: The Jew Who Dealt With Nazis , is a documentary that takes us into a very different world, a post-holocast sorting out of the difference between morality and immorality, in a world where morals seem to have disappeared. Rezco Kasztner rescued a trainload of Jews, but at what price? As a filmgoer I sometimes wonder if holocast movies will ever end. But then I realize that they are not so much about that horrible series of events as they are about probing the nature of man.

The new series of Tropic Talks, live video Q & A sessions with filmmakers, this week features Gaylen Ross, the writer-director of Killing Katzner. She'll be up on the screen, live from New York, at 8pm on Saturday following the 6pm screening of her film. A wonderful chance to do your own probing of a controversial subject.

Full schedules and info at
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