Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Week of July 9 to July 15 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

A bunch of real treats are in store for you this week.

The remarkable Tilda Swinton is the star of I AM LOVE. I say remarkable, not only because of her acting prowess (Michael Clayton, The Deep End, Orlando) but also because of her remarkable accomplishment for this foreign language film. Playing a Russian émigré in Milan, she had to learn to speak Italian with a Russian accent. In other words, a true actor to the core, she can do anything.

And I AM LOVE gives her a chance to prove it. Ms. Swinton is Emma Recchi, the wife of Tancredi, scion of a wealthy and aristocratic Milanese textile empire. As the film opens, at a birthday party she organizes for her father-in-law, the family patriarch makes an announcement. He is retiring and turning over control of the business to his son Tancredi and his grandson Edo (son of Emma and Tancredi).

A time of happiness, right? Wrong. We wonder whether Tancredi and Edo are up to the job, or how they will manage with each other. But more central to the story, we learn that there’s more to Emma than meets the eye, including sexual longings that are destined for fulfillment, and problems with her imperious mother-in-law and her sexually awakening daughter. “An amazing film. It is deep, rich, human,” says Roger Ebert. “Throughout the film, desire and power stream in all directions” adds The New Yorker.

True to its Italian setting, I AM LOVE is visually stylish and opulent, and operatic its story. Wow.

VINCERE, is also set in Italy, but during the early part of the twentieth century as Benito Mussolini rose to power. It’s a biopic, but not focused on the Italian dictator and sometime pal of Hitler himself, but rather on his early lover (maybe wife) Ida Dalser, and the child of their relationship, young Benito. Talk about desire and power… Mussolini wanted to shed himself of this part of his history, and resorted to all the means at his disposal. Yet in the face of this overwhelming power, Ida maintained her story and her dignity.

Damn. It’s another opera. “Vincere… comes as close to grand opera as can be achieved without anyone actually bursting into song, feels like a big movie -- handsomely mounted, full of dark shadows counterpointed with stray shafts of light, with dramatic close-ups of faces driven by passion and madness and heavy silences brutally interrupted by clashing tympani,” observes Ella Taylor for NPR.

Zooming from Italy to the underground art world of Los Angeles brings us to EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP, a documentary (or maybe “prankumentary,” suggests Jennette Catsoulis in the New York Times) about the art of a character named Thierry Guetta. He has spent years making videos of graffiti artists at work, sharing the risks of their often daring efforts. But when he tries to film Banksy, a famous and reclusive British street artist, the subject turns the camera and becomes the director. The result is the wild, funny, and possibly true, story, of Guetta’s rise to fame as the artist Mr. Brainwash.

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[from Key West, the newspaper -]

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