Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Week of October 22 through October 28 (Mann)

What's on at theTropic
by Phil Mann

Woody Allen is back again, now with YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER. For his fans, or anyone who appreciates a sophisticated diversion, it's always a pleasure to spend an hour and a half (more or less) with this unique cinematic maestro.

The cast, as usual, is an incredible collection of talent. Woody seems to be able to attract anyone he wants. So he has Anthony Hopkins (as an aging, long-married gent who thinks a new young woman will solve his problems), Gemma Jones (as Hopkins' discarded wife), Lucy Punch (as Jones' floosy replacement), Josh Brolin (as a failed, blocked novelist), Naomi Watts (as Brolin's long-suffering, financially supporting wife), Antonio Banderas (as a diversion for Watts), Freida Pinto (as a diversion for Brolin… she's the dusky beauty from Slumdog Millionaire). And there's also Roger Ashton-Griffiths (as a diversion for Jones).

You can probably see the plot evolving, except you can't know all the Allenesque touches that mark the film as his: Brolin is a Peeping Tom; Jones and her new beau are New Age devotees. All in all "it's a wicked and winsome comedy" (Phila. City Paper), an "inspired piece of misanthropy" (TimeOut NY). I'm not sure about the tall dark stranger. Everyone does meet someone, but only Freida Pinto qualifies as dark… and tall. Whatever. In Allen's nihilistic world, such details are hardly important.

JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT: THE RADIANT CHILD tells a different kind of story. Basquiat was one of those shooting stars of the art world: brilliant at 23; dead of an o.d. at 27. This is already the second biopic devoted to him, after Julian Schanbel's first venture into filmmaking in 1996. Unlike Schnabel's narrative approach, director Tamra Davis has taken a straight documentary path here, drawing on footage of the artist himself, and interviews with his friends and art world insiders. It surprised me to learn that, despite his head of dreads and street style, Basquiat was born to a middle-class Brooklyn family. He ran away at 17, lived on the streets, self-promoted himself into fame in the hot 80's art world, and then flamed out.

HIDEAWAY (Le Refuge) from the great French director Francois Ozon (Swimming Pool, 8 Women) begins with an overdose death. Mousse (Isabelle Carré) and her wealthy boyfriend are shooting up. He O.D.'s and dies, but she survives, pregnant. The film then follows her, now somewhat reformed but still on methadone, drinking and smoking, as she waits out her pregnancy at a beach house, in the company of her deceased boyfriend's adopted, gay brother. The beach house is owned by a man she slept with at 16, possibly her father. There's a lot going on that's not politically correct, but it's all the tapestry which this very French exploration of family weaves.

Also opening this week is Ben Affleck's crime thriller THE TOWN. Held over are WALL STREET 2 and LET ME IN.

The latter has joined some distinguished company, having been nominated as Best Picture for the Gotham Independent Film Awards. This ceremony, taking place just after Thanksgiving, traditionally kicks off the award season. Pay attention: Last year's winner was The Hurt Locker, which went on to win the Oscar. Joining Let Me In on this year's list are two other films you should have seen at the Tropic – The Kids Are All Right and Winter's Bone.

[from Key West, the newspaper -]

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