Sunday, June 12, 2011

Week of June 10 to June 16 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

     The Tropic has shown every Woody Allen movie since 1999. He’s a unique phenomenon, the Lou Gehrig or Cal Ripken, Jr. of directors, stepping up to the page and screen every year and giving us his best shot. He always has the finest actors at his disposal and he always brings a New York neurotic sensibility to his screenplays. Some may have been a little weak, but the great ones make up for it. Who can forget Annie Hall (1977), Manhattan (1979), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), a trilogy which would have put him into the directors’ hall of fame even if he had never done anything else? But the last decade hasn’t been his best, with only Vicky Cristina Barcelona standing out, and younger audiences might be wondering what all the Woody Allen fuss is about.
     MIDNIGHT IN PARIS  provides the answer. Gil (Owen Wilson) is an American writer in Paris, looking for his muse. He finds it in a time warp that transports him back to the golden twenties of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. This technique of having “real” characters interact with fantasy ones is a bit of a Woody Allen shtick, ever since the real Marshall McLuhan stepped into an argument in Annie Hall to validate Woody’s point of view. “If life were only like this,” Woody’s character said, turning to the audience. And that’s just the feeling that Gil has, wandering off each night to hobnob with his legendary friends and drink from their cup of creativity.
     The result is “loving and wistful and often hysterically funny” (San Francisco Chronicle), a “beguiling and then bedazzling new comedy” (Wall St. Journal), “the best Allen movie in 10 years, or maybe even close to 20.” (Movieline).
     If you’d rather go further back in time, THE PRINCESS OF MONTPENSIER, is a period drama set in 16th century France. Marie de Mezieres (Melanie Thierry), the woman who becomes the Princess, is a wealthy and beautiful heiress, forced into an arranged marriage to gain a title for her family. This is old-fashioned filmmaking, full of rich detail and battlefield combat during this period of religious civil war between Catholics and Protestants. Called “the finest Western you’ll see this year” for its horseback action, and for the well-developed love conflict among the Princess’ admirers, who include her learned tutor, her former lover, and her husband. “Epic and intimate, historical and contemporary, moving and thought-provoking, the impressive The Princess of Montpensier has something for all and sundry.” (L.A. Times)
     To go from the sublime to the ridiculous, you could just sit in your seat after seeing this lush French gem, and watch BLANK CITY, which is sharing the screen in The George Theater. This documentary, in contrast to the superb production values and sumptuous environs of The Princess, is about the New York film underground of the 1970’s and 1980’s, a world of gritty, hand-held realism in a city covered in graffiti and trash. Not New Wave, but, they say, No Wave. Jim Jarmuch, Deborah Harry, John Waters, Steve Buscemi and many more tell it like it was … and it was something to behold! “Manages to conjure a glorious and grungy bygone past without fetishizing it as a golden age.” (New York Times)
     Rounding out the program are a couple of Hollywood popcorn hits. THOR is the superhero adventure of a Norse warrior god who has fallen to earth – quite an awesome dude. And RIO is the animated successor to Ice Age, now set in tropical Brazil. And held over are Steve Carrell in EVERYTHING MUST GO, and Reese Witherspoon in WATER FOR ELEPHANTS.
     And the opera season scores another hit with Verdi’s MACBETH, live from the Royal Opera House in London.
     Full info and schedules at or
     Comments, please, to

No comments: