Tropic Cinema Selections Transverse Both Time and Space…
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Francophiles rejoice. Nostalgia fans get in line. And seekers of gritty realism step up to buy a ticket. This week’s lineup at the Tropic Cinema has a little of everything, including an extravaganza filled with parties, confetti, chandeliers, and jazz babies.
The title of “Renoir” telegraphs its subject. But does the film focus on the famous French director or his father, the impressionist painter. Well, more so about the painter but both are there. A woman named Andree Heuschling connects the two in this biopic by Gilles Boudon. She was not only the last model of Pierre-August Renoir but the first actress to appear in the films of young Jean Renoir. Set during the last years of the painter’s life at Cagnes-sur-Mer, the film stars Michel Bouquet as the elder Renoir and Vincent Rottiers as the son. Christa Theret is outstanding as their muse. The Austin American-Statesman observes that the film “really does have the lush glory of a Renoir.” And The Oregonian says it revels “in the pristine sunlight and unhurried pace of an era gone by.”
Another French film at the Tropic is “Something in the Air,” a look at the aftermath of the student uprisings in Paris. Here it’s 1971 and young Gilles (Clement Metayer) is carrying the flame of unrest, giving political speeches to fellow high school students and protesting for worker’s rights … while at the same time pursuing romance. The Wall Street Journal observes the film is “worth seeing for what it says of the turbulent state of France in the early 1970s.” And Salon.com says “It's a terrific film, wonderfully atmospheric and alive ...”
Another coming-of-age film is “Mud,” a modern-day homage to Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Living on the edge of the Mississippi, two youngsters (played by Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland) come across a man on the lam (Matthew McConaughey) and get caught up in his quest to reunite with his true love (Reese Witherspoon). The Toronto Star observes that it’s a “fairy tale, steeped in the sleepy Mississippi lore of Twain and similar American writers, and with a heart as big as the river is wide.”
Less idealistic is “The Iceman,” the true story of a mob hitman (brilliantly played by Michael Shannon) and his mentor (Chris Evans), a pair who store dead bodies in an ice cream truck. Brrr. “Kneel before Shannon,” says Total Film. “His primal, powerhouse turn drives this criminal biopic.”
Even more dark is “Portrait of Jason,” a 1968 experimental documentary about an unhappy gay hustler. “By the end of the long night's shoot,” says The Nation, “Shirley Clarke knew she had captured one of the most involving, uncompromising and revelatory human documents in the history of cinema.” And Village Voice observes that it “says more about race, class, and sexuality than just about any movie before or since.”
Another movie that begins with sparkle and pizazz, but ends as a tragic romance is “The Great Gatsby.” Opening at the Tropic this week, Baz Luhrmann’s extravaganza based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel about a self-made man (Leonardo DiCaprio) who throws lavish parties in hopes his lost love (Carey Mulligan) will show up. “Employing the stylish grandiosity we’ve come expect from him, Luhrmann's trademark razzle-dazzle is entirely appropriate for the extravagant excess of Gatsby's world,” observes Flix Capacitor. And Richard Roper says it’s “the best attempt yet to capture the essence of the novel.”
Quite a lineup of films. Romance, heartbreak, anger, murder, lush beauty -- it’s all here at the Tropic.