Sunday, August 26, 2007

Goya's Ghosts

Movie name: Goya’s Ghosts
Year of release: 2006
Director: Milos Forman
Stars: Javier Bardem, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgaard, Randy Quaid, Michael Londsdale, Blanca Portillo, José Luís Gomez
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 4

Synopsis:
After the excellent films that were “Man on the Moon” and “People vs. Larry Flynt”, Milos Forman reunites with his producer of “Amadeus” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” to make another prestige film, however this time the results fall flat – the film is incongruent, overly simplistic and anchored in performances that are just barely there.

The legendary Milos Forman has produced quite a distinctive body of work since coming from Poland to the United States. From the multiple Oscar winning cases that were “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Amadeus”, to other solid films like “Ragtime”, “Valmont”, “People Vs. Larry Flynt” and “Man on the Moon”. Though his filmography isn’t very extensive, he had his share of hits, usually with “prestigious films”, usually produced by Saul Zaentz (also responsible for the production of “The English Patient”). “Goya’s Ghosts” his latest project was a production anchored in Europe, shot entirely in Spain, with a wide variety of talent that included the Spaniard actor Javier Bardem (already an Oscar nominee for “Before Night Falls”), Natalie Portman and Stellan Skarsgaard. However whereas his previous films all had a rich screenplay on which to fall back on, “Goya’s Ghosts” falls prey of an overtly simplistic portrait of an era that demands another view, definitely one more detailed and richer in content than this one (for a more interesting look at the inquisition, Jean Jacques-Annaud’s “The Name of the Rose” is a good illustration).
The film starts by introducing us to the drawings of Francisco Goya, deemed heretic by the Spanish inquisition, of which Father Lorenzo is one of the main instigators. Goya is also the painter commissioned by the royal family, which means that though he has considerable enemies, he also has friends in particularly high positions. The inquisitors’ spies end up catching in their net the young and beautiful Inez, Goya’s muse and daughter of a rich merchant in Madrid. She is accused of practicing Judaism and therefore tortured so she can confess to it. In their efforts to free Inez, her family exacts upon Lorenzo a similar torture, in order to prove the fact that under torture anyone will sign and confess to anything. Lorenzo upon visiting Inez ends up having sex with her, and his efforts to free her are to no avail – the Inquisition accepts the money from her father, but do not sanction her freedom. 15 years go by and Goya now deaf is still painting and portraying the reality around him. The Napoleonic invasions reach Spain, bringing with it new ideals and demoting all that the Inquisition had installed in society. Upon the freedom of the Inquisition’s prisoners, a prematurely aged Inez comes home to a dead family. She also informs Goya that she has had a child while imprisoned – the child was taken from her and placed in an orphanage. The father, the returned Lorenzo, now with the French government (and married with a family) puts Inez in an asylum and discovers the child is now a grown woman that is also a prostitute.
The film tries to present the art of Goya with the social changes and dynamics that the Spanish society has suffered, but in doing so focuses on so many aspects of it, and tries to branch out in so many directions, that eventually all the History (with all it’s complexities), seem to be reduced to a flicker whose only purpose is to place the recurring characters in their right places. The fall of the Inquisition is presented in a way that seems as if though that it was just a simple mechanism that you can turn off with the appearance of the new “democratic” Lorenzo. Also with all the dynamics that occur during the film, Goya’s character seems lost, and the thing, which you would like to learn the most, his art, his life, are never really explored. The main focus ends up being the Inez, and her daughter Alicia, story (both played by Natalie Portman), though they too seem to be victims of an overtly simplified storyline – a baby born in jail that is sent to an orphanage (in the 18th century, within the Inquisition’s prisons?). The actors seem to also struggle with their roles – Javier Bardem, one of the most interesting and versatile actors around, feels flat and without any nuance, in a role that if well written could have given him another dimension. As it is, his Lorenzo seems like a puppet that changes his coat as he goes along. Stellan Skarsgaard also a wonderful actor has little to do here – he walks his air of surprise and bewilderment to what surrounds him, and his paintings seem to fall flat (there’s no energy like the one that was present in Maurice Pialat’s “Van Gogh” or even Martin Scorsese’s episode of “New York Stories” with Nick Nolte). Natalie Portman takes a serious risk with her two characters, but she ends up saving what little there is to be saved from the film. As Inez her innocence and hope are shattered as she descends to the horrors of the Inquisition and to what they do to a single person. Even if her presence as Alicia amounts to nothing, Inez is a shattered shadow of her former self when she walks from the prison’s gates. Natalie Portman tries to show the ghosts that someone carries and the pain that never really abandons you. She is the soul of the movie.
All and all this is a film that resonates mediocrity, no matter what talent it has got behind – the ambition was vast, but the results fall really short. For more interesting takes on History and persecutions, you may want to investigate Patrice Chéreau’s “Queen Margot” and even Shekar Kapur’s “Elizabeth”.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Mysterious Skin

Movie name: Mysterious Skin
Year of release: 2004
Director: Greg Araki
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brady Corbet, Elisabeth Shue, Michelle Trachtenberg, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Bill Sage, Jeffrey Licon
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Synopsis:
Mysterious Skin presents a story about child abuse and the consequences it has on two young kids lives. Greg Araki has built a strong story, filled with great acting and a terrific soundtrack.

Greg Araki, the American filmmaker that made a name for himself out of underground and terminally cool films during the 90’s, matured to an accomplished filmmaker with “Mysterious Skin”. Araki became known in the 90’s as part of the new queer cinema label, alongside such luminaries as Todd Haynes (who released “Poison” in 1991), Tom Kalin (who released “Swoon” equally in 1991) and Rose Troche (who released “Go Fish” in 1994). With his initial films, namely “The Living End”, “Totally Fucked Up”, Araki showed a more risqué side to the way that homosexuality was being portrayed on screen (which can be checked in Norman René’s “Longtime Companion” and Bill Sherwood’s “Parting Glances”, to name but a few). During the mid nineties Araki further developed his style, with films like “Nowhere” and “The Doom Generation”, eventually reaching what many considered to be a “block” in his universe. “Mysterious Skin” premiered in the Venice Film Festival in 2004, and went to the Sundance film festival and ended up on many lists of the year’s best films of 2005.
“Mysterious Skin” starts by showing the lives of two children, in the early 80’s, Neil and Brian, both 8 years old. As narrators, they reveal what is happening in their lives. Brian believes he has been abducted by aliens, which may explain time gaps and his nose bleedings, whereas Neil explains his fascination for one of his mother’s boyfriends and also his baseball coach. The coach ends up being a catalyst in the lives of these children – he abuses Neil, who as a teenager becomes a hustler, much to the disregard of his mother (who is oblivious to what surrounds her). Neil ends up leaving his hometown (Kansas) to go to New York, where he continues his hustling ways. The two youngsters eventually reunite, and talk about their shared childhood, what effectively happened and what molded them to the people they are.
Greg Araki has managed to create with “Mysterious Skin” a story that is simultaneously surprising and difficult, but also delicate and tender. The film could’ve easily been made just for shock value with the early scenes of the sexual abuse from the coach (very well played by Bill Sage, a usual face in Hal Hartley films), instead Araki goes for a more subdued perspective, showing everything from the kids point of view, that gives it a whole fantasy-surreal kind of look.
As the audience accompanies the growth of the main characters, it becomes apparent the way both of them have dealt with their memories. Where Neil becomes a hustler, deriving pleasure from his anonymous sexual encounters, Brian represses whatever has happened to him and becomes convinced that he has been a victim of alien abduction – for that purpose he tracks a girl that he feels also has been through the same, Avalyn. As the story progresses and both characters evolve, we see that behind the coldness of Neil there is a heart wanting to be touched, the same way that behind Brian’s aloofness and desexualized existence, there is a pain and a need to understand what has happened to him.
The script from Gregg Araki is incredibly precise in it’s trajectory, giving the audience a feeling of closure as we reach the end – which in turn presents itself in much of the same fantasy/fable tone as the film started.
All the actors excel in their roles, starting with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a former child star who has indeed come a long way (he was in “The Juror” with Demi Moore and reached celebrity as part of the cast of “Third Rock from the Sun”), who plays Neil with a fierce intensity, showing his abandon but also his innocence. Brady Corbet does a good job of playing the innocent and lost Brian – his thick glasses seem to hide more than meets the eye. Finally Elisabeth Shue proves once again how great she is when she has a chance to expand beyond her “good girl” roles. As she did in Mike Figgis “Leaving Las Vegas”, she creates a woman whose own needs make her oblivious to everything that surrounds her, including her own son. It’s a small role, but one that she really captures perfectly.
“Mysterious Skin” is a film that urgently needs to be seen – it’s possessed of a beauty that will stay with you. Hopefully Gregg Araki’s career will keep on surprising just as it has done so far.

A Room with a View

Movie name: A Room with a View
Year of release: 1985
Director: James Ivory
Stars: Maggie Smith, Denholm Elliot, Helena Bonham Carter, Julian Sands, Daniel Day Lewis, Simon Callow, Rosemary Leach, Judi Dench, Rupert Graves
Genre: Independent
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 10

Synopsis:
“A Room With a View” introduced to the larger movie-going public, the Merchant Ivory seal of films – literary adaptations filled with superlative production values, great acting and solid screenplays.

James Ivory, the American director that many believe to be British (he’s actually from California), had directed quite a few amount of films with his partner Ismail Merchant serving as a producer, since the 60’s, however “A Room With a View” changed the perception and reach that they had gathered thus far. From the early 80’s Ivory had been making and releasing a string of interesting and accomplished films, as “Quartet” (1981 – that won Isabelle Adjani the best actress award at the Cannes Film Festival, alongside her performance in Andrzej Zulawski “Possession”), “Heat and Dust” (1983 - that introduced Greta Scacchi to the acting world) and “The Bostonians” (1984 – their first collaboration with the late Christopher Reeve). “A Room with a View” marked the first of their E.M. Forster adaptations (following on the footsteps of their previous literary adaptation of Henry James), and as always, they worked on a shoe-string budget (the late Ismail Merchant, deceased in May of 2005, had the reputation for luring high talent for small fees, and for cooking on the set, due to budget constraints). While E.M Forster had already been adapted before, namely by David Lean with his epic “A Passage to India” (1984 – with Judy Davis and Peggy Ashcroft), “A Room with a View” which started with small showings in small venues, grew with positive word of mouth and great reviews. The film ended up being nominated for 8 Academy Awards, winning 3 amongst many other awards (namely the Baftas, Golden Globes), and played on movie theaters for numerous months. Though many people called the film “charming” and “delicious”, the film relied on three very crucial factors for its success: a solid screenplay, great acting and an exquisite production. The screenplay (one of the winning Oscars) by Ruth Prawer Jahbvala, the usual collaborator of James Ivory and Ismail Merchant, retained all the traits of the E.M. Forster novel – the love for the Italian scenery, the social and personal conflicts, the moral dichotomies and the habits of the wealthy classes (which were also seen in the following adaptations that Merchant-Ivory did of E.M. Forster novels - “Maurice” in 1987 and “Howard’s End” in 1992, two other superb films). The screenplay showcases the delicate balances of the period’s society, between what was deemed acceptable and a far bolder attitude towards relationships – something that can be seen as the “awakening” of Lucy Honeychurch, the main character. This can also be seen in the differences between Lucy’s suitors – the bolder George Emerson and the strict and repressed Cecil Vyse (the “new” versus the “classic”). The fact there is a wonderful sense of humor throughout the film helps tremendously, particularly in the character of Eleanor Lavish, played wonderfully by Judi Dench.
The acting by the ensemble cast was wonderful, starting by the more well known Maggie Smith (who had already won 2 Oscars, and was nominated again for this role), as Ms. Charlotte Bartlett, the spinster cousin, simultaneously caring and affected (and again, extremely funny), the late Denholm Elliot as the all too honest Mr. Emerson (Elliot is remembered mostly for his roles in Steven Spielberg’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark” – 1981 and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” – 1989) and Judi Dench as the novelist Eleanor Lavish (the academy award winning actress of John Madden’s “Shakespeare in Love” – 1998). James Ivory also managed to introduce new talents in the shapes of the wonderful Helena Bonham Carter, as the heroine Lucy Honeychurch (a tremendously gifted actress, as can be seen in her subsequent films, “Howard’s End” – James Ivory 1992 and her academy award nomination for “The Wings of the Dove” – Ian Softley 1997, to name a few), Julian Sands as George Emerson, the “new” definition of the male identity, direct and acting upon his longings (that went from very interesting films as David Cronenberg’s “Naked Lunch” – 1991 to not so accomplished films as Jennifer Lynch’s “Boxing Helena” – 1993) and establish Daniel Day-Lewis, as Cecil Vyse, the “stiff” and “repressed” male (he who went to an Academy Winning career with Jim Sheridan’s “My Left Foot” – 1989, with subsequent nominations in Sheridan’s “In the Name of the Father” – 1993 and Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York” – 2002).
As for the production itself, Ivory worked with his usual collaborators, namely Richard Robbins for the music, Tony Pierce-Roberts for the photography and Jenny Beavan and John Bright for the costumes, all superb and also award winning. They created an utterly plausible scenario for the screenplay to take place, and made Italy and the English countryside of the late 19th century, early 20th century present for the viewers.
“A Room with a View” is a film that stands as a staple in the Merchant-Ivory body of work, but also a film that has it’s own merits, simultaneously as a wonderful work of art and as a vision of a romanticized reality, something that films masterfully captures.

Superbad

Movie name: Superbad
Year of release: 2007
Director: Greg Mottola
Stars: Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Seth Rogen, Bill Hader, Emma Stone, Martha MacIsaac, Kevin Corrigan
Genre: Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Synopsis:
After the success of “40 Year Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up” Judd Apatow is officially the king of the R-rated comedies in the US. Recuperating some of the raunchy themes of the comedies of the 80’s, these comedies, where “Superbad” is the latest and one of the funniest additions, have brought forth a refreshing look at themes that have been filmed and seen countless times.

Raunchy comedies are back. For those who thought that “Porky’s” had had it’s days of glory in the early 80’s, we are now watching a return to those themes, something that “American Pie” already brought to the screens in the late 90’s, and that Judd Apatow and his team are now ruling. The teenager films, particularly the ones where the shy, introverted kids (aka, the nerds) are bullied and end up having incredible adventures, all the while in the pursuit of losing their virginity, was a staple of the 80’s. They ended up being incorporated in John Hughes films, from “Sixteen Candles” to “Weird Science”, but also “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. Amy Heckerling’s “Fast Times at Redgmont High” was also a stepping-stone as was Michael Lehman’s “Heathers”. However the more sexed up teenager films ended up being the raunchy ones like “Porky’s”, where a group of high school friends were always involved in adventures that basically had the goal of getting them in a sexual situation (invariably losing their virginity before the landmark step that was going to College).
“Superbad” comes in the heels of the highly successful “Knocked Up” that Judd Apatow (who was responsible for the TV Show “Freaks and Geeks”, “40 Year Old Virgin” and who also produced “The Cable Guy” with Jim Carrey) wrote and directed and that brought into the limelight Seth Rogen. Rogen up into this point had been mostly known for his bit roles in “Freeks and Geeks, “Donnie Darko” and “40 Year Old Virgin”, but with the success of “Knocked Up” and now “Superbad”, his career is on a crescendo.
The film introduces us to the characters of Seth and Evan. Both have been best friends since little kids and are now seniors in high school, getting ready to go to college. Seth is the overweight loudmouth, where Evan is quiet and sweet. Both are of course pariahs and treated as such by the high school bullies. All they can think of is having sex before the end of high school and going away to college (something that will happen within a week) – that is also something that they know will separate them, since each will be going to different schools. The even more socially awkward Fogell, who is accompanying Evan to the same college, usually joins them. The film follows the adventures of Seth, Evan and Fogel in a single day, one where they manage to get invited to a party by a girl that Seth is desperately trying to get “intimate” with. Fogel manages to acquire a fake ID under the name McLovin, a 25-year-old organ donor from Hawaii. What follows are three kids adventures through the night, in the pursuit of booze, love and shedding the fear of being away of their friends (very much a rite of passage).
With a great script from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (that they wrote when teenagers), the film manages to be incredibly funny, mostly because it bases its’ concepts on the dynamics of the three kids and the two incredible and lunatic cops that patrol the streets. Seth presented as the loudmouth ends up being the soul of the movie, mostly because underneath his raunchiness lies a sweet kid that is incredibly afraid of losing his friend and being alone. The scene where Seth is seen as a child drawing penises is pure anthology. Evan, the more intelligent and quiet kid has a heart and a mind of it’s own – his goal is to actually be closer to Rebecca, his main interest in the classrooms. Fogler in the meanwhile, only wants to belong and be cool, something that his fake ID and his journey in the night with his buddy cops helps tremendously!
Where “Porky’s” went directly to the “sexual jugular”, “Superbad” has a heart and intelligence that resonates through those characters. Even in the hilarious scenes with Seth dancing in the party with the lady that has an “accident” on him, you can’t help laugh at the way Seth just handles the situation. The film is populated with so many funny moments that is hard to highlight a particular one.
All the actors do a great job, from Jonah Hill (also seen in “Knocked Up”) as Seth, to the more recognizable Michael Cera (from the TV show “Arrested Development”) as Evan, to the revelation that is Christopher Mintz-Plasse – his Fogel/McLovin will be an anthology character (particularly considering this is his first film and that he is a high school student). Seth Rogen and Bill Hader both do great work as the incredibly incompetent cops, both of who take McLovin on the ride of his life.
This is a comedy that works beyond its’ naughty pretense and raunchy themes – it goes for the heart!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Monday, August 6, 2007

Orlando

Movie name: Orlando
Year of release: 1992
Director: Sally Potter
Stars: Tilda Swinton, Billy Zane, John Wood, Heathcote Williams, Quentin Crisp, Charlotte Valandrey
Genre: Independent
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 9

Synopsis:
Sally Potter used Virginia Wolf’s novel “Orlando” to express the path of a woman, who started of as a man, and that ultimately sought, as everyone, a space of her own, where to simply be herself and be loved.

“Orlando” is a modern classic for a variety of different reasons. When released in 1992, the film rode waves of good reviews, equally praising the audacity of the filmmaker and also the sheer beauty and wondrous performance of it’s leading lady, Tilda Swinton. If time has proved anything, that is the fact that Tilda Swinton is a magnificent actress – something that was already on display before “Orlando” came out, on the films she had done with Derek Jarman, namely “Edward II” and “Caravaggio” - and in the meantime she has done films as different as “The Deep End” and “The Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”.
“Orlando”, adapted from a novel by Virginia Woolf (Marleen Gorris adapted one of her other novels, “Mrs. Dalloway”, with Vanessa Redgrave), tells the story of an aristocrat since the 16th century to our present days, during which he experiences love, death, loss, political and social games, sex and rebirth. The film divides itself in those sections, for instance “Love”, “Death”, “Politics”, each representing key events that happen in Orlando’s life. The character is presented to the audience in the first frames, as a child of privilege, an aristocrat that is also a poet, a character that enjoys “loneliness and isolation”, a romantic, to summarize it. However Sally Potter, the director throws here an irreverent touch that imbues the film with an irony that ends up creating more than just a stunning “period” film – Orlando/Tilda Swinton addresses the camera directly, showcasing his/her thoughts to the audience, making us direct accomplices of his/hers adventures (though not in the same way that Matthew Broderick did in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, who at the end of the film told the audience to “go home”). The first section of the film introduces us to Orlando, and his vision of the world – it also introduces us to the concept behind his longevity and the way that will also connect him with his house (and for all intended purposes, England). Queen Elizabeth, played by the iconic Quentin Crisp, is smitten by Orlando’s beauty and youth, and she gives him and his heirs the mansion/house, as long as he never “grows old, never withers”. These early scenes are shot, as well as the remaining film, with such beautiful and detailed compositions, that most of the times it feels as if though you’re actually looking at paintings reenacted. A lot of the praise here should go to the beautiful costumes that Sandy Powel created and also for the director of photography, Alexei Rodianov – they both have given the film more than just “eye candy” – they have created a personality and a beauty that still marks and haunts whomever sees the film. Throughout Orlando’s story, with the perception of politics and the way some liberties are gained, he changes from man to woman, and this is what we hear from him/her – “same person, just different sex”. This is very much a film directed by a woman in a sense you actually see the evolution of Orlando, from her early steps as a woman that goes into society – and the way women are considered “window dressing” - to Orlando’s own choices and decisions which she pretty much has to deal with when it becomes clear that she, and her gender, have no rights. This is a wonderful story, one where the main character states right at the beginning what she aims for - companionship, love, something that she experiences at the beginning of the film, as a man with a Russian woman, Sasha, played by Charlotter Valandrey, and afterwards as a woman, with an American man, played by Billy Zane. Orlando goes through the centuries until our days (and you can relate to the passage of the centuries through the wonderful costumes), a time where she visits her now lost house, with her daughter, her heir, and even though she has lost the house, she has finally gained what she always wanted – love, unconditional one that comes from herself and from her daughter. When Orlando at the end of the film looks directly at the camera, it’s peace and happiness that shines through – she has finally found her place (and that’s what Jimmy Sommerville sings).
Sally Potter created with this film a stunning work of art – In her following films, “The Tango Lesson”, “The Man Who Cried” and “Yes”, she has managed to create unique experiences, but somehow always a bit flawed, something that doesn’t happen in “Orlando” – the film is beautifully shot, the sense of humor that is present throughout gives it an undeniable edge and Tilda Swinton’s performance is simply unforgettable.

La Môme/La Vie En Rose

Movie name: La Môme/La Vie en Rose
Year of release: 2007
Director: Olivier Dahan
Stars: Marion Cotillard, Emmanuelle Seigner, Pascal Gregory, Sylvie Testud, Gérard Depardieu, Clotilde Courau
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Synopsis:
Olivier Dahan aims high in this biopic of French singer and legend Edith Piaf, however the results end up a bit short, save for the complete transformation of the actress Marion Cotillard whom when Oscar time comes, will certainly be a strong contender.

Biopics/Biographies are always a tricky subject matter for filmmakers, as I mentioned in the review for Camille Claudell. Respected filmmakers have approached the genre with varying levels of success, from the really great like “Camille Claudell” from Bruno Nuytten, “Van Gogh” from Maurice Pialat, to the good like “Walk the Line” from James Mangold, “Capote” from Bennett Miller to the “just there” examples of “Ray” from Taylor Hackford and “What’s Love Got to Do with it” from Brian Gilbert. These are films that usually showcase great performances from their main actors, who invariably are awarded numerous accolades (Oscar usually falls in their mantle, as it did earlier this year for Helen Mirren and Forest Whitaker).
“La Môme” from Olivier Dahan, already one of the biggest hits of the year in France, follows the life and career trajectory of one of the country’s most beloved personalities, the unforgettable Edit Piaf, who died in 1963 at the tender age of 47. The film follows a structure that oscillates between the life of the older Edith and her progression since her humble beginnings. The film starts by introducing us to Edith currently on tour in America but rapidly changes it’s pace to her childhood. There we are introduced to Edith’s mother, also a singer who chooses to pursue her career and leave Edith with her father (meanwhile in the army). Edith’s father drops her with his mother, who is the owner of a brothel, where all the girls quickly embrace and protect Edith, particularly Titine who treats her as a daughter. When her father shows up for her, they end up working in a circus and the streets as street artists. That’s where Edith starts showcasing her voice, something that she continues doing, in neighborhoods of shady reputation (in the company of her friend Mômone). This street singing eventually gets her discovered by Louis Leplée who places her in his club and introduces her to a huge number of influential people. Edith becomes increasingly famous, also coming with it a dependency for narcotics and liquor that deteriorate her health more and more. Her failed relationships also take their toll on her life, and by the film’s end, we see a broken and precociously destroyed woman.
The film plays like many that have been seen before, very much in the lines of “A Star is Born”. It presents Edith as a woman of extraordinary talent that comes from the gutter, from a sordid past that never really left, no matter where she went. It also shows her as a woman that never really came to grips with whom she was in this new position, as an icon, as the voice from Paris (as Marlene Dietrich mentions). Olivier Dahan tries too hard to compress everything about the artist in the film, and that means sacrificing characters that suddenly disappear, characters that appear without any explanation, eventually creating a muddle that is quite confusing. The balancing structure between different time frames reinforces this tremendously – the film tries to chew on more than it can. The main actors do a fine job, with the highlight going to Marion Cotillard. There are several reviews already saying that her performance (and the one from Angelina Jolie in “A Mighty Heart”) is going to be amongst the ones for the Oscars of 2007. The performance is truly indelible in the sense that Cotillard mimics to perfection the singer (she mimics the singing also), capturing her energy, despair and joy. She manages to replicate the actions from Edith’s life since she was a young woman, to her illness and precocious aging (and the makeup helps tremendously). Gérard Depardieu turns in a solid supporting performance, as does Clotilde Courau, Emmanuelle Seigner and the wonderful Sylvie Testud whose character is dropped much too abruptly. The photography, and period reconstitution are all impeccable, as is Marion Cotillard’s performance, however these don’t save the film from it’s shortcomings.