Louis Malle – Vanya on 42nd Street (1994)

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A group of actors arrive in a rundown theater in the heart of New York City. For the next couple of hours, they are going to rehearse Anton Chekhov’s play Uncle Vanya.

The actors gather around a small table placed in the middle of the stage and begin acting.

Uncle Vanya has spent the majority of his life working for Serybryakov, the snobbish husband of his late sister. For the modest amount of 500 rubles per year, he has carefully managed Serybryakov’s estate, which the old man is now planning to sell.

Uncle Vanya is frustrated – but not only because Serybryakov wants to sell the estate. The old man has returned home with his beautiful wife, Yelena (Julianne Moore), whom Uncle Vanya loves. She knows about his feelings but has chosen to ignore them because she understands that having a relationship with another man after years of marriage simply isn’t right. But Uncle Vanya has incorrectly assumed that Yelena is ignoring him because he is poor. Continue reading

Abel Ferrara – The Funeral (1996)

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Quote:
Abel Ferrara must be one “happy camper.” Really, I have to wonder when there’s been a happy ending in one of his movies; for him it might come close to being unconventional to have one. A lot of his movies (Ms. 45, Driller Killer, Bad Lieutenant, China Girl) all end pretty badly (I mean that as a compliment), but none as drenched in horror as The Funeral. Perhaps that should have been expected, and indeed I was hoping that a film starting off with teary-eyed Italians looking over a casket of a 23 year old guy with Billy Holiday’s “Gloomy Sunday” would follow through on its dark promise of death and dread. And it does. Mostly. And that ending… Continue reading

Diane Kurys – Les Enfants du siècle AKA The Children of the Century (1999)

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Plot summary from IMDB:
The only thing more outrageous than French novelist George Sand’s torrid love affair with the decadent author Alfred de Musset and her affinity for wearing men’s clothing, was the content of her writing. Though Sand (otherwise known as the Baroness Dudevant) smoked cigars and cross-dressed, it was the boldness of her writing on issues such as the abstinence of marriage and women’s frigidity that most contributed to the scandalous reputation she earned in French literary circles. When she met Alfred de Musset, the most gifted poet of his generation, the two quickly became a public cause celebrity while their work would go on to become some of the finest examples of 19th century romanticism. Continue reading

Ingmar Bergman – Markisinnan de Sade AKA Madame de Sade (1992)

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Bergman’s production Yukio Mishima’s play Madame de Sade was not the first work by the Japanese playwright to be performed in Sweden. In 1959, Dramaten had produced some of Mishima’s Noh plays and in 1970, the Swedish Theatre in Helsinki visited Dramaten with a version of Madame the Sade. Mishima had been nominated several times to the Novel Prize in literature but was passed over in favour of his mentor Kawabata (1968).

The setting of Madame de Sade begins in France in 1772 and ends twelve years later, nine months after the French Revolution. Six Women, one of them Madame de Sade, discuss their views and feelings of the notorious sadist and sodomist Marquis de Sade.

An enthusiastic critical corps focussed on Bergman’s ensemble of actresses and on the concentration and musicality of his staging. Continue reading

Alexandre Rockwell – In the Soup (1992)

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Soup’ Dreams

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Essentially a retread of The Freshman (1990) on a much lower budget, In the Soup concerns a young wannabe filmmaker, Adolfo Rollo (Steve Buscemi) who becomes mixed up with a gangster-type, Joe (Seymour Cassell) in the name of financing his first film.

Very little filmmaking occurs, though. What really happens is the old story of the life-loving older guy teaching the high-strung younger fellow a thing or two about living.

Yes, it’s an old story that has been told a thousand times before and since, but Alexandre Rockwell’s little film has a home movie charm and a streetwise wit that make it a must-see sleeper. Continue reading