Searing tragedy of intolerance reduced to melodrama in 'Agora' |
There's a fascinating, heartbreaking, infuriating true story at the center of Agora, a sumptuous drama of ancient Alexandria from Spanish filmmaker Alejandro Amenábar. But even as the female scholar protagonist lectures her students that every system in the universe must revolve around a center or it will collapse, Amenábar clutters up his narrative with so much bombast and portent, it's own center finally cannot hold.
Stars shine in fresh, perceptive family comedy ‘Kids Are All Right'
Nic and Jules are a devoted, long-married couple raising their two kids in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Their family has its quirks and issues, but the kids respect their parents, each other, and themselves. That the movie in which they all appear, The Kids Are All Right, is not about the fact that Nic and Jules are a lesbian couple, is just one of the things that make Lisa Cholodenko's family comedy so fresh, fun, and appealing. These kids may have two moms, but this perceptive tale of family dynamics should resonate with anyone who's ever been a parent, a spouse or a child.
The possibility of an affair between fashion designer Coco Chanel and Russian composer Igor Stravinsky,1920, inspires this hothouse rhapsody from director Jan Kounen, based on the novel by Chris Greenhalgh. The era is irresistible, a period of astonishing artistic, political and cultural ferment. The personalities are fascinating (the designer who freed women from corsets; the composer who invented a new musical language). The project is redolent with possibilities, but few are realized in this artfully posed but static and disappointing film. It begins well at the 1913 Paris premiere of Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring," recreated in lavish detail (the corps de ballet in animal skins and tribal costumes; Nijinsky's ecstatic choreography to Stravinsky's relentless rhythms), followed by the famous rioting of the scandalized audience. Jump to 1920: with Paris full of Russian expats after the Revolution, Chanel (Anna Mouglalis), head of her own elegant Paris fashion house, moves Stravinsky (Mads Mikkelsen) and his enormous family to her severely chic black-and-white country house in the South of France so he can work.
Larsson's 'Girl Who Played With Fire' makes an incendiary thriller
There's good news for fans of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The two protagonists in that film (played by the same terrific actors) return in the sequel, The Girl Who Played With Fire, the second Swedish film adapted from the international bestselling crime suspense trilogy by the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson. But those expecting the kind of conventional buddy-buddy sleuthing arrangement found in most mystery franchises will be surprised. While both characters are drawn into the same investigation this time, they never dare to team up—the stakes are too high.
In her long, illustrious career in independent film, Tilda Swinton's roles have ranged from the sublime (Orlando) to the ridiculous (Female Perversions). There are elements of both in her new film, I Am Love, a langorous Italian family drama she also co-produced; gorgeous location shooting in Milan and the San Remo countryside, and rapturous depictions of food, border on sublimity, but the overheated melodrama of the storytelling finally skews the film in the other direction. Co-scripted and directed by Luca Guadagnino, the film stars Swinton as Emma Recchi, a Russian-born wife in a wealthy Milanese family, whose businessman husband, Tancredi (Pippo Delbono) is about to inherit the family textile manufacturing business from his own elderly father.