On this page I have film reviews or other film-related comments, which I will blog before they become Sprint Reviews on the s2c database. I would love to hear any comments you might have.
Almost anyone, whether married or not, who was an adult 45 years ago can relate to this profoundly, intelligent film. During the week leading up to their 45th wedding anniversary party, Geoff (Tom Courtenay) and Kate (Charlotte Rampling), both independently process an event that happened in Geoff's life before they were married. On Monday he receives a letter reminding them of this tragic event in his life. Even though it took place before Kate knew Geoff, she becomes emotionally distraught as she witnesses how it affects Geoff's normal routine. Each day of the week is presented as daily, short vignettes within the film, evenly pacing the buildup to their anniversary party on Saturday. So each day Kate discovers more about this event through her own detective work. These subtle discoveries are major revelations for her and us thanks to the pacing by writer/director, Andrew Haigh, and the superb acting by Rampling and Courtenay who perform as though they really have been married for 45 years.
Wouldn't it be a wonderful moment on Oscar night if Charlotte Rampling came out a winner? Even though Saoirse Ronan for BROOKLYN and Brie Larson for ROOM also deserve to be winners, I think it would be a great way to celebrate an actress who has really come into her own in the last 15 years or so. What a class act!
Spoiler alert: In a year of violent, headlining films; such as, MAD MAX, THE REVENANT and HATEFUL EIGHT, all of which I must admit I really enjoyed, it is refreshing to know that films like 45 YEARS, ROOM and BROOKLYN can still be made even though they will not be box office blockbusters. To me, hearing Tom Courtenay explain in detail how his pregnant lover tragically died, is more evocative than the images of "Mad" Max escaping his twisted, obsessed pursuers or DiCaprio's Hugh Glass returning from a near-death experience.
With Valentine's Day over a week away, I got inspired to finally write something about LE NOTTI BIANCHE after my most recent viewing. It is a wonderful, innocent, romantic film based on Fyodor Dostoyevksy's short story, "White Nights," written in 1848. Italian director, Luchino Visconti, known more for his post WWII neo-realistic films, chooses to update the Russian story to the canals, streets and back alleys of an economic-recovering, 1957 Italy instead of the streets, parks and embankments of a more cheerful, affluent Petersburg. The love triangle is still the same, the intense feelings of love for one another are still the same, the heart-breaking ending is still the same, even their storied lives are similar, but instead of quiet summer nights in Petersburg, vacated by most residents on holiday, we see in this Italian city, presumably Venice, a busy nightlife providing some distraction for the lonely, some "cat-walking" for criminals, and for others another homeless night spent huddled on the cold, cobble stones abutting the canal. Shot entirely on a Cinecitta set, Visconti makes it look as realistic as his other films (OSSESSIONE or ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS) shot on location.
Spoilers: The two lovers are oblivious to the late-night distractions on their first two nights together as most new lovers are when getting to know one another. As Mario (Marcello Mastroianni) listens to Natalia (Maria Schell) confess why she was crying on the bridge over the canal, the third party (Jean Marais) is introduced in flashbacks. He is the absent lover Natalia has pledged to see one year later at a designated time and place, the bridge where Mario first sees her. This sets up the age-old premise of which lover will be the lucky one in the final act. In this final act, their third night together, they enjoy some of the nightlife that others are enjoying. Choreographed to the rock and roll, Bill Haley song, "13 Women," Mario and Natalia brazenly shed their shy inhibitions, transformed now as exhibitionists as Mario jumps in the middle of the encircled crowd for his solo dance routine, eventually coercing Natalia to join him as the crowd cheers them on. I love this scene. They are both so happy to be in love. However, reality literally chimes in as the clock strikes to remind Natalia she is late for another hopeful rendezvous with her returned lover, Marais. Will the tables turn on poor, shy Mario, or will he be happy for once in his life?
The chemistry between Mastroianni and Schell lights up the screen. Schell flirtatiously seduces each frame of the black and white celluloid in her closeups. Her subtle nods of the head, mixed with her adorable smiles and surprise looks are invaluable. Mastroianni, a rising star in one of his first major roles, embodies Dostoyevsky's Mario as much as Visconti's. He totally is Mario, the shy dreamer who has wasted his life away hoping for a relationship just like he has now discovered with Natalia. He's at his best when strolling the streets alone when there is no dialogue. You can understand why he attracts a stray dog to follow him as the camera floats along as he meanders through the streets and back alleys. I can't imagine this film in color, especially when the snow begins to fall on that final "white night."
Final note: this film would make for a great Valentine's gift for that special someone in your life. Criterion has recently released a version, which includes a reading of the short story in case you haven't read it. By the way, if you haven't read it yet, it makes absolutely no difference whether you read it before seeing the film or after. You can also rent the DVD on Netflix.