Masterful, brilliant performances imbue this torturous saga of self-discovery; a struggle to chastise demons, doubts, destroying one's mental, psychological, physical path to health and inner peace.
Joaquin Phoenix, in a role, likely never to be repeated, is "Freddie Quell" suffering from post-traumatic–stress-disorder, largely undiagnosed after World War II; a veteran of the Pacific front, he is a misfit, volatile, alcoholic, working as a department store photographer in 1950. Phoenix in his every gesture, smile, walk is frightening, illuminating in depicting Freddie's paranoia and combustibility; he shrinks, getting thinner, skeletal as as his psychosis deepens throughout the film.
Philip Seymour Hoffman's genius portrayal as "The Master" "Lancaster Dodd" is incredulous. From the moment he meets "Freddie" who in a drunken stupor, has stowed away on a boat taking Dodd's family to New York; his hypnotic powers are electrifying, captivating; he cultivates the relationship with insouciant charm and a will of steel. Freddie and "The Master" develop a bond that is more than Svengali and protégée, it is a pairing that feeds off each other; a yin and yang so addictive that ideology cannot cure the craving. Unforgettable scene, of exorcism proportions has Freddie, with eyes closed, going back and forth from wall to window, describing what he feels; Dodd orchestrates the endless, painful cleansing until Freddie and the audience scream "enough".
Dodd is master of "The Cause", leading with a messianic drive and hypnosis, a core of dedicated disciples (vaguely referencing Scientology), who find meaning by time-travel, sometimes receding thousands of years, to unearth the "self" buried under layers of obfuscation. Dodd is mesmerizing, irresistible, his lectures a divine combination of levity, laughter and wisdom. Whether a charlatan or genuine there is no denying his craftsmanship.
Amy Adams gives a chilling performance as Peggy Dodd (most likely the third wife); she will suffer no indiscretions and her gentleness masks a woman of substance and power.
Emotionally pulverizing this is not a film for those looking for escape from the trauma of everyday life. Director Paul Thomas Anderson bulldozes boundaries and gifts viewers two memorable characters; flawed, human, ultimately imprisoned in their own minds, wills.
THREE STARS & 1/2 STARS!!!
Bollywood is still grasping, fighting for a piece of the Western film pie and this enchanting tale should garnish its fair share; if only audiences did not shun this genre that has captivated Eastern viewers for decades.
"Barfi" is a deaf/mute who listens and hears only the sound of his pure spirit, eliminating the cacophony of noisy nothingness; his love of life is tangible, free from the shackles of predetermined behavior; his priorities so finely tuned he generates an aura of joyful spirituality. Ranbir Kapoor's performance is mesmerizing; vestiges of Raj Kapoor, Charlie Chaplin emanate in his portrayal; wordlessly he conveys his bountiful love, depth of empathy; instincts, like a priceless Stradivarius violin, flawlessly refined; he is life, light.
Barfi falls madly, passionately in love with "Shruti" (gorgeous, heartfelt performance by Ileana D'Cruz), whose upcoming quasi "arranged" marriage presents a huge roadblock in the nurturing of their relationship. Shruti is conveying the story through a series of flashbacks. The film is rich in questioning stifling traditions; when does the heart take precedence over the intellect? Does a past love ever die, or fade away?
The brilliant core of the film revolves around "Jhilmil" an autistic young woman whose fragile essence is traumatized as she is shuffled from one home to another. Priyanka Chopra gives an iconic performance, worthy of the highest accolades; without sensationalism she encapsulates the typical symptoms of the autistic individual: fear of "touch", lack of eye contact, uncontrollable, nervous, frenetic movement; living in an enigmatic world that allows no entrance, no trust.
Director Anurag Basu has produced a charismatic gem; "Barfi" at times silly, tearful, but always wise and warm; a less than typical, more realistic conclusion; a genuine, happy fantasy that lingers long after the final credits; happiness, what more can anyone ask, or need from a film?
Never enamored with the sobriquet "chick flick"; admittedly there are films that fall into that genre. "Beloved" garnishes a slot. It is French Marshmallow Fluff; vanilla, sickeningly saccharine, sentimental, sensational and I could not wait for it to be over.
Spanning decades, Ludivine Sagnier as "Madeleine": young, vivacious prostitute who marries a "John" has a daughter, divorces; ingÃ©nue "Madeleine" matures into seasoned adulthood; Catherine Deneuve, still luscious, imbues the character with salty sinuousness, balancing her ex-husband (delightful depiction by Milos Forman) and present mate; she watches her adult daughter "Vera" (Deneuve's actual daughter, Chiara Mastroianni) fall tragically in love with a homosexual musician. The successful, subtle nuances between the two should have been capitalized upon; gracing the screen with compelling chemistry.
"Beloved" is too ambitious, indecisive and flounders between monumental issues: infidelity, Russia's invasion of Czechoslovakia , AIDS, heartache, all set to music; the lyrics are hummable, recognizable and struggle to compliment the scenario, but only "aid" the melodramatic, meandering, predictable outcome.
TWO & 1/2 STARS
"Arbitrage" is the simultaneous buying and selling of a security at two different prices in two different markets, resulting in profits without risk." It is NOT illegal and this film does NOT address "arbitrage".
Predictably, the successful capitalist is untoward, manipulative, earning his ill-gotten wealth, not by skill and ingenuity but subterfuge, fraud. Devastatingly handsome Richard Gere is "Robert Miller" the "master of the universe" , the "rainmaker", the hedge-fund king whose "Midas touch" is in jeopardy of turning bronze; Gere imbues the character with enough smarmy charm and sagacity to captivate the viewer. Reminiscent of "Bonfire of the Vanities" an adulterous affair could result in his undoing; nevertheless a streak of the humane saves "Robert" from drowning in moral turpitude.
A solid supporting cast lend a fragment of legitimacy to "Arbitrage": Susan Sarandon is "Ellen Miller" the fund-raising, feisty philanthropist, "turning a blind eye" to Robert's indiscretions; a wife, not to be taken for granted but to be leery of; Brit Marling portrays Robert's daughter "Brooke", bright, naive CFO of the soon to be sold Miller empire; the destruction of her idealism was forecast from the commencement of the scenario. It is the performance of Nate Parker , as the ex-con "Jimmy Grant", who rescues Robert from a catastrophic collision that gifts the film a level of dignity, integrity; his steely character, true grit, loyalty and obstinacy earn "Arbitrage" an extra star.
In conclusion, there were too many discrepancies. Whose car was involved in the accident? Why did the writers, director misinterpret the true meaning of "arbitrage"? In the myriad of millionaires, are there any untainted, unscathed, free from illegal guise, graft? Any to be lauded, instead of maligned? If so, instead of being portrayed as evil, avaricious, lacking a moral compass, the blight of the middle class; how refreshing to concentrate on the few and mighty whose talents increase productivity, pay the bulk of tax revenues, empower their foundations to rescue the less fortunate; those who live and recognize "to whom much is given, much is expected"; whether documentary, fable or fiction it would be an interesting diversion from the ubiquitous doses of "the capitalist rogue".
TWO & 1/2 STARS!!
If you are driven to see this drab, depressing, droning film, check "On Demand"; at least in the privacy of your home you can self-medicate; aiding, wading through a well-performed but meaningless tale of angst at the end .
Fine actors (Charlotte Rampling, Geoffrey Rush, Judy Davis) cannot salvage this story of a dying, wealthy, Australian matriarch, luring her hapless children back into the poisonous luxury of their ancestral adobe; the year is 1972, and the bitter taste of the Holocaust is still palatable in the role of a German housekeeper.
At first the viewer empathizes with "Elizabeth Hunter" (Rampling) beloved by her "help", shunned by her children, "Basil" (Rush), "Dorothy" (Davis); gathered around her deathbed to suck the spoils of her imminent demise. But as the film progresses, through a series of flashbacks, we recognize why her children strayed so far from the hearth; "mommy dearest" on steroids; she steals her daughter's lovers, refuses to attend her son's stage performances; beds whomever she fancies; she is amoral, unaccountable, vainglorious, self-centered; her erasure should have come at a precipitated rate.
Novels by James Michener and James Clavell address the calm, aka "eye" before the apocalyptic conclusion. "The Eye of the Storm" offers a behemoth's tiresome struggle against the inevitable; there is nothing calming about the process.